Occupying the northeast segment of Hermann Park, this fifteen-acre garden is one of the most ambitious improvement projects since the park’s establishment in 1914. The site was formerly a wooded area until the Houston Garden Center was built in 1941, designed by William Ward Watkin, along with a rose garden laid out by Hare & Hare. By the early 1960s, a large parking lot had been built to the south of the Center’s building, and the Chinese Pavilion, a gift from the mayor of Taipei, was placed to the east of the Center in 1978. In 2008, in preparation for the Park’s centennial, the Garden Center was razed. Opened in 2014, the McGovern Centennial Gardens were designed by landscape architecture firms Hoerr Schaudt (led by Doug Hoerr) and White Oak Studio.
The Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, designed by Peter Bohlin of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, frames the main entrance to the gardens. In front of the pavilion, a pool (with six evenly spaced jets) provides the foreground to a 350-foot-long greensward, which is segmented by two cross-axial paths and flanked by dense plantings, gravel walkways, and pergolas. Several themed gardens comprising arid, edible, shade-loving, and fragrant plants are found on both sides of the greensward’s main axis. The garden’s dominant feature is a 175-foot wide, 30-foot high garden mound with a granite waterfall. An accessible path spirals to the top, offering panoramic views. A rose garden with formal beds of heirloom roses remains on-site, though re-designed. The northwest entrance of the site is lined with sculptures. The southeast corner of the park includes the relocated Chinese Pavilion, along with a meandering path through mature pines.