Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lunch and plant shopping at one-of-a-kind Natural Gardener nursery

Herb garden at The Natural Gardener
Ever had a working lunch? Well, here's a twist. At Austin Garden Bloggers Fling, we'll have a shopping lunch -- an opportunity for plant and garden gift shopping!

Eight acres of display gardens with a rustic, welcoming Texas atmosphere await you at The Natural Gardener, a one-of-a-kind, locally owned nursery that's been showing Austin how to garden organically and offering a great selection of Texas-tough plants, edibles and fruit trees, fun garden ornaments, and more since 1993. The nursery, which regularly receives accolades, is owned by John Dromgoole, a local legend and evangelist for organic gardening who appears on Central Texas Gardener and hosts the radio show "Gardening Naturally." It's a must-see stop for anyone visiting Austin, and a regular destination for those of us who live here.

During our first day of touring at Austin Fling, we'll enjoy lunch at The Natural Gardener under their big tent, and you'll have time to browse and explore. I especially enjoy their succulent and cactus collection. Edible gardeners will love the selection of herbs, fruit trees, and seeds. Unique perennials will be fun to browse too. 

Or maybe you'd prefer to wander through the display gardens, where you'll find a sunny labyrinth, colorful butterfly garden, tepee, chickens and goats, and inviting swing benches hanging from trees. Be sure to check out the Microb Brewery, where the staff brews up compost tea for fertilizing plants. 

Garden art of all kinds can be found throughout the nursery grounds, and inside the shop you'll find a great selection of tools, seeds, hats, gifts, and garden adornments.

We look forward to sharing The Natural Gardener with you at Austin Fling!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Why do we blog?

The social media explosion forever changed electronic communication.  The advent of web blogs brought a new, dynamic opportunity for gardeners to communicate with other gardeners.  Suddenly, as more and more gardeners entered the blogging realm, they could read blogs to get real-life information about what works and doesn't work in their gardens.  They were able to share the highs, lows, quirky stories, and unique experiences and Gardeners embraced this new realm.

Even at the very first Garden Bloggers Fling held here in Austin a decade ago, we had breakout sessions to discuss the future of blogging.  Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens spoke about the evolving social aspects of blogging, while Kathy Purdy of Cold ClimateGardening discussed the emerging technical issues of maintaining a blog. 

Bloggers shared their experiences with Blogger and Word Press programs, monetizing blogs, and the future of blogging.  A decade ago, this issue was a burning question.

As the next waves of social media washed over the internet, bloggers expanded their reach, adding Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to expand their outreach repertoire.  Families, jobs, and even gardening, got in the way of publishing detailed and let’s face it, time-consuming posts. 

It’s so simple now – throw up140 characters, a great photo, and a snippet of information, and voila, you’re done.  More people see these condensed, tiny bytes of information.  It only takes a few minutes out of your day.

Does this mean that the world of blogging is quietly slipping into the dark of night, a light soon to be extinguished by the new rush to post as fast as you can in real time?

I’d argue no.  While some bloggers find other social media channels more to their liking, others prefer to continue blogging, using those tools to promote their longer, detailed posts.

I’m in the latter camp, and I’m not alone.  Blogging gives me something that none of the other outlets do. 

It allows me to express my passion for gardening and to share it with others.  My posts provide information, tips, lots of photos and the story that is continually evolving in my garden.  In return, I’m grateful to have the perspective of others from around the world to expand my horizons with the same cornucopia of detailed information.

The blogging world may have lost a few gardeners to a faster medium that better suits their needs, but I would argue that there will always be a yearning for all that nitty gritty information we dive into on our respective blogs.  We trial plants for each other, we share tips, we experiment, and we celebrate our successes and commiserate over our losses.

There will always be a thirst for knowledge and a demand for detail.  Nothing will replace a blogs ongoing personal perspective that readers can’t always find on a newsstand or in a book. This fulfilling electronic connection cultivates a loyal readership and friendships that span the globe.  It’s why we blog and it’s why we Fling.

And, I feel privileged to be among this special group of garden bloggers.  See you all in Austin in 97 days!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Jamison Garden is a gift to the neighborhood

For how many of us does this ring true?

Austin gardener Colleen Jamison says, "For years I traveled for work, and my pattern was to work very hard all week so I could reward myself on the flights home by poring over garden magazines. That's how I learned about design! And I listened to the gardening shows on the radio religiously every weekend. Now when I travel for fun, local gardens are always on the agenda." 

Colleen's garden can be on YOUR agenda if you attend Austin Garden Bloggers Fling this May. Colleen started creating her garden when she and her husband moved into their charming ranch home in 1994. I used to walk past her house every day in the early 2000s while taking my son to school, and I'd slow down and study all the details because I was a young gardener then myself, and I saw much to learn from Colleen's garden. Now I'm excited that we can share it with you!

