What a Celebration!

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Saturday, October 18, 2014, a day of celebration which seemed so far in the future when the Centennial Gardens process began, is now past us! The McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion was dedicated with a host of activities in the new Gardens. The Dedication Ceremony kicked off the festivities at 9:30 a.m., followed by a day of presentations, Gardens’ tours, children’s activities and entertainment for all ages.

Although the whole of the Gardens will be completed and open to the public in December due to delays caused by inclement weather, there was still so much to see at Saturday’s celebration! Upon entering the Gardens via the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, the imposing 30-foot tall Garden Mount with its cascading waterfall was the first thing you saw as your eye wandered down the length of the formal lawn. Folks walked the spiral paths to the top and viewed the Gardens from above. Along both sides of the central lawn are the perennial borders and arbor walkways, which provided a place to stroll or sit and contemplate the serene spaces. The Celebration Garden was inspected by those that may be interested in tying the knot in a beautiful outdoor space in Hermann Park. The Family Garden was abuzz with children’s activities. The newly refurbished sculptures that called the old garden center home, have a new space on the northwest corner of the Gardens at the Hawkins Sculpture Walk. The Tudor Family Pine Hill Walk meanders through the pines with a view of the Friendship Pavilion donated to Houston by the city of Taipei, Taiwan in 1978. From atop the pine hill and the Garden Mount one could view the new rose garden and arid garden still under construction.

Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion architect Peter Bohlin of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson spoke about his design concept inside the Pavilion itself. Doug Hoerr, the Centennial Gardens landscape designer of Hoerr Schaudt, talked about the Gardens’ design and plant choices, also inside the Pavilion. Artist Randy Twaddle who designed the artwork at the top of the Garden Mount led an Art Talk and Walk. There was a Tour and Talk by the Houston Arts Alliance discussing the refurbished statues at the Hawkins Sculpture Walk inside the Caroline St. and Hermann Drive entrance to the Gardens. Barrie Scardino Bradley, the author of Houston’s Hermann Park , talked about her book and its coverage of Hermann Park’s 100-year history.

Thank you to all who joined in the celebration of the fulfillment of a dream that took eight years to realize!

Progress Continues on McGovern Centennial Gardens

Time is drawing near for the grand opening of the McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion on October 18, 2014, scheduled rain or shine from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Take a look at what’s been happening! Tall pines have been planted on the Tudor Family Pine Hill Walk. Irrigation is being installed throughout the Gardens. The Hawkins Sculpture Walk is ready for the sparkling clean sculptures from the former garden center site to be installed in their new homes inside the Caroline/Hermann Drive entrance to the new gardens. The Garden Mount is sporting it’s new Zoysia ground cover, with the spiraling accommodating concrete paths in place. The Family Garden’s vegetable and herb beds are waiting for winter plantings. The perennial borders’ variety of plants are ready and waiting to be placed. The arbor structures are going vertical. The boulder cirque is being stacked near the Friendship Pavilion (which was given to the city of Houston as a gift from the mayor of the city of Taipei, Taiwan in 1978).
So stay tuned for additional progress reports. And although things are moving quickly, rain in the last several weeks has slowed construction. As a result, after the grand opening celebration on the 18th, the Gardens will remain closed to the public as we continue to work to get them completed, so it will be a few weeks thereafter before the Gardens can actually officially open to Park visitors.
Will keep you posted!

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The New McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion Takes Shape

Recent aerial photo shows Centennial Gardens progress

Recent aerial photo shows Centennial Gardens progress

Despite recent rains, amazing progress is being made toward the completion of the new McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion in preparation for their opening day of October 18, 2014. Tons of dirt are being moved around the site as the actual gardens within the Gardens are being built. Soon the individual gardens, such as the Arid Garden, Rose Garden, Family Garden, and Tudor Family Pine Hill Walk will take their shape. One of the most anticipated gardens being constructed is the Celebration Garden which will be made available to those wishing to rent a lovely formal outdoor garden space for their event.

