Saturday, April 4, 2015

Gardens at Festival Hill: The Roman Ruins Herb Garden

Over a recent weekend we headed east a few hours to visit family and tour some very special gardens.  Festival Hill at Round Top is a retreat for musicians from all over the world.  In addition to hosting a popular concert series, their beautiful grounds are open to the public.

We'll begin in the herb garden called The Roman Ruins built in 1993 to house the collection of well-known Texas herbalist Madalene Hill.  It is a beautiful tribute to her decades of work on growing herbs in hot, humid Texas.

This is the view entering The Roman Ruins.  The brown building to the left is the Menke House, a 1902 Gothic Revival structure moved to Festival Hill from nearby Hempstead.  The building is used for food service and meetings.

I didn't check the tags but I assume this is Madalene Hill Rosemary, a cold and humidity tolerant variety of Rosemarinus officinalis.

An Herbal Forum is hosted here each March. Spanish lavender in full bloom.

I didn't read many plant tags, preferring to enjoy exploring the spaces and that's how I'm presenting them in this post.


The style of the stonework was Madalene's idea and most of the materials are leftovers from local construction projects donated by contractors.  To learn more about the building of these gardens at Festival Hill see this video from Central Texas Gardener.

My first Monarch sighting of the spring was in these gardens.

The stonework was so awesome I'm just going to let you enjoy.....and I really did whittle them way down.

Ivy covered steps are purely decorative, I liked these quite a lot.

I enjoyed exploring the details.

I took lots of photos of the details for ideas

Using leftover materials gives the walls a quirky look with unmatched columns and changing styles.

This building is probably a shed, but I didn't check it out to see.

Happy Easter!

Next up are the Shakespeare and Pharmacy gardens.


  1. Beautiful!! Reminds me of ruins in Antigua Guatemala. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It does seem more reminiscent of ruins closer to home.

    2. How whimsical and imaginative of the people who built this place! I've never heard of it before and never would have guessed it was here in Texas. Thank you Shirley for sharing this post! Looking forward to seeing more.....

    3. I had no idea this place existed. Thanks for the fascinating visit.

  2. Wow, that's quite a folly for an herb garden! The stonework is fascinating. I'm glad to know about this place.

  3. Wow, Shirley, all the years I lived in Texas and I didn't know such a place existed! I love the stone buildings and statuary, and the wonderful gardens with all the herbs and Nasturtiums.

  4. I think your decision to allow the views to mostly speak for themselves is a wise one. This space is all about the approach and hardscape, whatever plants are used will be part of rather than driving the sense of design here. I'm going to be coming back to your images for weeks to gather ideas and allow the concepts to soak in. Thanks so very much for taking us along, and for allowing us to "see" for ourselves!

  5. Having never heard of this wonderful garden either I went and got my Madaline Hill herb book off the shelf to see if it was in there and I had forgotten about. No, it's not. My book was published in 1987 before this garden was built. This place looks like the least known but best herb garden in Texas, or maybe the US, or maybe the world? LOL Whateva' -- I love it! Thanks for your report and beautiful photos. Looking forward to more. Don't hesitate in posting lots of pictures ... :-)

  6. Happy Easter, Shirley! Thanks for taking, and sharing, your photos of this cool and interesting place. I love all that un-mortared stonework. I bet not keeping track of what plant was what allowed you to really enjoy your visit.

  7. Thanks for taking us along on your tour, Shirley! I loved the mixed stonework but couldn't help imagining what might happen to it in an earthquake...

  8. Wow. A perfect match of architecture and plants.

  9. Love the ruin! What a cool place to explore. Thanks also for the link to the video, it was very interesting.


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