Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Visiting The Natural Gardener

When I learned that Pam Penick's first Lawn Gone! book presentation would be at The Natural Gardener I was thrilled.  Not only could I attend, but it was an opportunity for plant shopping at a great nursery which has been on my "must-see" list for several years.  After the main event I headed out to explore the grounds of a legend in the world of organic gardening.

First to the agave, yucca, and succulent display area.  This beautiful array of spikiness made me catch my breath.

A demo garden with a variety of agaves on display runs along the entry drive.  We call those gray succulents 'ghost plant' and are hardy in our climate.

Agave Victoria-reginae with sedums.  "Pack it all up, I'll take it!"

 More of the large selection of yuccas on display

I quickly loaded two Nolina texana or sacahuista basketgrass into my wagon.  If you are a reader of The Desert Edge you will know David Cristiani often uses nolinas in his projects and I have wanted to add this one to my garden for a few years.  Oddly, the Nolina texana sold in San Antonio nurseries is called beargrass and is much rougher than the one sold in Austin.  David discusses the difference in this post.  Pam has also featured it in this post on Digging and in her book.  All of that plant geek explanation was to say that I needed to find it at an Austin nursery and am pleased to finally have the variety I want.

Possumhaw holly is a favorite native shrub which produces these stunning red berries in the spring.

On to see the rest of The Natural Gardener.

Tops on my list was the Herb Garden  designed by Lucinda Hutson.  Photos of this garden are among those I consulted when planning my own circle garden.  Pam has also profiled Lucinda's garden for her blog Digging.

The garden is divided into sections for showcasing regional herbs from around the world.  This section is Provence with herbs typical to this south of France region.  I'd like to return in the fall sometime to see this spot with all the plants filled out.


The huge veggie garden is the heart of their business and the way it all started back in the 1970s.

Apple blossoms for spring on a nearby tree.

Larkspur blooming in a rock.  I just loved seeing this as we have these rocks in our yard and I've had a tough time getting plants to grow in the openings.

I was amused by these two metal cows outside the gate to a field.  "We're out, now what?"

Traditional spring daffodils are rare in these parts.

 Colorful displays mark the entrance to the tropical house.

These striking butterfly chairs have metal slings.  I like the look but didn't sit in them.

Another colorful seating display under a traditional ramada nearby.

I walked over to take a photo of these artful gates and caught the owner, John Dromgoole, bringing lunch to the nearby office.

Having made my plant purchases I headed for the parking lot.  The parking lot is worth a mention because it's a pretty amazing operation.  When I drove in along the main highway I was concerned with finding the turns which turned out not to be a concern because all I had to do was follow the line of traffic. Did I mention they were busy?  Busy enough to have parking associates with radios to direct traffic and scout out parking for customers so numerous they often borrow parking from a nearby church on busy spring weekends.

After loading my nolinas in the car, I headed across the parking lot to the agave and cactus garden near the tent where seminars are held.

This is a very typical Texas Hill Country style garden:  simple, xeric, and lined with limestone rocks. What else are you going to do with all the rocks you displace while digging plant holes?

In the back corner this silvery beauty is pushing out a bloom spike.

Entrance to a labyrinth, I did not go in as there were visitors walking the paths and they didn't need some hyper camera-snapping blogger dashing through.  "Life is a Journey - Enjoy!"  Click, click, click.  Oh, gotta run along...

Edging the parking lot is a scene common along the many ranch roads we have in central Texas.

This agave is also pushing out a bloom so there will soon be two blooms in this garden.

Time to wave goodbye to the iconic Mockingbird on the chimney and head home.

I enjoyed my visit to The Natural Gardener, the staff is very friendly and helpful, it was well worth the time and I checked another important plant off my list.


  1. Wow! What a great place and a fun visit. Finding a plant you've been searching for is so satisfying! "Life is a Journey - Enjoy!" Click, click, click. Oh, gotta run along...
    made me laugh! Love that!

    1. With a long drive ahead and Saturday traffic to face it would be an understatement to say I was in a different mode than the labyrinth walkers.

  2. Very nice review.

    I didn't have time to see everything, Saturday. Guess I'll just have to go back again, soon...darn!...lol

    I've been thinking about the Nolina, too. And, I'd love to have a Possumhaw. Wonder if the deer would eat it? Sigh....probably.

    1. Oh darn! At least you live quite a bit closer than I do and it's not so out of the way for you.

      In your yard it seems the deer eat everything.

  3. Another great visit! Looks so nice and clean with all those great agaves and desert plants. I can't wait to prune our plants back after the threat of our freeze is over!

    1. We have a few more weeks to wait and then a freeze would be pretty much over.

  4. Ah thanks for the tour! It's great to get another perspective on this Texas institution. I had to laugh at "some hyper camera-snapping blogger dashing through"...I feel like that sometimes too.

    1. It's a different focus so to speak.

  5. That second agave is gorgeous. I wonder how many plants I could fit in carry on luggage, if I were to go visit... Or do spiky plants need to go in checked luggage? :-)

    1. I think some of my readers may know the answer to that one. With so many spiky plants available nearby I probably don't need to check on that one.

  6. Shirley, I've been wanting to see that nursery for years! There are some great ones in Austin and I hope to see them this spring. Maybe after the swap in a few months...

    Thanks for sharing your visit !


    1. Patty, I'm glad you enjoyed this. I think it's about 20 minutes from Manchaca and not too far out of the way.

  7. Great tour - thanks Shirley! :) I have been adapting an idea based on the herb garden too. I like the flow a lot. I cracked up at the rock comment - I think us texans know especially well what you mean. Exactly! What are ya gonna do with them!?!? Heeeeee!

  8. Who knew Heaven would be such a spiky place?

  9. Nice post on a nice visit! I had visited a few nurseries my first time in S/C TX in 2004, but in 2010 Daphne took me to Natural Gardener - great displays and offerings. Nolina - very interesting that San Antonio also calls something else Beargrass. I'm starting to figure those Nolina species out - I think - and thanks for the very kind mention!

    Rocks - some in the desert areas say we don't plant, we mine.

  10. I'm glad you enjoyed your first visit to the Natural Gardener. It's such a treasure for Austin gardeners. Definitely plan to revisit in summer and again in fall to see the butterfly garden and herb garden in lusher seasons.


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