Friday, April 27, 2018

Austin Fling FAQ

You've got questions? We've got answers! Austin Fling kicks off next Thursday, and as you put together your packing list we're here to answer your frequently asked questions plus offer a few tips you might not have thought to ask about.

Itinerary and Scheduling

What is the first thing to do for the Fling?
We encourage you to come pick up your swag bag and nametag in the hotel lobby (Courtyard Austin Downtown) on Thursday between 3 and 5 pm. The swag bags will contain the itinerary, so you'll have the daily schedule. Then from 5:15 to 5:30 pm, meet us in the lobby, and at 5:30 pm we'll walk together to the Welcome Party at Central Library

What if I arrive too late to get my swag bag?
If you miss the swag-bag pickup at 3-5 pm on Thursday, you can get it after the Welcome Party ends by picking it up from organizer Pam Penick from 8:30-9 pm Thursday evening. Text her to let her know you'd like to pick it up -- and please provide your name so she knows who's texting. Her phone number will be provided in an email sent to all registered attendees later today. Please save that email for your reference.

I'm arriving on Thursday after the Welcome Party begins. Is it OK to come late? 
Yes! Come anytime between 6 and 8 pm. We'll be at the Central Public Library in the Special Event Center on the 1st Floor. Parking at the library is limited, so we recommend a ride-share, cab, or pedicab. Info about public transportation is here, under Getting Around Downtown.

I won't arrive until Friday. How do I get my itinerary/nametag/swag bag? And what time do I catch the bus?
Check your email later today to see if you're signed up for Friday's early bus for the photography workshop (this was a limited-seat sign-up option when you registered) or if you're on the later bus. The early bus departs at 7:30 am on Friday (boards at 7:20 am). The later bus departs at 8:30 am (boards at 8:20 am). Pam will bring the unclaimed bags/nametags to the lobby from 7 to 8 am, so find her then.

I will be commuting to the hotel. Where and what time do I meet the tour bus?
Meet in the hotel lobby at least 15 minutes before the bus departure time. If you don't see a crowd in the lobby, check outside to see if the buses are loading. If you're a local and will be driving to the hotel each day, plan for Austin's traffic and allot plenty of time to get downtown and find parking. The hotel offers parking, but it's expensive and could perhaps be full. The bus departure times are:
Friday: 7:30 am for photo workshop (check your email to see if you're on the list); 8:30 am for everyone else
Saturday: 8:15 am
Sunday: 8:15 am
Boarding begins 10-15 minutes before departure. 

I want to do the photography workshop on Friday. Can I?
We're sending an email with the names of bloggers who signed up for the workshop. If you're not on it (spots are limited), we're sorry, but we can't add you. Don't worry though -- you'll see the Wildflower Center gardens too. The second bus will just arrive a little later. 

When is the group photo? I don't want to miss it!
We'll be taking our group photo on Friday morning at 9:10 am at the Wildflower Center. The photo workshop ends at 9 am, and the 2nd bus will be arriving around then, so we'll all meet in the main courtyard of the garden (between the gift shop and the tower) and take our group shot before we explore the gardens.

Social Media

Do we have a hashtag?
#gbfling2018. We encourage you to use it for your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts about the Fling.

Do you want my blog links about Austin Fling? 
Definitely! Please share your Fling-related blog links on our Facebook group or email them to us at our Fling email address. We will compile all the Austin Fling posts and publish them on our blog after the Fling.


How far is the airport from our hotel?
10.5 miles. Please read our Getting to Austin post for more info about the airport and getting to the hotel.

How much time should I allow for picking up checked baggage when planning for Super Shuttle pick-up time?
We guesstimate it takes about 20 minutes from deplaning to getting your bag. Plan on 30 minutes to be safe.

What to Pack and Wear

What kind of clothes should I bring? 
Austin is a very casual city. Bring comfortable shoes for walking and whatever style of clothes you like to visit gardens in. For downtown dining, casual is still the norm, but some restaurants are a little dressier than others (call to find out). Even at these, a blouse and capris/pants/skirt or casual dress will be fine. We do like our air conditioning in the South, so if you get cold with the A/C blowing on you, bring layers.

What will the weather be like?
Pretty nice, we hope! We're still a week away, so forecasts are subject to change, but it's looking like highs in the mid- to low 80s F (29.4 to 26.6 C), with a cool north breeze, and with surprisingly cool nighttime temps in the 50s and 60s F (13.3 to 19.4 C). There are chances of rain every day, so bring an umbrella or lightweight poncho, just in case. We tend to get brief rain showers rather than steady rain that lasts all day, so don't fret over rain chances. Cloudy skies will yield better light for photos anyway.

