Pittosporums and palms zapped by February freeze at Zilker Botanical Backyard

April 26, 2021

The harm and plant kills at Zilker Botanical Backyard surprised me after I visited per week and a half in the past. No backyard in Austin was spared throughout February’s Massive Freeze, and naturally our public gardens weren’t both. However I nonetheless wasn’t ready to see the traditional, twisted pittosporums within the Taniguchi Japanese Backyard trying like a fireplace had swept by means of.

Taniguchi Japanese Backyard

Moon bridge backyard earlier than

That is how the backyard at all times appeared in the course of the twenty years I’ve been visiting: lush and inexperienced, with paths winding behind cascading limbs of big pittosporums clinging to the rocky hillside above the ponds.

And after

And now, naked and uncovered.

Waterfall pittosporum earlier than

I first got here throughout the pittosporum that gracefully hung over the waterfall, which used to appear like this.

Waterfall pittosporum after

Not anymore. I ended in my tracks and gasped, “Oh no!” after I noticed an amputated stump the place that stunning, previous shrub sprawled for thus a few years.

Earlier than: The pittosporum used to cascade over the waterfall

From under the loss is equally tragic. Right here it’s earlier than…

Waterfall post-freeze

And right here it’s after the freeze, all of the thriller shorn away.

In fact there’s nonetheless numerous greenery within the backyard. It was only a shock to see these stunning pittosporums brown and lifeless, or totally gone.

Hartman Prehistoric Backyard

With trepidation I headed to the Hartman Prehistoric Backyard, at all times the best-planted and best-maintained backyard at Zilker, to my thoughts. Unhappy, brown palms greeted me.

Decapitated cycads and extra brown timber lined the paths.

Cycads earlier than

The cycad assortment used to appear like this.

Cycads post-freeze

Now it’s simply stumps. I fervently hope these will develop again. I’ve seen sago palms releaf months after being frozen again, however after all this was a a lot colder and extra extended freeze.

Palmettos earlier than

A thicket of palmettos edges a pond, or used to.

After the freeze

Now it seems to be like this. I see a number of inexperienced followers of leaves in there, so possibly it’ll develop again.


Texas dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) continues to be inexperienced, fortunately. It sailed by means of that freezing week in my very own backyard too.

And have a look at this mock orange in beautiful bloom! Solely sure vegetation have been harmed by the freeze, in any case, and loads of vegetation are in bloom and rising robust. Whereas I’m positive the harm has been devastating for the gardening workers, I’m additionally positive they’re shifting on by this level and already planning for the affected areas.

Zilker’s future

What they want is funding — not simply to restore freeze harm, however to show this perennially underfunded and understaffed backyard into the jewel it ought to be. Why the Metropolis of Austin hasn’t prioritized funding for this vacationer mecca positioned close to downtown Austin is past me. And why haven’t any of Austin’s tech billionaires stepped up with a beneficiant endowment through the Zilker Botanical Backyard Conservancy? I’m you, Michael Dell, Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd, and newcomer Elon Musk.

Take into consideration this. Isamu Taniguchi toiled alone at age 70 to create Zilker’s Japanese Backyard together with his personal two palms, for zero pay, as a thank-you to town for his sons’ schooling and as a logo of peace — and this was after he’d endured years in internment camps in Texas (sure, Texas) and California throughout World Warfare II. If he may try this for Austin, we will certainly honor his creation and guarantee Zilker Backyard is well-funded and blossoming for years to return. Go go to. Grow to be a member. Give a financial present. Grow to be a part of Zilker’s future.

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Digging Deeper: Information and Upcoming Occasions

Do you’re keen on ponds in addition to gardens? Seize your solar hat and attend Austin’s twenty sixth annual Pond and Backyard Tour on June 5 and 6. Sponsored by the Austin Pond Society, the tour consists of 13 ponds over two days, with admission of $20 upfront (till 5/31) and $25 on the day of (on-line funds solely; no money).

Be part of the mailing record for Backyard Spark! Hungry to study backyard design from the consultants? I’m internet hosting a sequence of talks by inspiring backyard designers, panorama architects, and authors a number of instances a yr in Austin. (Whereas in-person talks are presently on hiatus because of the pandemic, I plan to renew once more as quickly as doable.) Talks are limited-attendance occasions that promote out shortly, so be a part of the Backyard Spark e mail record to be notified upfront. Merely click on this hyperlink and ask to be added.

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