Like entranced children entering a flourishing wonderland, leading patrons of the John C. and Kathrine G. McGovern Centennial Gardens enjoyed a first look Thursday night at the splendid $31 million horticultural wonder that is poised to take Hermann Park to a new level of verdant grandeur.
The cocktail-attired throng strolled the arbor-covered walkways, peered around the perennial beds and, most exhilarating, walked the ziggurat leading up the 30-foot high Mount that afforded a sweeping view of the eight acres of carefully designed gardens.
Particularly proud on this perfect fall evening were Phoebe Tudor and Sanford Criner, who chaired the $31 million capital campaign that funded the garden complex. Joining them in receiving kudos on this evening were Hermann Park Conservancy previous board chair Ann Kennedy, under whose stewardship the garden became reality, and Conservancy director Doreen Stoller, who was the hands-on component throughout the planning and construction.
"This is a garden that was 100 years in the making," Tudor said in brief remarks to the intimate gathering that sat for dinner in the spanking new Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion. "It is my pleasure to welcome you here . . . Just imagine the gardens next year, 10 years from now and even 100 years from now. It is and will be a place of true natural beauty."
With that she thanked major donors including Kathrine McGovern, Cherie and Jim Flores, the Duncan Foundation, the City of Houston, Houston Endowment and her husband, Bobby Tudor for generous contributions.
"This is the best surprise birthday present I've ever had and will ever had," Cherie Flores said of the $5 million gift that her husband, oilman Jim Flores, gave to the Hermann Park Conservancy in her honor.
Flores told CultureMap, "It's really wonderful to be able to give something back to a city that's been so kind and wonderful to us." She was already planning her first dinner party atop the Mount.
While this evening and weekend activities marked the official unveiling of the Centennial Gardens, the area will close for completion of the project, which has been delayed due to rains. The area is expected to open full-time after the first of the year.
Sitting down for the Jackson and Co. dinner which concluded with a yummy Mount Pear Royale were Ann and Karl Stern, Cece Fowler, Sarah Dodd and Gregory Fourticq, Mindy and Jeff Hildebrand, Laurie and Reed Morian, Gracie Cavnar, Rebecca and Michael Jusbache, Jay Baker, Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones and Isabel and Danny David, Hermann Park Conservancy new board president.