In 1925, Miss Ima Hogg and her brothers, Will and Mike, selected 14 acres of natural woodlands and winding ravines for their home in the newly developed Houston neighborhood of River Oaks. Miss Hogg began planning the gardens before construction began on the home in 1927. The gardens at Bayou Bend reflect her love of beauty, flowers, and natural woodlands; her passion for history and all things classical; her meticulous eye for detail, proportion, and scale; her keen sense of color; her hands-on, experimental approach to gardening; and her continuous personal supervision.
Miss Hogg created formal gardens that reflect the Country Place era (1880–1920) in American landscape design, garden formats that were outgrowths of the classical architecture of the house, formal garden "rooms" extending from the house, and classical muses as themes. She selected a goddess (Diana) and two muses (Clio and Euterpe) from Greek mythology to anchor her north gardens.
The Bayou Bend Gardens were originally, in Miss Hogg's words, "nothing but a dense thicket" when she started to develop the property in the late 1920s. Undaunted, she created a series of gracious and beautiful gardens that were intended to be outdoor rooms for living and entertaining, not just views to be admired from within the house. Miss Hogg's brother, Will, encouraged his sister to plant magnolias, crape myrtles, and other flowering trees with Southern associations. She also planted camellias and is credited with introducing azaleas to Houston. Most of Bayou Bend's gardens evolved between 1934 and1942 and changed little until 1957, when Miss Hogg gave her estate and collection to the MFAH. In 1961, she invited River Oaks Garden Club to supervise the gardens permanently. Since then, the organization's volunteers have devoted their time and talent to preserving and enhancing the gardens. Thanks to River Oaks Garden Club, organic gardening methods were initiated, and Bayou Bend is the only formal public garden in Texas currently practicing organic gardening.
The Woodland Ravines
The beauty of native trees and shrubs form a spectacular backdrop to the formal gardens surrounding the house at Bayou Bend. Miss Hogg's desire was that the surrounding woodlands remain more or less natural, as they are today. The River Oaks Garden Club and Bayou Bend's Curator of Gardens, Bart Brechter, are guided by a master plan adopted to ensure that the gardens and surrounding woodlands continue into perpetuity as a historic, but not static, site. The gardens, now in their eigth decade, remain a living testament to Miss Hogg's life, vision, and generosity in Houston.