In the winter, a young gardener's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of mulch, and with the last of the cold weather just a few weeks away, many Central Texans are already planning their planting. Seed catalogs arrive, sowing visions of vivid wildflowers, fragrant herbs and succulent vegetables in our eager imaginations. We've forgotten the trials of last-years insect infestations and the dismaying sight of the half-eaten melon that we nurtured for weeks until some fur-covered creature decided to take first dibs. So, filled with the optimism that warm weather brings, we head outside to examine our empty gardens, and dream of all that a little hard work and compost can deliver.
For many Hill Country horticulturalists, the first stop of spring is at The Natural Gardener in southwest Travis County. The success of their vegetable and herb gardens makes most of us green (with envy, of course). The butterfly garden, xeric (low water use) garden, orchard and vineyard will show you what comes of showering earth with lots of love and care. Bring the kids — the miniature donkeys, goats, chickens, cats and Pepper the parrot provide ample entertainment. The owner, John Dromgoole, hosts the longest running organic gardening talk show in the U.S., and provides gardening advice each week on local television stations KXAN and KLRU. You can also find all kinds of advice and a detailed growing calendar on his website. His staff is well-versed in the vernacular of vegetation, so if you don't know your hoe from a hole in the ground, this is the place to go.
Over in Fredericksburg you'll find Wildseed Farms, a 200-acre feast of flowers. They offer seed and starter plants for over 100 varieties of wildflower — everything from African daisies to zinnias. But don't just come to shop; this is an experience. Stroll through the 3,000 square foot Butterfly Haus to wonder at the variety and beauty of these delicate creatures, then take a walk through the flower fields to see acres and acres of magnificent blooms. Take a break at the Brewbonnet Biergarten and sample local beer and wine or stock up on jams, jellies and salsas. You'll also find jewelry and ladies apparel, gifts, toys and a unique selection of gardening tools.
When you're ready to get started on your own plot of perennials, you'll need good soil. The folks at Garden-Ville have been producing organic products since 1957, and offer compost, mulch, fertilizers, insect control products, herbicides and fungicides in addition to all kinds of growing mixes. Malcolm Beck, who founded Garden-Ville with his wife more than 50 years ago, still tests each product for quality and effectiveness.
Spending time in your garden is both a prerequisite and a privilege, so you'll want to add a path that keeps your plants protected and allows you to wander without trampling tender shoots. Visit RA Materials in Comfort. They offer boulders and blocks, slabs and stones that you can use for walls, edging, trails and decoration (and visit their nursery too!).
Many cultured cultivators also add art to their creations, and one of the best places for garden art is Sol'stice Garden Expressions in Dripping Springs. There you'll find some of the most innovative and engaging outdoor sculpture in all of Central Texas, including pieces that move with wind and water. And while you're building the garden of your dreams, don't forget you live in Texas — add a cactus or two to the mix. Spicewood Spines in Spicewood is the place to go for stunning succulents of all types. You'll be amazed at the color and variety of blooms these hot-weather friends produce.
Warm winds and sunny skies will be here before you know it, so now's the time to tend your garden. Come June, you'll be real glad you did!
Make sure to visit some of our other favorite places in the Texas Hill Country for gardening ideas and products:
• Blanco Gardens in Blanco, Texas
• Dodd Tree Farm and Nursery in Fredericksburg, Texas
• RA Nursery in Comfort, Texas
• Rainbow Gardens in San Antonio, Texas
• Hill Country Gardens in New Braunfels, Texas
There are more than a few gardeners in Texas, and they like to get together to find out what works well and what doesn't work so well. If you can, get to one of the events listed below — your greenery will be glad you did.
Organic Gardeners' Spring Plant Sale
March 1, 9 am to 1:30 pm — at Zilker Gardens, presented by Austin Organic Gardeners.
Heirloom Plants in the Spring Garden
March 8, 10 am to 12 pm — Travis County Master Gardeners at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin.
Texas Hill Country Home & Garden Show
March 15-16 — at Gillespie County Fairgrounds.
Zilker Garden Festival
March 29-30, 10 am to 5 pm — an Austin classic!
Native Plant Gardening
March 22 -April 5 — Presented by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Hill Country Master Gardeners Calendar of Events: click here for a full list of events!