You Can Do It, Autumn! 5 Green Spaces to Relax in Houston When the Weather Drops

We're big fans of Japanese gardens. Their minimalism shows us what's possible with the less showy plants that typically grow well in Houston, like aspidistra or cast iron plants, iris, monkey grass and crepe myrtles.

So we're also big fans of the Japanese garden in Hermann Park. Hidden and humble, it's a sweet little meditative oasis in the heart of one of Houston's loveliest parks.

Designed by world-renowned Japanese landscape architect Ken Nakajima, the garden is built in the Daimyo Style, a traditional design that dates back to the 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century stroll gardens. It includes a teahouse built and constructed in Japan with traditional materials and then reassembled here (without nails), and a waterfall cascade built using unpolished (uncommon in Japanese garden design) pink granite from a quarry in Marble Falls. The waterfall leads into a smaller pond that winds along the garden's stone paths.

But Houston is full of green spaces. As the weather finally starts cooling down, we suggest putting these gardens and parks on your list for relaxation and exploring the great outdoors in the middle of our city.

5. Japanese Garden -- Hermann Park A five-acre escape into the Land of the Rising Sun. Shaded pathways meander through groves of pine trees and lead to arbors and benches set around the garden and water features. It's the perfect place to empty your mind. At 6201-A Hermann Park Drive. Open daily, free admission, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (spring/summer) 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (fall/winter)

4. Houston Arboretum and Nature Center -- Memorial Park A 155-acre urban nature sanctuary located on the western edge of Memorial Park, the Arboretum offers a tranquil place to stroll on five miles of walking trails and learn about the natural environment of Houston. At 4501 Woodway Drive. Grounds and trails open seven days a week, 7.a.m.-dusk. Check the Web site for open and closing times of the Nature Center and other buildings on the grounds.

1. Houston Garden Center -- Hermann Park While the drought this summer hasn't done the 2,500 rose bushes at the Garden Center much justice, there were still lots of roses blooming last month and it's still a nice place to escape the bustle of city living. The gardens cover six acres of land and include the All-American Rose Selection test garden, the Bulb Garden, the Fragrant Garden, the Perennial Garden, the Camellia Garden and the Friendship Pavilion. At 6601 Fannin. Open daily, free admission, check the Web site for admission times.

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