News Categories: Parks & Trails

25 Jul
By: HCP4 Admin 0

Mercer Announces Tropical Garden Reopening

Just days after the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, Mercer Botanic Gardens will officially reopen the Tropical Garden on Monday, Aug. 27.

Although the garden required work after last year’s flood, plans to update the garden actually began six years ago.

“The garden needed wider paths to meet ADA standards, along with other improvements,” said Jeff Heilers, Mercer’s horticulture operations manager. “We thought as long as we were making the updates, we should also incorporate another photo area for those Kodak moments.”

With visions of tropical bromeliads and bougainvillea covering ancient stone walls, the decision was made to recreate a stone plaza with the feel and sound of an ancient tropical jungle, like you might find in the Yucatan areas of Mexico.

“We started looking in statuary catalogs and found the perfect focal point – a fountain resembling one of the 20-ton stone heads carved thousands of years ago during the time of the Olmec civilization,” added Heilers. “The fountain will run continuously, but we’ve added a few surprise elements for special occasions, including fog and glowing eyes that change color!”

With all palms now trimmed from the severe winter weather, Mercer staff is concentrating on final irrigation repairs and bed preparation. “We’ll be adding a lot more tropical plants, including banana trees, plumeria, anthuriums, Coppertone loquats, and other plants that have been growing in and around our greenhouses,” he said. “The final piece of the garden will be the completion of the second plaza wall, which will have a curved stone bench to seat garden guests.”

The Tropical garden will be the third enhancement to Mercer following the opening of the Shakespeare Garden in April and the Children’s Garden in May.

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06 Jun
By: HCP4 Admin 0

Mercer Botanic Gardens Opens New Children’s Garden

Children and families are invited to visit the new Children’s Garden at Mercer Botanic Gardens.

Visitors will have the chance to explore the new garden, which features a larger-than-life succulent lizard; a plant zoo highlighting animal-named plants, such as elephant’s foot jade, red bird plant, and zebra aloe; and sensory plants, such as lamb’s ear and rosemary.

This long-awaited addition is not only a fun, colorful place for children to explore, but it also plays an essential role in Mercer’s educational programming. Mercer Botanic Gardens Program Coordinator Melodie Hill helped plan the garden to align with Mercer’s educational mission.

“Children respond best to interactive environments that stimulate their sense of touch, taste, and smell,” said Hill. “With that criteria in mind, we designed a garden that could nurture a child’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth as well as foster a love of nature.”
With leadership from Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, Mercer Botanic Gardens is a Harris County Precinct 4 Parks facility located one mile north of FM 1960 at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble, 77338. For more information, contact Mercer at 713-274-4160 or visit www.hcp4.net/community/parks/mercer.

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16 May
By: HCP4 Admin 0

Feeding the Hungry

It was a labor of love for a group of volunteers at Mercer Botanic Gardens. Volunteers spent the morning harvesting hundreds of pounds of winter greens to donate to the Houston Food Bank.

“This is a great example of how plants can be both ornamental and nutritional,” said Mercer Greenhouse Manager Jacob Martin. “We planted the kale and Swiss chard during the cooler months to add a little color to our seasonal flower beds. Rather than letting the greens go to waste, we decided to donate them.”

After contacting the Houston Food Bank, Martin learned fresh food was in high demand for the food bank and arranged for a delivery truck to pick up the veggies hours after being harvested.

In all, volunteers harvested 536 pounds of Swiss chard and 456 pounds of kale. The greens will be used during the Houston Food Bank’s nutrition education classes to teach visitors how to turn fresh produce into meals.

We’re proud of our staff and volunteers for coming up with innovative ways to serve our community in multiple ways,” says Commissioner R. Jack Cagle.

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01 May
By: HCP4 Admin 0

Historic Trees Come to Precinct 4

They may be small now, but the five oaks planted along the Spring Creek Greenway come from legendary stock.

Treaty Oak, Borden Oak, Runaway Scrape Oak, Cabinet Oak, and Century Oak are known as some of the longest-lived trees in Texas, most extending back hundreds of years.

The Treaty Oak, a live oak tree in Austin, is one of the oldest at more than 500 years old. Mature even before European settlement, the tree is the last surviving member of the Council Oaks, a grove of 14 trees that served as a sacred meeting place for Tonkawa and Comanche tribes. Despite being poisoned with herbicide in 1989 by a vandal, the tree survived.

The Borden Oak is another impressive tree, first surviving the Great Galveston Storm of 1900 and then the recovery process. During the recovery phase, residents built up the island by 5 feet, burying a large portion of the tree. While the salty soil killed most other trees, the Borden Oak survived after the owner built a dike around the tree to protect it.

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20 Apr
By: HCP4 Admin 0

Mercer’s Shakespeare Garden

Shakespeare’s famous for his colorful characters and timeless themes, but plant-lovers have another reason to love him: the Shakespeare gardens he created and immortalized.

From the lovingly restored historical gardens of Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon Avon estate to the seasonal wonders of New York’s Central Park, Shakespeare gardens have steadily gained popularity throughout Europe and the United States since the 1900s. These cottage-style or formal gardens feature plants and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and grown in Shakespeare’s private garden.

While more than 30 locations exist in the United States, only two existed in Texas until recently. Now, visitors can check out a Shakespeare garden up close at Mercer Botanic Gardens.

This English Renaissance-style garden features antique roses, boxwoods, and seasonal color with an open sitting area perfect for relaxing and visiting with friends.

The project took shape after Mercer employee Al Friedl read Shakespeare’s Flowers by Jessica Kerr, which details the plants and herbs that appear in more than 50 of Shakespeare’s plays. Inspired, Friedl realized a Shakespeare-themed garden was something everyone could appreciate.

“Plants and herbs were a major part of life in Elizabethan England,” said Friedl. “Historians, Shakespeare buffs, and gardeners may feel inspired to learn about the plants used for food, medicine, and decoration in Shakespeare’s day. Everyone else can simply enjoy the garden’s beauty and serenity.”

After discussing the project with Mercer Interim Director Jim Nutter and Commissioner R. Jack Cagle who are both Shakespeare enthusiasts, Friedl decided to donate funding to make the garden a reality.

“We turned an underutilized grassy area into a serene garden that we hope inspires a love of Shakespeare and gardening in a new generation,” said Nutter. “Mercer prides itself on connecting people with plants. Now we’re connecting people with plants and literature.”

If you are inspired by Mercer’s Shakespeare Garden, make one of your own. Many plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays can survive in Houston’s hot climate. Complete guides of plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays are listed online or in several print publications such as Shakespeare’s Flowers by Jessica Kerr and Shakespeare’s Garden: Or The Plants And Flowers Named In His Works Described And Defined (1864) by Sidney Beisly. Shakespeare’s Garden by Jackie Bennett tells about the gardens that William Shakespeare knew as a boy and tended as a man.

For more information about the garden opening, contact Mercer at 713-274-4160 or visit www.hcp4.net/community/parks/mercer.

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