Spring color and edibles at San Antonio Botanical Garden

Two weekends ago my family and I kicked off spring break with a fun day trip to San Antonio and a visit to San Antonio Botanical Garden. We were greeted with a crayon box of annual color in these containers just inside the entry. Geraniums, nasturtiums, pansies, and tulips and even a little chard tucked in the back for leafy texture—is there anything cheerier?

More annual color

The starry, water-repelling leaves of nasturtium are my favorite part of the plant, but the flowers are charming too.

Mmm, succulent goodness

Massive foxtail ferns, with colorful pots adding a little zing to the scene

Aztec grass Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) handsomely cloaked the ground beneath a crepe myrtle, backed by candy-pink cyclamen and tropical-looking variegated shell ginger.

In the shade, delicate blossoms of Japanese roof iris (Iris tectorum) stood erect on long stems.

In the sun, by a Spanish-style fountain and rill, pots of gorgeously arranged succulents caught my eye.

Is that ghost plant (gray) and a blooming echeveria (green)? Update: The green succulent is Sedum palmeri. Thanks to David for the ID.

The small Japanese Garden beckoned to us with its woven-reed-and-bamboo fence.

Naturally elegant with black string holding it together

I’ve always liked this gently arching stone bridge.

Next we explored the Sensory Garden (Garden for the Blind), which is filled with scented and texturally interesting plants—plus this stone bunny.

Red nasturtium seemed to pulse with color on this cloudy day.

Fascinating leaves the size of small parasols

In the conservatory we admired orchids growing in tropical humidity.

Firecracker fern was blooming with abandon throughout the gardens…

…including along these stairs.

On a dry slope, one of my favorite agaves, ‘Whale’s Tongue’ (A. ovatifolia), grew in silvery blue clusters, their broad leaves cupping upward.

A Mexican plum had puffed into bloom, its white blossoms gleaming in the fitful sunlight against satiny black branches.

Acacia were in bloom as well, with charming, yellow puffballs hanging from the green-leafed branches.

Old-fashioned snapdragons brightened up the spring beds too.

More firecracker fern…

…and some sort of thistle-looking plant added their spring flowers to the mix. Update: This is Mexican prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana). Thanks for the ID, Diana.

A lovely, stone fountain surrounded by giant papryus, with a big date palm in the background, puts me in mind of an Egyptian garden along the Nile—or at least that’s how I imagine it to be. Never been there.

Salmon-colored shrimp plant made a colorful groundcover beneath live oaks shedding their old leaves.

We were just slightly too early for the wisteria on the main arbor to be in full bloom. I was sorry. I’ve long wanted to see it in its full glory. In the foreground, annual bedding plants included leafy chard, a fun change from the ordinary.

The edible theme continued out front, with leafy vegetables adding crinkly texture, deep-purple foliage, and brightly colored stems that picked up the golden-yellow of the pansies in front. In back, a large silver agave added contrasting color and form.

For more images from our visit to San Antonio Botanical Garden—specifically the fern room and cactus room in the conservatory—click here.

Posts about my previous visits to San Antonio Botanical Garden can be found on my Noteworthy Gardens page. Feel free to click around for armchair visits.

Upcoming: Lawn Gone! talk and book-signing, this Saturday
Hey, Texas Hill Country peeps! Please join me this Saturday at 10 am at Backbone Valley Nursery in Marble Falls for my talk, “Lawn Alternatives for Central Texas” and a Lawn Gone! book-signing. I don’t know about you, but since it’s bluebonnet season, I’m going to take a little wildflower-peeping drive while I’m out there.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

15 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Color COLOR! Love to see it especially at this time of year.

    I’m happy to oblige, Lisa. Spring is in full swing down here and heading your way. —Pam

  2. Sonji Nalley says:

    Pam!! I love your photos! Very inspiring. I recently went to a flower show in Atlanta and I am over the moon with planting ideas. Take care and thanks so much for sharing your visions.


    Thanks for visiting, Sonji. Isn’t it fun to visit gardens and flower shows to get inspiration for one’s own garden? —Pam

  3. sandy lawrence says:

    Pam, I have that exact same “unknown thistle plant” volunteering in the garden this spring – 3 of them. I’m waiting to see what the heck they are. Thanks for the great photos. Always enjoy your tours.

