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Here's one of the beautiful experiences of living in this desert-adjacent city full of weirdos: Austinites deeply value being the first to see a prominent succulent collection. Move over, private pickleball clubs — the plant lovers are getting a taste of that sweet exclusivity.
Of course, as much as succulent gardeners covet rare plants, they love to share the excitement; so it is fitting that an inaugural benefit dinner will celebrate the first-ever public viewing of the Zilker Botanical Garden Succulent Collection on November 4. Funds raised will support the garden so more people can come in and look at all its many well-cared-for plants year-round.
The High Desert Dîner en Blanc ("Dinner in White") is set to be an annual event, adapting the Parisian idea of celebrating "good food and good friends" outside. The "elevated picnic" is all about "self-expression, playfulness, and community," according to the announcement. Along with dinner, attendees will enjoy an open bar, games, and tours of the collection.
The new collection arrives courtesy of the late Bob Barth, scientist and co-founder of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society. The social group provides educational programming and assembles volunteers to help maintain the Botanical Garden’s Cactus Garden; and some members will surely be in attendance at the dinner.
. University of Texas students may also remember Barth as their professor of Zoology (Entomology and Ornithology), and he was also a longtime member of the Travis Audubon Society.
Maintaining a 28-acre garden is not cheap — even with the help of volunteers — and Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy has raised more than $300,000 in the past year. Those funds go toward preserving the Butler Window (a remnant of a historical Austin mansion that has become a popular photo spot), working on the succulent collection, and creating visitor programming.
It also maintains a roster of 26 member organizations including very specialized groups like the First Austin African Violet Society, and groups that are there to appreciate rather than grow the garden, like Plein Air Austin.
Barth's donation also included funds to hire a curator for the succulent collection, so it will continue thriving and evolving through 2025 and hopefully beyond.
The garden requests that dinner guests wear white to stay on-theme, and refrain from wearing heels to protect the ground. Tickets ($125 per person, $225 per couple) are available at zilkergarden.org. Guests must be 21 or older.