"I started gardening to enhance the curb appeal of the house," Colleen says, "but it quickly grew into a laboratory. And a creative outlet. And an exercise in problem solving. As I learned more, I wanted to try to grow every native plant or adapted I could get my hands on." 

Colleen has not only created a welcoming, comfortable garden retreat for herself and her husband, but she's extended her green touch to a weedy median strip that divides her street, transforming it into a low-water oasis with benches for the use of neighbors and passersby. 

She clearly enjoys a challenge. "I wanted to see if I could garden successfully in the worst of the worst conditions. The median had terrible soil, was covered in weeds, browsed nightly by deer, and had no irrigation. Little by little, a garden emerged." 

Today the weedy median is a public promenade through masses of Mexican feathergrass, under an allee of crepe myrtles, with other super-tough plants that thrive with little care. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Hortus TV: Supporting Sponsor of Austin Fling

We are very excited to have HortusTV as a sponsor of the Austin Fling! They were also sponsors of last year's fling in DC, where  I was lucky enough to win one of the year-long memberships at the raffle.

HortusTV is a streaming service that is all about gardening. For a minimal monthly fee you can find hundreds of hours of quality content ranging from formal gardens, to edibles to feel-good, tear-jerkers. The folks at HortusTV are constantly adding new series and episodes to whet your appetite.

This winter has been brutal here in Austin, as in many parts of the country. Although it is usually a bit cold December-February, there are usually plenty of nice-enough days to get outside and garden. Lately, I have found these days few and far between, and cabin fever has started to set in. I'm learning that the solution is to plot and plan for spring and HortusTV has been a big help.

One of my favorite series is "Garden Rescue". In this entertaining show, two different designers, the Rich Brothers and Charlie Demmick are pitted against each other. The client must choose a design, and both the winner and loser work together to bring the winner's design to fruition. One aspect of the show that I really like is no drama, just design. The winner and loser work (mostly) happily together and the winner often encompasses some of the loser's ideas as well.

HortusTV offers a free trial subscription, so what are you waiting for?

Liza will also be joining us on the Fling this year as well!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

You'll find plenty to adore in Mirador garden

At the Mirador Garden, which you'll see on the Austin Fling tour, a dramatic feature greets you as you enter the driveway: slim walls of rusty steel that terrace the contours of the sloping lot. Tiered planting beds bristle with yucca and agave, while billowing native grasses and cascading silver groundcovers do their part to soften the scene. Jerusalem thorn's lemon-yellow flowers stand out against unusual lime-green limbs and trunks. A meadow-like ecological lawn of Habiturf (developed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center) subs for traditional, thirsty lawn.

Inside a steel-walled courtyard overlooked by the contemporary home, roses, iris, and zinnias give a cheery, casual vibe, but the garden steers clear of cottage style with an open layout and linear steel-edged beds. A trough-style water feature attracts birds and reflects the big Texas sky.

In back, heat-loving Yucca rostrata cluster together like a congregation of hedgehogs, and a vine-draped pergola offers shade. 

We hope you'll join us in early May to explore this garden and many others on our three days of garden touring. And if you're already signed up (click here to see the bloggers who have already registered), we'll see you in just a few months!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Botanical Interests seed packets pack a powerful punch

We’re excited to have Botanical Interests partnering with us for the Austin Fling on May 3-6.  Botanical Interests has been a long-time sponsor of the Fling and we appreciate their support – they and all of our other sponsors help make this event possible from year to year.

A family-owned business since 1995, Botanical Interests offers an astounding array of more than 600 seed varieties.  

From organics to heirlooms, their seeds are specifically chosen to perform for home gardeners.  All of their seeds are untreated and non-GMO.

Their seed packets really set them apart in the gardening world.  I pore over my Botanical Interests seed packets, full of -- you guessed it -- interesting botanical information.  On each packet, you can learn about the history of the plant, follow tips for successful growing and even find a recipe to use when you’ve harvested your edibles.  Suggestions about keeping your cut flowers longer and your vegetables fresher are invaluable.

Using the inside of the packet gives them a lot more space to include the additional information they know gardeners want, because they are gardeners and they want it, too.

When I’m designing a garden space, it’s invaluable to have all that data at my fingertips.  I don’t want to go searching online or elsewhere for information when I’m planning, and with Botanical Interests packets, I don’t have to.  

Of course, now is the perfect time to buy all of your seeds for spring planting. Be sure to show your appreciation for their support.

You will find them on Facebook, Instagram #Botanical Interests, and @Botanical Seeds on Twitter.

Order your own catalog, and be sure to sign up for their online newsletter

While you're using the catalog and newsletter to do your spring garden planning, check out their latest and greatest offerings and products:

Thanks again, Botanical Interests!