Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden
After a delicious lunch (chicken salad!) Friday, we headed over to the Japanese Tea Garden, only a few miles from the Botanical Garden.  This strange and beautiful place is the site of an old rock quarry that operated in San Antonio until 1908.  By then, the land around the quarry had already been donated to the city as Brackenridge Park.  In 1915, the land adjacent to the quarry was donated to the city by Emma Koehler, widow of Pearl Brewery founder Otto Koehler.  The unusual locale posed quite a challenge for the city Parks Department, but finally Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert hit upon the idea of a lily pond.  He and his city engineer, with very little money, constructed the garden in 1917-1918, using prison labor to transform the quarry into a Japanese-style garden.  Plants, building materials and services were donated to the city and when all was said and done, the project was completed for about $7,000.  Today, the Japanese Tea Garden is a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Way above the koi ponds.
The Japanese Tea Garden features lush landscaping, rock paths, bridges, waterfalls and koi ponds. Admission is free, and it's a lovely place to spend a sunny fall afternoon.  Here's a few of the things we saw there.

Koi of all colors.
Some of the largest koi I ever saw live there.  Most were beautiful, but be forewarned!  There's a scary battleship-gray sort prowling around in the shadows.  They look like stealthy submarines down there.  I also learned that it's hard to photograph fish.

Arundo donax
The plant in the foreground is Arundo donax, or Carrizo Cane.  It's growing in isolated spots in the garden.  This wildly aggressive grass-like plant is native to warm parts of Asia and Africa.  Although it's widely planted throughout the temperate regions of the world, my guess is that people regret it. 

Creeping Fig Ivy -- with figs!

Creeping Fig Ivy -- notice the immature vs. mature leaves?
And speaking of regret, I was horrified to see a huge wall covered in creeping fig ivy.  This vine had gotten so big that it had actually begun to bear fruit.  Look closely at the first picture above.  See the yellowish fruits?  Those are the "figs."  I should really put my house on the market and try to forget that I ever planted it.

The pond  is quite shallow, but very clear.  There's an extensive filtration system that was renovated in 2007.

The lagoon
I don't know if you can see the koi in this picture.  It was taken from high atop the old tea garden house.  Those koi are as big as aircraft carriers.

Good guy, not bad guy.


  1. Really pretty trip you took.The botanical garden was lovely, but so is the Japanese Tea Garden. The koi are very beautiful fish, and I can agree, hard to photograph. They come begging for food and do not stay still enough to get a really good photo.

  2. Hi Elizabeth, it's interesting to read about how this garden was created. Must be a wonderful place to spend amidst nature. Love the view of the lagoon and the koi. I have the Creeping Fig Ivy but never knew its name. I'm glad I do now and glad that you posted the pictures.

  3. Beautiful pictures and post. Ponds can be protected properly by using Pond Repair by Pond Pro 2000