Both the entry pavilion off of Crawford St. and the new maintenance facility at the far east end of the 15-acre site’s new parking lot are well underway. The Bohlin Cywinski Jackson-designed entry pavilion will also be available for rental for events and meetings (contact the Conservancy’s venue manager Linda Black at lblack@hermannpark.org for rental information). Plans are being made for the projected August planting schedule for the Garden Mount’s groundcover and hedges, the Family Garden’s structural plantings, the Pine Hill Walk’s trees and understory, and the Celebration Garden’s trees and large shrubs. Although it is August in Houston, irrigation infrastructure is in place to assure successful survival rates for these plantings. So let’s hope for good planting weather!

Remember to put the October 18 opening day on your calendar! Excitement is building!

Exciting progress! The Centennial Gardens taking shape

Most visitors to Hermann Park have been watching in anticipation as the new 15-acre McGovern Centennial Gardens site takes shape. Those familiar with parking in lot “C” in front of the old Houston Garden Center along Hermann Park Drive may now access the new parking lot “C” from Hermann Drive along the north side of the Gardens site at Crawford St. Just follow the red and white signs to the lot entrance–note that there are no bus spaces in the new lot just as there were none in the old lot. From the parking spaces, take one of three gravel paths from the lot south to the Marvin Taylor Exercise Trail, turn right on Mr. Taylor’s live oak trail, and follow the path across Hermann Park Drive to access Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Zoo, the miniature train and pedal boats, the playground and water play, and the Japanese Garden.

You will notice that the Chinese Pavilion has been moved from its temporary site in the old parking lot to its new permanent location visible from Hermann Park Drive just feet from where it rested for the past few months while the new lot was being built.

And very exciting indeed is that the new Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion entry building designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Peter Bohlin designs the glass Apple stores world-wide!) is going vertical! If you close your eyes and imagine walking through the Pavilion entry, you can envision the imposing Garden Mount with its rippling waterfall being the first landmark you see ahead of you as you enter through the open crape myrtle-lined gateway from the parking lot. So stay tuned for further progress notes.

The grand opening of the Gardens is scheduled for October 18, 2014, so put it on your calendar to come visit YOUR beautiful new public gardens free to the public this fall!

Construction marches toward the grand opening of the McGovern Centennial Gardens!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESProgress continues on Hermann Park’s McGovern Centennial Gardens toward the October 18th opening!  As you may have noticed, the 30-foot Garden Mount, with a spiraling ADA-accessible concrete pathway to the top, is almost completed at the west end of the Garden site.  Once the waterfall down the front of the Mount has been installed and the landscaping planted, the Garden Mount will truly stand out as a high point above the Gardens. 

Another major occurrence that has taken place on the Garden site is the moving of a 43-inch diameter live oak to make room for the soon-to-be-relocated Chinese pavilion. The new home for this spectacular live oak is 100 feet to the east, along the west fence of the golf course just off of Hermann Park Drive across from Miller Outdoor Theatre.  Environmental Design (ED) prepped the tree’s 36-foot diameter root ball before the move with intense hydration, boring under the roots to place the oilfield pipe that would stabilize the root ball and serve as a base for the balloons  that would inflate under the tree and help move it. Environmental Design also built a ramp from the existing location to the new site to keep the tree upright while it is moved.  Drainage is in place to achieve a fine balance in preventing the tree’s root ball from drowning as the tree is watered, and to prevent too much water from accumulating under the ball.

The most obvious progress visible to all is the building of the new parking lot which will be accessed from Hermann Drive on the northeast side of the Gardens site.  The concrete surface has been laid, and the trees and shrubs are being planted on the medians throughout the lot to provide shade for patrons and cooling of the parking surface. Pathways are in place to take people from their vehicles to the live oak canopy that is the Marvin Taylor Trail, and new pedestrian paths will lead people from the parking lot to Miller Outdoor Theatre. 

Stay tuned, as construction is moving quickly toward the grand opening in October.

Out of Sight!

You may wonder what is going on with all that dirt lining the edge of the Centennial Gardens construction site. The beautiful new banners along the construction fence are camouflaging lots of activity going on underground and behind the wall in preparation for the above ground activity that will make the former Houston Garden Center the future McGovern Centennial Gardens. The dirt pile resulted from digging soil to make room for underground utility work, and leveling the grade for the new parking lot that will be constructed along the east end of the Garden site. Some of the dirt has been used for ramps for vehicles to access the building of the Garden Mount.

