Thursday, February 22, 2018

Botanical lighting for the garden from Fern Valley Art

Oak and Japanese Maple light bollards (Photo: Fern Valley Art)
While visiting a garden in Fort Worth last fall, I fell in love with the owner's pillar-style garden lights with cut-outs featuring the distinctive leaves of a Japanese maple and an oak. As it happens, the gardener is also the metal artist, and more of her beautiful botanical-themed metalwork, including sculptural flowers and flower "pictures," was displayed throughout her garden. This talented artist is Wanda Stutsman of Fern Valley Art, and she has an online store and can ship anywhere! We're proud to say she's also a sponsor of Austin Fling!

Wild Grass light bollard (Photo: Fern Valley Art)
Wanda specializes in replicating nature in steel. She designs and fabricates Texas native and adapted plants using steel to create unique and beautiful framed art pieces. With her husband, Karl, she creates her outdoor-light bollards with detailing featuring the foliage of plants and trees. They are stunning by day and magical when lit. Check out her entire Nature Series, which includes Japanese maple, oak, palm, and wild grass. She also makes several mid-century modern designs.

We're proud to have Fern Valley Art as a sponsor of Austin Fling, and we have a special surprise for attendees. Wanda is donating one of her lights -- winner's choice -- to our raffle, with free shipping within the continental U.S., or with a $40 shipping credit if the winner lives elsewhere. We'll be displaying her work at the Fling so you can see the quality for yourself. I think you'll fall in love with her work, as I have!

Our thanks to Wanda and Fern Valley Art for their support of Austin Fling! Find them here:

The light bollards are beautiful by day as well.
Fern Valley Art

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Wildflower meadow, garden haus, and a killer view

Someone with less vision might have chosen to let a breathtaking view of downtown Austin do all the talking. But Ruthie Burrus has vision. After her house was built -- in a style that references the simple stone houses German immigrants in the 1800s built in the Texas Hill Country -- she chose to enhance her backyard's stunning view with a frame of native blooming plants and succulents, mixed with some Texas favorites and a few roses.

"My garden," Ruthie says, "is all about pollinators, native plants, and taking advantage of views and natural surroundings. We live on top of a hill overlooking downtown Austin, the Texas Capitol Building, and the University of Texas tower. Our property is both a Certified Wildlife Habitat and a Monarch Way Station, so it's filled with sunflowers, salvias, lantanas, pavonia, Turk’s cap, and bee balm -- lots of food for pollinators! We also have a rainwater collection system that harvests rain off our roofs and gutters and stores it in a 10,000-gallon galvanized tank. It is wonderful to be able to water flowerbeds with rainwater instead of chemically treated city water."

Anchoring one end of the back garden is a charming garden "haus" designed by Ruthie and constructed of stone and antique doors, old windows, and recycled roofing material. It has been featured in Southern Living magazine, and if we're lucky with the timing, we'll see it smothered in pink 'Peggy Martin' roses.

Ruthie's garden "haus" in Southern Living, April 2017
Out front, a steep hillside has been planted as a wildflower meadow, showcasing native wildflower annuals and perennials in the spring, native lantana in the summer, and native grasses in the fall and winter. 

We look forward to sharing Ruthie's garden with you at Austin Fling! If you're a garden blogger and want to snag one of our remaining few spots on the tour -- a great value at only $275 USD -- click here for registration info.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Plants for every region from sponsor Plant Development Services

Plant Development Services Inc. offers three distinctive plant collections: Southern Living Plant Collection, Encore Azalea, and Sunset Western Garden Collection. We're proud to have their sponsorship for Austin Fling and excited to share their plant collections with you! They develop plants for diverse regions, so whether you're in the hot and humid South, the arid and sunny West, or even the colder Midwest and Northeast, check out their collections (below), and we're sure you'll find one or more plants to try in your own garden. 

And get this -- those who attend Austin Fling will have a chance to win some of their plants! For our banquet night raffle, Plant Development Services has donated 3 gift certificates, each one redeemable for 4 plants from one of their collections. What does that mean? It means that one lucky blogger will get to pick out 4 plants from Southern Living Plants. Another will get to pick 4 plants from Encore Azalea. And another will get to pick 4 plants from Sunset Plants. Which will YOU try to win?

Take a look at the three exciting plant collections offered by Plant Development Services.