How much suitcase space do I need for swag, raffle winnings, or other items?
We recommend bringing an extra collapsible duffle in your suitcase. When you're packing to go home, you can put some of your clothes in the duffle to make room in your suitcase for the swag or raffle items. (Check in advance if you're allowed to bring an extra bag on the airplane.) Or, if you have time to find a shipping store, you can box up some items (or your clothes, if they're lighter) and ship them home.

Will we have a chance to shop for plants? 
Yes, we'll be visiting two nurseries. If you like to buy plants when you travel, we suggest you pack a handful of Ziplock bags, newspaper and rubber bands, and plastic garbage bags for wrapping plants and packing them in your carry-on or suitcase. Read this post for more plant-packing tips.

What else should I bring?
Sunscreen and a hat, for sure. A portable phone charger is smart. Our buses should have regular outlets, so you might want to bring an adapter along. Camera supplies: extra battery, battery charger, plenty of SD memory cards, etc. A roomy camera bag, backpack, or crossbody for carrying your camera, a water bottle, snacks (we'll have snacks on the bus), and any other essentials. Bug repellent if you're sensitive to mosquitoes, although we don't expect this to be an issue for most. We've had a couple questions about ticks. They are not as common here as in other parts of the country, and in the manicured gardens we'll be touring, they are unlikely to be encountered.

Don't forget your old Fling souvenir buttons, if you've attended past Flings and want to show off your collection on your nametag wallet. Also, this is a great opportunity to network with other garden writers, so bring business cards with your contact info, if you like.

Eating and Drinking

What are our breakfast options? 
There's a Starbucks located in the hotel, which opens at 6 am every day. Check our restaurant listing for other breakfast options within walking distance of the hotel.

Do I need to make any dinner plans on my own?
Yes, Friday night is dinner-on-your-own. We return to the hotel at 5:15 pm that day. Check our restaurant listing for dinner options within walking distance of the hotel. Feel free to post on our Facebook group if you're looking for dining partners; there will be others who don't have plans, so just ask!

Do I need to bring snacks?
We'll have packaged snacks on the buses each day.

Will there be toilets on the bus?
Yes. There will also be restrooms available at the public gardens and nurseries and, for emergencies, a few of the private gardens.

Are alcoholic beverages being served anywhere?
Yes, we'll have a cash bar at the banquet dinner on Saturday and an open bar at the BBQ Bash on Sunday with two signature tequila cocktails and white wine available.

Photo: Peter17 via Wikimedia Commons

I want to go batty!

How can I see the famous bat colony in downtown Austin?
By land, bridge, or water! Austin's urban bat colony lives in the cracks under the Congress Avenue Bridge. They emerge nightly to hunt for moths and other bugs, but some nights are better than others. If it's cool or rainy, they may hunker down and emerge late or sporadically. If it's warm and clear, they may emerge just before sunset in a crowd-pleasing swarm. You can watch them from the west-side sidewalk on Congress Avenue Bridge, or on the Hike and Bike Trail below the bridge, or from a bat-watching cruise on Lady Bird Lake. Find more info here.

What else have I forgotten to ask?

We hope we've answered most of your questions already with our earlier post, Everything You Need to Know for Austin Fling. But if not, just email us and ask. 

We can't wait to see you all next week!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Need more plants? Visit these Austin nurseries while you're here

When you come to Austin Fling, we'll be visiting two nurseries on the tour. But I know some of you would like - nay, need - to visit more as many as humanly possible, and if you're adding extra days to your visit, you'll want to know where to go. 

We've got you covered! Our local nurseries are run by generous, plant-loving people, including the following supporters of Austin Fling. Read more about them below, and map out your route now. 


A BBQ Bash to close out the Fling will be held on Sunday in the back-yard event space at Articulture, and you'll definitely want to check out the boutique's living pictures, jewel-box succulent planters, and planted tables, plus lots of fun and quirky decorative objects you can use in your own creative compositions. You'll meet the owner, Monique Capanelli, who designs vertical garden installations for businesses all over Austin. As their website says, "Articulture Designs is an innovative design firm, boutique, and event space...with a focus on plant and botanical design. But we're not talking mums and ivies here. Articulture is known for breathtaking living walls, transformative interior plantscapes, and uncommonly inventive wedding and event decor."

Located in south Austin, 8 miles from the Fling hotel: 6405 Manchaca Road. Phone: 512-762-5228.

Tuesday - Saturday: 9am - 6pm
Sunday: 11am - 5pm
Monday: Closed


East Austin Succulents

A succulent lover’s paradise, East Austin Succulents offers a Dr. Seussian assortment of tender and hardy plants, including a nice selection of agaves, yuccas, and cactus. A long-as-a-football-field greenhouse (only a slight exaggeration) allows them to grow all kinds of fascinating succulents and cacti. They also specialize in fun and funky succulent arrangements planted up in melted LPs, vintage tins, thrifted toolboxes, and other repurposed objects. As their website says: "We are a team of young growers creating cool cactus and succulent darlings for the last five years or so. We love succulents, cacti, and making awesome arrangements. We strive to constantly to bring in new and interesting plants, pottery, and art so that each time you visit there’s always something you haven’t seen."