Other activities that have taken place over the last few months include an underground water detention system that has been installed to carry drainage water to the newly installed storm water piping. Storm water catch basins have been placed at ground level to carry some storm water to those new pipes, while a cistern to be installed in the Family Garden will capture rainwater from the roof of the storage/classroom structure for irrigating the vegetable, fruit and herb gardens. Conduit has been laid to hold the electrical wiring and data connections to service the new buildings that will be constructed on the site. Utility lines to the sites of the new buildings have also been installed. The all-important irrigation main lines have been laid to eventually provide water to the new Garden “rooms”.

Stay tuned for more info as progress continues toward the October 18, 2014 grand opening of the McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion!

See the Centennial Gardens Garden Mount grow!

The McGovern Centennial Gardens garden mount continues to grow upwards toward its planned 30-foot height 9 inches at a time.  The mount, which is located at the west end of the planned 740-foot central lawn, is composed of cement stabilized sand and will eventually be covered with soil and planted with low maintenance greenery.  The 9-inch lifts are placed in sections like a layer cake, then tamped and hardened before moving up to the next layer, spiraling toward the peak.  Accessible concrete walkways will lead to the top of the mount, affording a 360 degree view of the gardens below.  A waterfall will flow down the mount’s east side to a recirculating reflecting pond below.  Watch the progress–it is moving fast!Image

So much activity! The McGovern Centennial Gardens gets going!

WOW! So much going on at the old Houston Garden Center site in Hermann Park! Site preparation for the new 15-acre McGovern Centennial Gardens is under way, and the new parking lot, which will be accessed off of Hermann Drive, is ready, set, go to begin construction. The Chinese Pavilion is being prepared to be moved to its new location across the existing parking lot to the future site of the Pine Hill Walk. Select pieces of the old exercise stations will be placed by the Conservancy for use of runners and walkers along the Marvin Taylor Trail until the new exercise equipment is set up just east of its former site. Things are moving fast so stay tuned!

McGovern Centennial Gardens and Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion Break Ground

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The McGovern Centennial Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion groundbreaking was held on September 18, 2013 on the site of the Houston Garden Center in Hermann Park. Hermann Park Conservancy chair, Ann Kennedy, began the program with the introduction of Mayor Annise Parker. Houston Parks and Recreation Department director, Joe Turner, praised the efforts of the Conservancy in securing most of the funds needed toward the $31 million transformation of the 15-acre garden space. Benefactors Kathrine G. McGovern and Cherie and Jim Flores spoke excitedly about the project while recalling memories of their experiences in Hermann Park throughout the years. Mrs. McGovern shared the memory of her and her late husband Dr. John P. (Jack) McGovern strolling around the lake looking for bass hiding amongst the aquatic plants. Cherie Flores recounted her love of gardening, especially roses, and what a thrill it is to have her name attached to the beautiful garden entry pavilion.

HPC executive director, Doreen Stoller, thanked Mrs. McGovern whose love of Hermann Park resulted in one of the first major private gifts to a public park in Houston. It was her extraordinary lead gift that made the McGovern Centennial Gardens possible. HPC board member and Conservancy Centennial Campaign co-chair, Sanford Criner, commented that at the time the idea for the Gardens was conceived, “we all thought it was a fantasy”, but Mrs. McGovern and numerous other donors made the dream come true.

In addition to thanking Mrs. McGovern and Jim and Cherie Flores, Centennial Campaign co-chair, board member, and gardens benefactor, Phoebe Tudor, noted the generosity of other donors who contributed to the Gardens project as well, an extensive list which includes The Duncan Family Foundation, Houston Endowment Inc., the City of Houston, The Wortham Foundation, Inc., The Brown Foundation, Diana and Russell Hawkins, Marathon Oil Company, H-E-B, and the Garden Club of Houston, to name a few.

Sanford gave a preview of the fun activities that will take place for Hermann Park’s 100th birthday in 2014. Centennial celebrations such as a kite festival, dog walk, Park to Port bike ride, Art in the Park, and many other activities will occur throughout the 2014 centennial year.

For more information regarding the centennial celebrations, please see our website at http://www.hermannpark.org/centennial.

Pictured above: Phoebe Tudor, Cherie Flores, Jim Flores, Mayor Annise Parker, Mrs. McGovern, Doreen Stoller, Sanford Criner, and Joe Turner. (Photo: Jean Miracle-Whitaker)