Southern Living Plant Collection is designed to solve landscape challenges in Southern gardens. Each plant in this collection is thoroughly trialed and tested for the South. You'll find the collection in retail nurseries throughout the South -- just look for the distinctive brown containers with the Southern Living logo. You can also buy them online

I'm growing several Southern Living plants, including personal faves 'Everillo' carex and 'Soft Caress' mahonia, as well as three plants I'm trialing for the first time: 'Platinum Beauty' lomandra, 'Clarity Blue' dianella, and 'Marvel' mahonia.

A few of Southern Living's plants, from their website
Southern Living Plant Collection is a partnership between Plant Development Services Inc. and Southern Living magazine, a lifestyle and entertaining magazine of the South. Longtime Flingers may remember meeting Southern Living's garden editor, Steve Bender aka The Grumpy Gardener, at Asheville Fling in 2012!

Follow Southern Living Plants on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

Encore Azaleas are the only patented brand of azaleas to bloom in spring, summer, and fall. Each of the 31 Encore varieties begins their performance with the spring flowering season. Once this "first act" of blooming concludes, new shoots begin to grow and set buds. The Encore Azalea's "second act" opens when these buds begin blooming into full flower mid-summer. This unique bloom season continues through the fall, the curtain dropping with the onset of cold weather. But, the show goes on. As an "encore," these exceptional azaleas flower again with traditional spring azaleas.


Unlike traditional azaleas, Encore Azaleas are sun tolerant. In fact, 4-6 hours of direct sunlight or high filtered shade will ensure optimal blooming and growth. Encore Azaleas are also cold hardy. University studies and extensive plantings throughout the Midwest and Northeast show that the majority of Encore Azalea varieties are cold hardy through USDA zone 6.

A few of Encore Azalea's plants, from their website
Follow Encore Azalea on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

Sunset Western Garden Collection is the first plant collection designed specifically for the Western gardener. According to SF Gate, "The collection offers a mix of bold, contrasting foliage and perennial flowering color -- all on compact plants that won't overwhelm Westerners' urban and suburban lots." It also emphasizes water-wise plants suited to the region's arid climate.

Bloggers who attended San Francisco Fling in 2013 will remember our visit to Sunset headquarters and test gardens in Menlo Park -- only a year before that beloved property was sold. Sunset's new test gardens opened at Cornerstone Sonoma, just north of San Francisco, in 2016, and I made a pilgrimage to see it last summer. One word: wow! If you get the chance, go. You'll see their plant collection growing in a beautifully designed space.
A few of Sunset Western Garden's plants, from their website

Sunset Western Garden Collection is a partnership between Plant Development Services Inc. and Sunset. Since 1898, Sunset magazine has been a source of inspiration for those living in the West. Sunset’s experts focus on regional travel destinations, home design, outdoor living, gardening ideas, and recipes that celebrate the best of the West.

Follow Sunset Plants on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

Our thanks to Plant Development Services and their plant collections for supporting Austin Fling! 

Follow Plant Development Services Inc. on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eat breakfast tacos in Digging garden

My former garden, toured at the first Garden Bloggers Fling in 2008
A decade ago (what?!), in April 2008, I opened my garden to bloggers at the very first Garden Bloggers Fling for a pre-dinner happy hour. This was my former garden, where a baby Moby (my beloved whale's tongue agave) was growing in the front yard and my rustic Green Hall shed anchored the back yard. With Mexican martinis in hand, 37 bloggers explored the garden, milled around in the kitchen, relaxed on the patio, and participated in two blogger-led roundtable discussions in the living room and out on the back porch. What fun it was to see bloggers I'd known only online enjoying themselves in my garden!

My current garden, seen here with Moby, my dearly departed whale's tongue agave
Fast forward 10 years later, and Austin bloggers are hosting the Fling again -- this time for a full 3-1/2-day Fling experience, even better than the one-day meetup and tour that comprised our first experimental Fling. And I'm delighted to be opening my "new" garden (now almost 10 years old) to the bloggers -- this time with breakfast tacos! Hey, everything's better with a breakfast taco.

While Moby has passed on -- and I know some of you have Moby Jrs in your own gardens -- you'll see plenty of other agaves, plus some big yuccas and sotols. An 8-foot stock-tank pond sits at the heart of my garden, where you can say hello to the goldfish that's been wily enough to elude marauding herons and raccoons.