    Sandy, it’s been ID’d as Mexican prickly poppy. I linked to the Wildflower Center’s profile of it below its photo in the post. —Pam

  4. Alison says:

    Great pictures of your visit, so bright and cheerful! Spring is in full force down there. I love that combo of the ghost plant with the Echeveria.

    Me too! It was such a pretty combo for those containers, especially with the echeveria in bloom. —Pam

  5. Susan says:

    Fantastic photos (as always!) – I absolutely love San Antonio’s Botanical Gardens, there is so much variety of different types of gardens and plants.

    Thanks, Susan. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos! Yes, SABG is a lovely place to visit at any time of year. —Pam

  6. Ally says:

    Wow, I wonder what goes into creating and keeping all those potted arrangements so nice. They are stunning.

    Hmm, a staff of gardeners? Ha! Wouldn’t it be great to have a few minions at our beck and call too? —Pam

  7. Lovely photos – and I knew you would show me something I never saw :) As you always do. I was in love with the firecracker ferns too – I can hardly wait to plant my first one. Although, WOW they get really big, eh?! At least there that is for sure. Everything gets bigger there for that matter – how in the world do they keep the greens so impeccable! Not even one snail hole or anything!!!

    Those firecracker ferns DO get big, Heather, as I’m discovering in my own garden right now. I planted a few last spring and am learning that they’d prefer full sun instead of my part-sun to bloom well. Plus they root by layering all on their own and are beginning to spread. Just FYI! —Pam

  8. As Heather said, the plant maintenance skill evidenced is amazing – to me, it stands out from many other botanic gardens. The firecracker fern – now I know why people talk about it – maybe someday.

    I saw firecracker fern growing at Tucson Botanical Gardens, David. Does it not grow well in Albuquerque? —Pam

  9. Lovely photos! My eyes are hungry for such colors (and yet I’m drawn to that gray ghost plant! What’s its Latin name?). Iris tectorum is one of my favorite plants. Hope to get to the SABG one day.

    Well, if I ID’d it correctly and it is in fact ghost plant, the Latin name is Graptopetalum paraguayense. It’s a reliable succulent in my zone 8b garden—much more reliable, in fact, than echeveria. I’d never encountered the Iris tectorum before. May have to try that one someday. —Pam

  10. Diana Studer says:

    your thistle is a Mexican poppy. Just read about it on our invasive aliens list.

    Thanks for the ID, Diana! I linked to more info about it in my post. —Pam

  11. Jason says:

    Lovely! I like the Firecracker Fern – thought it was an Agastache when I first saw it. The nasturtiums, Mexican plum, just lots of lovely color.

    Yes, all that color was so enjoyable to see, especially right as we walked in. I’m happy to share it with you! —Pam

  12. David says:

    The succulent is Sedum palmerii.

    Thanks for the ID, David! —Pam

  13. Pam…I think the plant you are calling Aztec Grass is in fact ordinary spider plant. I don’t believe Aztec Grass to stem off with babies. I worked at the Botanical Gardens for several years and we just threw starts everywhere and it always came back. In fact my entire shady side of my yard in my old home in north San Antonio was fully of my spider plants that I no longer took care of inside. Just what I think…I could be wrong! Happy Gardening! Pamie G.

    By gosh, you’re right, Pamie. I didn’t notice those babies stemming off from the mother plants until you pointed it out. Thanks for the correction! —Pam

  14. Pam, I am terrible with succulents and love them so! As a plant person, I tend to water and when it comes to succulents, of course that is their demise! Do you have any suggestions? I hope this does not sound stupid but honestly, I just can’t seem to do well with succulents. If I don’t water them, then it is not enough and they die as well. I can’t seem to find a happy medium!

    Thanks, Pamie G.

    It doesn’t sound stupid at all, Pamie. The biggest thing for me is finding the right light levels. Too much sun, especially midday to afternoon, and they’ll melt. Too little and they’ll wither away. Bright shade, dappled sun, or morning sun is best. I also find they do best for me in pots, not in the ground. You can give them really well-drained soil in a pot, especially if you add copious decomposed granite or chicken grit to your potting soil (which should be lean; look for a cactus mix) before planting. In the heat of summer, once a week watering is good, though I find they can go 2 weeks without stress. Hope that helps! —Pam

  15. Yes, helps quite a bit! Thank you! I am trying some on my morning sun covered back porch in pots. I added seashells to cover the tops instead of mulch as I have so many and the look of beach is pleasing to my old surfer girl mentality! Thank you so much for taking the time to help me!