Day Trips

Botanical garden provides unimpaired view of nature

By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., March 8, 2013

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center in Orange lives up to its name as an idyllic hideaway.

In the nearly tropical southeast corner of Texas, the 252-acre tract along Adams Bayou supports more than 300 plant species. Carefully arranged gardens stimulate all the senses. The flowerbeds melt into the surrounding forest that is dripping with Spanish moss.

The park's milelong walkway meanders past colorful and fragrant plants. A bird blind on Ruby Lake allows visitors to get close to great egrets relaxing in the cypress trees. It is all tied together with world-class educational programs.

Ever since it was first envisioned by H.J. Lutcher Stark as his private garden project, the park has battled the capricious Texas weather. Stark, the heir to a timber fortune, opened his rare collection of plants to the public in 1946. Then in 1957 a hurricane ravaged the garden, followed by a freak snowstorm. Stark never saw the gates reopened.

Nearly 40 years after his death, the Stark Foundation began rebuilding Stark's nirvana. The new Shangri La opened in March 2008, only to be hammered by Hurricane Ike in September. After extensive rebuilding, the garden's unique ecosystem once again provides an unimpaired view of nature.

Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center is located at 2111 W. Park Ave. in Orange, a short distance south of I-10 at the 16th Street exit. For information, call 409/670-9113 or go to www.shangrilagardens.org.

1,127th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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