The culinary garden. Courtesy image.

Set back in the Mahncke Park neighborhood along the Broadway corridor is the San Antonio Botanical Garden, a fairy-tale like haven that will undergo a 7.8 acre expansion beginning this summer. The entire project will cost $16.7 million. To date, the fundraising effort has reached $14.2 million from the 2012 bond program and various philanthropists and corporations.

The Botanical Garden is teaming up with the San Antonio Cerveceros Home Brew Corporation this Saturday to host a Brews and Blooms event from 6:30 – 10 p.m. Brews and Blooms provides a venue for new and seasoned local craft breweries to reach new customers, all while experiencing the garden in a fresh new way. Admission is $25 per person ($22 for Garden Members and $15 for designated drivers) at the gate, which includes a commemorative glass and tickets good for six beer samples; ages 21 and older only.

“We are thrilled to be part of the energy of San Antonio, what’s happening up and down Broadway could not be more wonderful for tourists and locals,” said Bob Brackman, executive director for the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

He said the Garden finished the 2014 year with visitation of 130,000 people and is on track for 140,000 people  this year if the weather holds up.

Christy Ten Eyck of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, with offices in Austin and Phoenix, will lead the expansion and work with an architecture firm noted for its environmentally sensitive building designs, Weddle Gilmore Architects of Scottsdale. Brackman said a landscape architecture firm was hired to lead the project so that buildings do not overpower the natural setting and its serenity. The Botanical Garden is tentatively planning to open the new developments by Spring 2017.

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The San Antonio Botanical Society purchased a long rectangular parcel of land south of Funston Place, seven acres acquired bit by bit, over the past 25 years. That will be transformed into the Family Adventure Garden, with a grand entrance area, parking lot, and a garden that has attractions for the entire family. Children can get lost in a maze, tumble down a hill, create forts from sticks and branches, and perform on an outdoor stage; parents can relax in the shade of an outdoor pavilion or next to a circular watering hole.

Surface ground that will be excavated while constructing the parking lot will be used to create a hill on the far side of the garden; at the bottom of the hill will be a limestone ledge along a creek where children can learn about water conservation and management.

The Family Adventure Garden will have a single entrance/exit, so parents can let children run free without having to worry about them escaping or wandering off.

“We want people to have fun. It’s okay if you skin your knee. It’s okay if you’re running through the maze. It’s okay if you’re learning how to make fairy hats and performing onstage, Brackman said. “As sadly as it is, children today only spend between four to seven minutes outdoors, and we want to do our part to nibble away from that.”

The entrance to the Garden will be enhanced to provide a more welcoming first impression.

The new entryway to the Botanical Garden. Courtesy image.
The new entryway to the Botanical Garden. Courtesy image.

“The first impression of the Garden really begins at the intersection of N. New Braunfels and Funston,” Brackman said. “It’s a menagerie of dead end signs and traffic lights. We want this to be much more gracious and much more welcoming so that there is a sense of arrival at a place that is very special and horticulturally significant.”

Once visitors turn into the new entrance and new parking lot, they will arrive at the Entry Plaza where they can buy their tickets or sign up to become a member of the Garden, starting at $45 a year. From there, attendees can veer south toward the Culinary Garden, the so-called “community kitchen.” Here, visitors can help plant, or even dig up, fruits and vegetables in one of the 34 raised beds. An open-air pavilion and outdoor kitchen sits next to the beds, so visitors can take their freshly picked crops and cook up a mid-day meal. Not everyone will have a full fledged garden in their backyard, Brackman said, but this farm-to-table experience might inspire them to grow a potted tomato or a pot of mixed herbs.

“If you can imagine what your kitchen does and your dining room does at your place, and memories of when you were growing up of that sense of community and social gathering (that surrounds) food and gathering and eating,” Brackman said. “This will be our community kitchen so to speak. We want this to be a spot where people feel this is as much theirs (as ours).”

Brackman said he expects this new construction to increase the Garden’s attendance by at least 35% annually.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that memberships start at $45 a month, In fact they start at $45 a year. The story previously stated the expansion as seven acres, it’s actually 7.8. Time and price information for Brews and Blooms has also been updated.

*Featured/top image: The Culinary Garden. Courtesy image. 

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Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....