This month were celebrating all of the stories a plant and garden represents. #PlantStory. This is a guest blog post by GrowIt! team member and community member Chelsey Groh, @cgroh. Chelsey works with folks running gardens all over North America to implement our GrowIt! Tours To-Go product. The tour helps guests learn about the plants in the garden and take that knowledge home with them. But as Chelsey’s posts describes – there’s a lot more than plant identification to learn in a garden.
Every Garden has a story…
Cool, Texas. Population 180 and home to one botanical garden.
As I drove out to Clark Gardens I wondered what would greet me. I navigated down Maddux Road and turned down a seemingly oridnary entrance on the right. But as I continued down the long drive, the trees grew majestic and I was met by the tall, ornate iron fence you would imagine would greet you at a countryside estate in a Spielberg fantasy.
I knew that Clark Gardens was started by Carol’s family but I had no idea what to expect. Carol Clark Montgomery is the Executive Director of the garden but also the daughter of the garden’s founders, Max and Billie Clark.
Carol met me at the garden and drove me through the 50+ acres of botanical gardens on a golf cart. She regaled me with stories of her childhood on the property and favorite areas of the garden today. I quickly understood that this was much more than a beautiful landscape — it is a passion project of a multi-generation family that wants to share their slice of paradise with the world.
Max and Billie started the garden 1972. In 1999 they donated over 140 acres to the non-profit that is Clark Gardens. In 2000, the gates opened to the public. The garden includes Texas native plants, waterfalls, a G scale train garden, historic tree trail, and so much more. It serves as a popular venue for weddings, events, and even afternoon picnics.
Carol pointed out the Oxbow Overlook as a popular place for lunch crowds. She told me stories about how Carol and her family spent time in those venues before 2000. I heard about dinners, marshmallow roasts, and how different garden areas came about. It was so special.
I even had the pleasure of meeting Max Clark. As we pulled up to the Iris Boulevard there was Max, hands in the dirt, working on the bulbs for spring. He stopped, shook my hand, and then continued to work as we chatted. We were on our way back to the cart when he turned over his shoulder and reminded us not to miss the G scale trains. So I will remind you now — when you visit Clark Gardens, don’t forget to see the G scale trains.
The more of the garden I saw, the more excited I was to install their tour. You see, we’re building the Tours To-Go product to be more than just a visitor experience tool…we want gardens to share their story. There is so much to share from Clark Gardens and with our new Monuments tool, we can showcase all of those beautiful Texas native plants while telling the garden’s story and showcasing numerous fountains, buildings, and bronze sculptures.
My three days on the property weren’t enough. It was lovely and the stories Carol shared made me want to stay and experience more.
I could go on for days about my time there and all the wonderful stories I heard but then you wouldn’t be inclined to make a trip to Cool, Texas and see these wonders yourself. You won’t get as lucky as I was to tour the gardens with Carol but the GrowIt! Tours To-Go at Clark Gardens will help.
If you are nowhere near Cool, Texas then be sure to check out your local botanical garden or park. Remember….every garden has a story.
**The GrowIt! Tours To-Go at Clark Gardens will re-open in spring of 2019.