Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens
Houston, Texas
March 2008

When I’m looking for gardens to visit, I usually start with the website of the American Public Gardens Association ( The site is really designed for people working at public gardens, but most public gardens are members and can be found through the search function on the site. Bayou Bend is not a member but has been written up in several “gardens to visit” guides, so seemed worth a visit.

Being a northerner, I had to look up the definition of “bayou”. Of course I knew the word from popular culture but was unsure what it really meant. According to my dictionary, a bayou is a small, slow-moving stream. Well, true to the name, Bayou Bend is located at a bend in Buffalo Bayou. To get to the garden from the parking lot you have to cross the water on a suspension footbridge which gives you a great view of the bayou.

It’s not a crystal, clear mountain stream by any means. Looks more like a long, muddy pond. In March, the weather was beautiful and there were no mosquitoes. I’ll bet in summer it’s a different story.

The garden is an interesting combination of formal and informal. The entry is through a formal, circular garden built around a statue of Clio, the muse of history. The plantings include roses and annuals around miniature hedges of tightly clipped boxwood.

You exit the Clio Garden onto a great lawn in front of the mansion.

A grassy slope leads up to a terrace from which you can look down on the Diana Garden. A statue of Diana, goddess of the hunt, is visible beyond a pool with arching fountains. The garden is separated from the native woods by hedges of Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria).

The other side of the great lawn is the Euterpe Garden, highlighted by a statue of Euterpe, the muse of music. A beautiful old American Sycamore towers over this garden.

The last very formal area of Bayou Bend is the East Garden, with beds of tightly clipped Japanese Boxwood forming a scroll design. The garden is surrounded by azaleas and camellias.

In March, the gardens are dominated by blooming azaleas. I liked that there were identifying labels on most of the plants. Other spring flowers are evident, with beautiful examples of magnolias, dogwoods and tulips, but the azaleas steal the show. The camellias are almost past but some flowers remain. They must have been something to see earlier in the year.

There are nice, winding trails through what feel like natural woods with lots of blooming shrubs and perennials. The entire property is crisscrossed with shallow ravines and there are a number of lovely footbridges across them.

Visitors are given a very nice map and guide, as well as a self-guided audio tour. I guess these are meant to replace interpretation on the grounds because there are no interpretive signs. The guide and audio are good, but I don’t care for audio tours in a garden. So much of the ambience of a garden is in the sounds. The visitor guide was also a distraction, valuable as a map but a pain to try to pull out and read to figure out what you’re looking at. I’d much prefer well-designed interpretive panels to explain what I’m looking at.

An interesting point about the garden is that it advertises itself as the only formal public garden in Texas that practices organic gardening. I'd say that is a feather in their cap and it sets a great example for other gardens to follow.

The Bayou Bend brochure suggests you allow 45 minutes to tour the gardens. We spent 2 hours, and we didn’t tour the house. There is a lot to see.

here to see more photos of Bayou Bend.

To visit the official website of Bayou Bend, click

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