Fantastical rockwork and koi pond at Japanese Tea Backyard in San Antonio

Might 07, 2024

Whereas trying to find fake bois works all through San Antonio final month, I couldn’t miss the prospect to go to the Japanese Tea Backyard in Brackenridge Park. I used to be final there 11 years in the past, and I used to be wanting to see its distinctive rock structure once more.

A torii gate of fake bois — or trabajo rustico, as they name it in San Antonio — marks the backyard’s entrance. Hand-crafted in 1942 by Dionicio Rodriguez, the gate is a murals but additionally a relic of wartime passions. The gate reads Chinese language Tea Backyard, not Japanese Tea Backyard. That’s as a result of the gate was constructed the yr after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. As the USA went to conflict, town evicted the Japanese household who’d lived within the backyard since 1926, working a restaurant there. The backyard was renamed, and a Chinese language-American household took over the restaurant.

Forty-two years later, in 1984, the Japanese Tea Backyard title was formally restored, and the torii gate stays as a historic artifact.

The backyard was constructed on the scarred website of an outdated limestone quarry and cement plant that closed in 1908. When Brackenridge Park was being developed, park commissioner Ray Lambert envisioned a sunken backyard and lily pond on the positioning, and he used jail labor to get it inbuilt 1918-1919. A thatch-roofed limestone pavilion was constructed on the fringe of the outdated quarry, overlooking an unlimited koi pond and arched bridges and a 60-foot waterfall cascading off the other cliff. (The thatch roof is now fake thatch, I learn.)

Japanese-style gardens have been widespread then. Lambert dubbed his creation the Japanese Tea Backyard and invited the Jingu Household to maneuver right into a stone home within the backyard and function a restaurant as a vacationer attraction. At the moment you’ll be able to dine within the backyard at Jingu Home, subsequent to the stone pavilion, and I loved a pleasing lunch on the patio.

The pavilion’s supersized shade construction and distinctive rockwork, to not point out the view it gives, makes it the hub of the backyard.

Underneath its huge, fringy roof, you’ll be able to look out throughout the sunny backyard.

Rock-edged trails and bridges wind by the backyard and alongside the inexperienced pond. There’s additionally a cliffside path that runs alongside the highest of the outdated quarry.

Fake bois tables and benches will be discovered beneath the pavilion, prepared for events and occasions.

Fake bois is sculpted concrete made to appear like wooden, and San Antonio is dedicated to it.


The backyard has a tropical really feel with palms and cannas, though small native timber and perennials additionally develop right here.

For me, the distinctive stone structure is the backyard’s largest attraction.

There’s one thing elemental in regards to the stacked-stone pillars rising from the pond and the limestone cliff.

Cannas flowering alongside the pond

A cormorant (I believe) perched on one of many floating islands — fishing, maybe?

An anole displaying his dewlap, both territorially or in courtship.

A yucca was flowering alongside hard-pruned cenizos (why? too large?), which have been simply leafing out. Two cormorants have been drying their wings atop the pavilion roof.

The humped bridge has vertical slabs of rock for a handrail, like some outdated stone partitions I’ve seen.

A ribbon of white water cascades from the other cliff, attracting guests.

The lengthy, arching bridge appears to be like just like the humped, armor-plated again of a dragon.

A more in-depth look

Koi as large as your arm meander among the many floating islands, having fun with their watery kingdom.

One final take a look at the stone pavilion and cannas

Exterior the backyard, Jingu Home and terracing partitions show extra of the backyard’s putting rockwork.

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Digging Deeper

Might 11: Tour 4 Austin gardens on 5/11, from 9 am to three pm, on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour. Every backyard “is created and cared for by a Travis County Grasp Gardener and demonstrates life like gardening practices that inform and encourage.” Tickets are $25, or free for kids 12 and beneath.

Might 18: On Austin House’s Nice Open air Tour, held 5/18 from 10 am to three pm, discover “Pinterest-worthy swimming pools and outside kitchens to considerate plantings and classy city density options.” Tickets are $30.

Might 18: Pop as much as Dallas for the 2024 DCMGA Backyard Tour on 5/18 from 10 am to five pm. Tickets are $18 if bought on-line prior to six pm on 5/17, or $22 after 6 pm on 5/17 or on the occasion. For a sneak peek, click on right here.

June 1-2: Take a self-guided, 2-day tour of ponds and gardens in and round Austin on the annual Austin Pond and Backyard Tour, held 6/1 and 6/2, 9 am to five pm. Tickets are $20 to $25.

Come study gardening and design at Backyard Spark! I arrange in-person talks by inspiring designers, panorama architects, authors, and gardeners a number of occasions a yr in Austin. These are limited-attendance occasions that promote out shortly, so be a part of the Backyard Spark electronic mail record to be notified upfront; merely click on this hyperlink and ask to be added. Season 8 kicks off in fall 2024. Keep tuned for more information!

All materials © 2024 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized copy prohibited.

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