Annual Zilker Garden Festival raises funds, educates citizens

Joe Layton

The Zilker Botanical Garden blossomed with life this weekend when it hosted the 54th-annual Zilker Garden Festival. The Austin Area Garden Council and the city Parks and Recreation Department put on the festival to raise money for the Botanical Garden’s operation throughout the year. The event brings vendors from all over Texas who set up in the garden and sell everything from plants to pasta. This year, a vendor from Boulder, Colo. made it down to the festival, signaling the festival’s growing hype, said council president Donna Friedenreich. “It’s nothing like South By Southwest,” said radio-television-film senior Caitlin Conran. “But there are a lot of quirky people, and it’s cute to watch the old ladies walk around with their wagons.” There are about 400 volunteers working at the festival with more than 150 coming from UT’s student body, Friedenreich said. The festival included a flower show named “Shall We Dance” with arrangements that represent ballets or dances, said Velia Sanchez-Ruiz, a member of the Violet Crown Garden Club. The Nationally Accredited Flower Show Judges ranked the arrangements, which were divided into four sections titled Yesterday’s Dance, Every Step a Dance, Happy Feet and Dance Fever. “There is a section named ‘The Tango’ with lots of dips and twists where you can really see the movement,” Sanchez-Ruiz said. The festival also had a kid’s corner where children could build birdhouses, make butterfly wings and paint rocks, hats and faces. Bands, including the Latin pop group Boca Abajo, performed in the rose garden throughout the festival where garden enthusiasts could take a break from shopping and enjoy the weather. Experts spoke during garden talks, where beginning and experienced gardeners could learn about topics such as organic gardening, rainwater tanks and earth-kind roses. Earth-kind roses are flowers that have been hybridized to be easily maintainable and drought resistant, said Rose Society member Joi Chevalier. “It’s about finding a mix between what we like as gardeners and a flower that is more environmentally friendly,” Chevalier said.