Dry shade and hordes of hungry deer have shaped my plant choices out front, where I rely on fragrant, toothy, and grassy foliage. In back, a steep slope has been tamed with terracing, and shade-tolerant perennials and succulents are elevated in upcycled containers, including culvert pipe remnants and concrete cinderblocks. You'll find multiple seating areas for enjoyment of the promised breakfast tacos, although of course breakfast tacos are portable for noshing while exploring, if you prefer.

I look forward to welcoming Austin Flingers to my garden. See you in May! 

And if you're a garden blogger and want to snag one of our remaining few spots on the tour -- a great value at only $275 USD -- click here for registration info.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Fling sponsor, Tula Hats, covers all your sun protection needs

We’re excited to have Tula Hats partner with the Garden Bloggers Fling. 

Tula Hats makes an array of beautiful and functional hats for any outdoor need.  Now you can enjoy all of your favorite outside activities without worrying about the damage the sun is doing to your skin by putting on a gorgeous palm hat from Tula Hats. Their hats are handwoven in a small village in the mountains of Mexico, adhering to the local tradition used for centuries.  They are made using 100 percent natural palm fiber, which is a sustainable, environmentally friendly fiber grown on the Mexican coast.

Tula hats have been rated as having the highest level of sun protection – providing UPF 50+ sun protection, and they’re also fair trade, made by artisans with fair wages and safe working conditions.

Want a hat to wear while planting your garden? Need a set of the best hiking hats out there for a family excursion? Or perhaps you just want to stroll around town on a sunny day? Tula hats are perfect for these activities, and more. 

They’re even travel friendly – their packable straw hats are sturdy and pliable, great to bring along in your suitcase to any Fling, with clothing (and maybe plants in plastic bags) stuffed around them.

Check out their hats online, and you’ll soon see why they’re so loved.

Check them out on their website at  You can also find them at,

Be sure to thank them for their generous support. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Modern design and native plants at designer B. Jane's garden

When designer B. Jane created a garden for her own home, she faced some familiar challenges: a small lot with a need for privacy from the neighbors so she and her family could enjoy a resort-like back yard, complete with swimming pool, grilling station, fire pit, spa, and outdoor shower. After creating gardens for other people all day, her goal was to relax in her own garden, not slave over it. She also wanted a fun outdoor space for her daughter and friends to hang out. 

Choosing a contemporary style with an architectural approach to planting, she planted up the front yard with native and adapted plants -- i.e., water thrifty and Texas tough -- in linear arrangements to provide lots of curb appeal and to screen neighboring driveways. In back, she divided the garden into different "rooms" for various activities, making the small space live larger. 

She even managed to make the garden Brisket-proof -- that is, able to hold up to the wear and tear of their very active and swimming-pool-lovin' dog Brisket.

You'll visit this garden and more at Austin Fling this May 3rd-6th. If you haven't already signed up, here's the registration info!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Spotlight on Sponsor: Spring Meadow Nursery and Proven Winners

We are so excited to partner with Spring Meadow Nursery and Proven Winners for the Austin Garden Bloggers Fling May 3-6.

From a small propagation nursery to one of the largest providers of proprietary plant materials in the country, the Proven Winners brand is synonymous with quality and consistency.

Nurseries large and small look to Spring Meadow Nursery to do their propagations and to bring new and exciting plants to garden bloggers and flingers across the country. Spring Meadow Nursery is the developer behind Proven Winners® ColorChoice®, one of the most recognized brands of flowering shrubs in North America.

A market leader, they offer more than 400 varieties in their catalog, 270 of which are marketed under the Proven Winners Color Choice brand, including Incrediball® Hydrangea, My Monet® Weigela, Little Henry® Itea and Wine & Roses® Weigela.

Their plants are ubiquitous, a testament to their quality and the consumer loyalty they enjoy throughout North America.   As bloggers and gardeners, we are always looking for new and exciting plant selections that we can count on to perform.  Their plant varieties are always on the cutting edge, as they work to achieve longer bloom times, multiple seasons of interest and improved disease resistance in all of their selections.  And, let's admit it, when their plants look good, we gardeners look good!

Growers, retailers, landscapers, gardeners, and garden bloggers know and trust Proven Winners to deliver the best.  
Lo & Behold Purple Haze Buddleia
We thank them for their long-time support of the Garden Bloggers Fling and we thank them for their  beautiful and high-quality plants.

Visit Spring Meadow Nursery's website and their Facebook page.

Visit Proven Winners' website and their Facebook page.