Photography by Stacie Yates
After 50 years, the utopian gardens of Shangri La opened to the public once again.
Located on 525 acres in Orange, the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center was built in the 1930s by Lutcher Stark, one of Orange's greatest philanthropists. A rare snow storm destroyed many of the plants in 1958, and the park remained closed for the next five decades.
On March 11, the gardens opened again, allowing visitors an opportunity to view more than 300 plant species, sculptures and wildlife in formal gardens and cypress swamps.
The center also includes an Exhibit Hall, Discovery Theater, Children's Garden, Exhibition Greenhouses, Cafe and Garden Store.
Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a program of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private foundation whose mission is to improve and enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas and encourage and assist education.
Lutcher Stark was inspired to build Shangri La after reading about the mystical retreat described in the book, "Lost Horizon."
From March through October, hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, and then noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It is also open during the winter months but with more limited operating hours.