Located in east Austin, 3 miles from the Fling hotel: 801 Tillery Street. Phone: 512-701-3448

Open Daily: 10am - 5pm  

Leaf Landscape Supply

Leaf Landscape Supply's main focus is as a wholesale nursery for landscapers, so they have a huge inventory. Happily, they're open to regular gardeners too (i.e., they sell retail), and their extensive plant selection is fun to explore! They have an especially good selection of agaves, yuccas, and other waterwise plants. 

Located in southwest Austin, 8 miles from the Fling hotel: 5700 W. Highway 290. Phone: 512-288-5900

Monday - Friday: 7:30am - 4:30pm 
Saturday: 7:30am - 1:00pm 
Sunday: Closed

Vivero Growers

Vivero's selection of plants will knock your socks off and is well worth the drive to far south Austin. They tend to carry large-size plants for their wholesale customers, but you'll find plenty of one-gallons here too. Their greenhouses are stocked with all manner of small succulents, and their beautiful potted arrangements will fill your head with ideas and your camera with inspirational photos.

Located in southwest Austin, 16 miles from the Fling hotel: 12000 W. Highway 290. Phone: 512-587-4476

Monday - Friday: 8:30am – 6pm
Saturday: 9am – 6pm
Sunday: 10am – 5pm


Barton Springs Nursery

Barton Springs has a terrific selection of native perennials, shrubs, and trees, helpful and knowledgeable salespeople, and very reasonable prices. BSN propagates a lot of its native plants, so small sizes are often available -- just right for packing on the plane! They carry a nice selection of garden pots of all sizes, and the small gift shop and their back porch are stuffed with tempting garden art and decor.

Located in west Austin, 5 miles from the Fling hotel: 3601 Bee Caves Road. Phone: 512-328-6655 

Monday - Saturday: 9:00am - 6:00pm 
Sunday: 10:00am - 6:00pm

Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery

This is one of the biggest and showiest nurseries in the Austin area, with extensive garden displays, a tropical palapa, a terrific succulent collection, and oodles of ponds and water features. In its early years it was solely a pond nursery, but nowadays it carries any kind of ornamental plant you might want. You'll also find one of the best collections of garden art in town, especially more-contemporary items.

Located in Cedar Park (a northwest Austin suburb), 23 miles from the Fling hotel: 1407 North Bell Boulevard, Cedar Park, TX. Phone: 512-260-5050

Monday - Saturday: 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am - 5:00pm

The Natural Gardener

We'll have lunch on Friday at The Natural Gardener, with time to shop and explore the grounds. This is Austin's organic gardening headquarters! Their edibles selection is top notch, and they have a working orchard, a beautifully designed herb garden, and a kitchen garden. Their ornamental display gardens are also wonderful: a sunny labyrinth, colorful butterfly garden, and stream garden, plus Willy Nelson’s guitar-turned-landscape-art, a tepee, chicken coop, and rustic wooden swings hanging from trees. You'll find plenty of fun garden art offered here too. Owner John Dromgoole, a local legend, hosts the radio show “Gardening Naturally” on Saturdays and Sundays and appears regularly on Central Texas Gardener.

Located in southwest Austin, 12 miles from the Fling hotel: 8648 Old Bee Caves Road. Phone: 512-288-6113

Sunday - Friday: 9am - 6:00pm
Saturday: 8am - 6:00pm

The Antique Rose Emporium

This destination nursery is located about 2 hours east of Austin, in the rolling farm country near Brenham. (See our Go East day trip recommendations.) Their display gardens, filled with lots of roses as well as magnificent trees, shrubs, perennials, and vines, are lovely, especially in spring. You can also buy their roses online.

Located in tiny Independence, Texas, near Brenham, 100 miles east of Austin (about a 2-hour drive): 10000 FM 50, Brenham, TX. Phone: 979-836-5548

Monday - Saturday: 9am - 5:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am - 5:00pm

Tillery Street Plant Company

This relaxed, funky, eastside nursery shares its grounds with East Austin Succulents (listed above), so visiting means you get a two-fer of nurseries! They offer a nice selection of agaves, yuccas, perennials, and other tough Texas plants, as well as an offbeat selection of unusual pots planted up with succulents and cacti. They recently opened a cool new gift shop too. 

