Zilker Garden lights up with neon, costumes for Surreal Garden Leave a comment

April 12, 2023

These flowers are watching you

If you enjoy seeing a familiar garden with a twist of surreality, humor, and neon art, the Surreal Garden event at Zilker Botanical Garden is for you. And for me! I attended last year’s inaugural event and happily returned this year.

The Surreal Garden is a neon art exhibition by Austin-based Ion Art and includes a live DJ and dancing, performance artists, food trucks, cash bars, and Austinites turned out in creative costumes. It all takes place in Zilker Garden’s rose garden, prehistoric garden, and entry garden.

I love a good costume party, and the Surreal Garden delivers. This couple wearing disconcertingly realistic barn owl get-ups were my favorites. They played up the effect by remaining silent and cocking their heads in an owly way when asked to pose for a photo. My husband dubbed them “owls in cowls.”

As you stroll through the garden, neon animals glow in the foliage like something out of a dream.

Here is another terrific costume: a mushroom lady!

She coordinates with a neon mushroom with eyes, who watches as you pass.

Oh look, someone else with three eyes!

Neon agave

A people-eating neon monster — an oversized anglerfish — returned from last year’s event.

As did this long-legged elephant.

Lots of Austinites “tuned in” to the Surreal Garden last Saturday after Thursday and Friday were rained out. The event takes place again this week on April 13th, 14th, and 15th. A fancier VIP night is also available on the 16th.

It’s a good way to get your hula on and support Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy, which receives 25% of the proceeds, funds that Zilker Garden uses to maintain and improve the gardens.

Consider becoming a ZBG Conservancy member too! You get free admission to the garden for a year, plus reciprocal admission to many other botanic gardens, including the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Dallas Arboretum, and the John Fairey Garden in Hempstead.

Projected lights on Zilker’s gazebo reflect in the koi pond.

A neon hippo rises from another pond.

And a leaping hammerhead shark adds a little menace.

This cheerful couple, both wearing pink and rabbit ears, stood out in the crowd.

An Alice in Wonderland reference suits the surreal theme. Follow the neon white rabbit down the reflective rabbit hole.

Neon chameleon

Picasso-esque face paint turned her into a work of art.

More faces, of the Easter Island variety

Even the plants take on a surreal quality under neon lighting, like this sago palm.

Neon sea dragon

And another anglerfish

Uh-oh, the aliens have landed.

In the prehistoric garden, a limestone cliff wall glows with neon petroglyphs. A sub-sardine chugs along too.

Neon headwear of all kinds is popular at the Surreal Garden. Fairy and butterfly wings too. This cute couple shows off both.

Neon jellyfish dangle from trees near the dinosaur sculpture — who wears neon cowboy boots! — in the prehistoric garden.

More Easter Island heads, in conversation

And neon tigers, itching for a fight

A woman on a flying fish soars over the waterfall in the prehistoric garden. She’s living her best neon life, and you can too. Tickets to the Surreal Garden‘s final weekend are available for $50 in advance and at the door. Surreal costumes are encouraged.

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Digging Deeper

Add to your succulent collection at the Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Spring Show & Sale on April 15 and 16, from 10 am to 5 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden. Come enjoy the plant show, shop for unique plants and pottery, and participate in a silent auction and raffles. Free with paid admission to Zilker Botanical Garden.

Tour 9 designer landscapes on the 2023 Austin Outdoor Living Tour on May 6. Designers and builders will be on hand to answer your questions. Cost is $33.85 for adults and $17.85 for kids aged 12 to 17. For safety, no one under 12 years of age except for carried infants.

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 7 starts in August. Stay tuned for the lineup!

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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