The River Oaks Plant House Will Be Gone by the End of the Year

River Oaks Plant House, 3401 Westheimer Rd., River Oaks, Houston

River Oaks Plant House, 3401 Westheimer Rd., River Oaks, HoustonThe River Oaks Plant House — also known as the greenery purveyor that regularly festoons the corner of Westheimer and Buffalo Speedway with dancing bears and other fake topiary — will be closing up shop at the end December. Headmaster Mark Desjardins writes in an email that St. John’s School notified the owners of the more-than-30-year-old store in September that its lease would be terminated by December 31. The prep school had purchased the property from the Henry J. N. Taub family, along with the land under Blanco’s Bar & Grill, in a 13-acre deal completed exactly a year earlier.


St. John’s plans to tear down the retail building early next year and construct a parking lot with carpool lanes and some modular office space, to be used once construction begins later in the spring on its new Campus Center. The school’s website notes that Blanco’s will shut down by the end of the year as well.

Photos: Artichoke Vinaigrette (top); Liz S. (car)

Leaving Soon

23 Comment

  • So they’re going to knock down a great nursery and replace it with a parking lot and trailer offices?


  • That was the place of my first job. 1973 selling Christmas Trees with my friend Jeff Legler. Jeff’s mother, Marie worked there and was able to get us seasonal work. Good times, great memories…

  • This is sad news for Houston. That corner is iconic, for the last 30 years we have enjoyed driving by the zoo topiary! St. Johns should at least keep and maintain the animals.

  • History in exchange for a parking lot, nice….

  • Looks like they’re going to put a little Hogwarts over there.

  • I’m going to miss that bit of happiness. Sometimes I have planned a route past the median just so my youngest can see the topiary.

  • Back-to-back icons making way for parking! SJS sucks.

  • A parking lot?!!? Really? I don’t disparage St. John’s School, but the Plant House and Blanco’s are 2 rather iconic businesses in that area, and it will be sad to see them both go for the sake of a parking lot and some portable buildings. I don’t always buy into the line that Houston doesn’t protect/revere/cherish it’s history, but this is a good example of Houston’s constant forward march of progress over nostalgia.

  • It’s only going to be a parking lot for a while – if you read the school website info, it seems they plan to build more on what they call the “Taub Property” (and what the rest of us call the Plant House and Blanco’s) at some later date. But first they have to tear down their current building east of Claremont and north of Westheimer and replace it with something swankier. Those SJS students deserve so much more than a 40 year old building, don’t you know?!

    Between this and the Lamar HS work that’s set to begin soon, it looks like we all know what part of the city to avoid for a loooong while.

  • Gross… No wonder I never liked St.John’s… the snobs can go _ _ _ _ themselves!!!

  • Well perhaps those iconic businesses should have bought their property rather than lease it. Then you whiners would have nothing to bitch about… least until the next thread. Patrick, I’m surprised you didn’t find a way to blame this on Annise.

  • so does being a private school allow special tax priviliges as well, or is it the same as any other commercial enterprise?

    seems over the last few years that the wealthy schools/churches/etc. in the area have the capability to gobble large plots of land that developers can hardly compete at. at what point does the Montrose become the Menil/St. Thomas center?

  • Having a business on a not-for-profit entities land jeopardized the tax status.

  • It will be missed. And yes, those were not true topiary, but still a fun change of pace.

  • My father owned the nursery at that spot for 27 years before it became the River Oaks Plant House in the 80s (it used to be called “The Flowery”). Sorry to see it go.

  • ahn, how can that be the case? I’m the last person to claim expertise on FIT, but if it’s true, how can Rice own all the land in Rice Village (which they do)? If all those incredibly lucrative ground leases don’t ruin Rice’s tax-exempt status, I would assume the same would be true for SJS. Please let me know – I’m actually curious about this. Thanks.

  • Vonnegan, on the particular property that is run as a for profit business, that property must pay property taxes. Second Baptist has the same issue on the shopping center they own. So does Rice, and First Baptist will have the same issue on the 99 year ground lease they are doing with Hines.

  • Non-profits often own profit making entities. The profit making entities pay taxes, just like a regular business.

  • I’ve commented about this on past threads, but I know that owning and leasing surrounding properties has been a mess for the Menil and their non-profit status. I assume SJS would have the same issues.

  • What a HORRIBLE school to ruin such a landmark for a STUPID PARKING LOT. They should LOSE ALL OF THEIR FUNDING.

  • River Oaks Plant House and Village Greenery and Flowers were owned by the same entity once upon a time. Is this really a new purchase or merely a family reunion?