Located in east Austin, 3 miles from the Fling hotel: 801 Tillery Steet. Phone: 512-567-1090 

Open Daily: 9am - 6pm

Shoal Creek Nursery 

This neighborhood nursery, tucked away in a midtown neighborhood off up-and-coming Burnet Road, offers a great selection of plants, especially succulents and cacti, shrubs for shade, and smaller perennials, as well as a variety of glazed pots and garden decor.

Located in north-central Austin, 6 miles from the Fling hotel: 2710 Hancock Drive. Phone: 512-458-5909

Open Daily: 8 am - 6 pm

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Sponsors make the Fling possible. Let's thank them!

Austin Garden Bloggers Fling is a bargain considering it includes 3-1/2 days of touring, a banquet dinner and daily lunches, daily transportation, entry to private and public gardens, two social hours (one with live music), swag bags of goodies, and a chance to win great raffle prizes, not to mention the nontangible benefit of networking and socializing with 90+ garden bloggers/communicators.

How does the $275 registration fee cover all this? Short answer: it doesn't. Sponsors cover a lot of our costs, including behind-the-scenes necessities like event insurance, rental and transportation fees, catering costs, hotel-block reservations, and more. We figure attending Austin Fling would cost about $450 per person without the support of our sponsors. Put another way, sponsors are saving each of us about $175, plus making the Fling a more enjoyable experience with more perks!

We're grateful to the following businesses and the generous people who run them for partnering with us to make the Fling an affordable and fun event for as many bloggers as possible. Please join us in thanking them, and do check out their websites and products and share about them on your social media to give them a little blogger love in return!

2018 Austin Garden Bloggers Fling

(* denotes Austin-based businesses)

Nurseries, Plants, Seeds
American Meadows 
The Antique Rose Emporium
Barton Springs Nursery*
Botanical Interests
East Austin Succulents*
Encore Azalea 
Gardener's Confidence Collection 
High Country Gardens
Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery*
Kitazawa Seed Co.
Leaf Landscape Supply*
Mountain Crest Gardens
The Natural Gardener*
Oakes Daylilies
Proven Winners
Renee's Garden 
Shoal Creek Nursery*
Southern Living Plant Collection
Sunset Western Garden Collection
Tillery Street Plant Company*
Vivero Growers*

Garden Products: Tools, Containers, Art, Lighting, Gifts
Fern Valley Art
Pot Incorporated 
Steel Life

Garden Clothing
Tula Hats*

Cameras, Supplies, and Classes
Precision Camera & Video*

Publications: Magazines, Books, Broadcasts
Central Texas Gardener*
Garden Design Magazine
Hortus TV
Lucinda Hutson*
Ten Speed Press 
Texas Gardener

Botanical Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center*
Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy*

Monday, April 2, 2018

Everything you need to know for Austin Fling

In 32 days Austin Garden Bloggers Fling will kick off, and we'll be excitedly sharing the best gardens our city has to offer, along with multiple fun events, Texas cuisine, shopping, and more. If you signed up (registration closes on April 4), you'll be doing all this with fellow garden bloggers from all over North America and the U.K. As of this writing, we expect 93 bloggers from 28 U.S. states and 3 countries!

To whet your appetite, we've been pumping out blog posts about Austin and the Fling since last summer. But how to find them again, weeks or months later? Never fear! We've hunted them all down so you don't have to. Read on for links to our earlier posts about everything from our itinerary to local restaurants to transportation from the airport.

Itinerary for Austin Fling, May 3-6. Includes links to each garden and event.

Attending Bloggers: Listed by Location. Find out who's coming from your region.

Blogger Directory: Who's Who at Austin Fling. See what other bloggers are into and up to. Photos will help you put names to faces when you're here.

Thursday Night Welcome Event details. Kick off the Fling and meet your fellow bloggers at this casual social with fajitas.

Sightseeing in Austin and Day Trips. Fun things to do if you've booked an extra day or two as a tourist. Also check out Why You'll Love Austin.

Eat Like a Texan, Part 1. Foodie recommendations for those who want to eat like a local or get the lay of the restaurant scene.

Eat Like a Texan, Part 2. Restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. Handy for breakfasts and Friday night, which is dinner-on-your-own.

Fling Eats. What we'll be providing during the tour.

General Info. When to arrive. Who's running this show. How to contact us.

Transportation Info. How to get from the airport to the hotel, plus local transportation options.

Official Fling Hotel: Courtyard Marriott Downtown. This is where most of us will be staying and also where we'll board our tour buses every day.

Austin Fling Sponsors. These generous sponsors help us keep the registration cost low for 3-1/2 days of touring, food, socializing, and entertainment. Please thank them with your patronage, and tag them in your social media.

Austin Nurseries. Want to get your plant-shopping fix while you're here? Visit these local nurseries for plants, gifts, or just to see what we're growing down here.

Watch our Fling Preview video. Get a sneak peek at the gardens and our fair city. Add our button to your blog to share your excitement with your readers!