Friday, December 18, 2009

Austin trip report/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I drove to Galveston for a conference a few weeks ago and on the return, I stopped for a night to stay with friends in Dripping Springs, a little town just outside of Austin. It had been a long, exhausting trip, and it was a joy to sit on the back porch and catch up on news. Part of that catching up was a look at some of the projects underway on the homestead. Kambra has started beekeeping, so naturally, we had to check out the hive (sadly, I was so engrossed, I forgot to take pictures). That adventure went pretty well, but it was a rainy day and bees don't care to have the hive disturbed when the weather isn't good (who would?). So since the girls were a little agitated, we spent just a few minutes with them. It was long enough for me to get a sense of what was going on, though, and intriguing enough that I'm wondering about installing a hive in my own backyard. I'll return for another visit, I'm sure, and next time I'll be prepared to make a more thorough report.

Dave is no slacker in the project department, either. He works for a professional cyclist from Austin, and he has recently been building a rolling bike shop, which is housed in the back of a van.
I am always interested in workshops, and I was particularly impressed with this one. A workshop in the back of a van is much like a sailboat--it must be spare, compact, and extremely organized. Everything in it must have a purpose, and if it has more than one of these, all the better. When Dave started building this workshop, the interior of the van was completely bare. Here is what it looks like now (keep in mind that Dave did all of this work):

Cabinets for tools and cycling gear.

A wall rack for the numerous carbon wheels and Trek Madone frames with which the rider travels (and yes, for those of you who know something about professional cycling, it is that cyclist).

Dave can work on the bikes just outside the van and have all the tools within easy reach.

As a fellow tool/workshop enthusiast, seeing this tidy, diminutive, well-designed, entirely usable shop was one of the highlights of the week for me. In a word, it was adorable.

Later in the morning, Kambra and I drove to Austin to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Though I've long wanted to see it, it was a first visit for both of us and so even though it was raining and I still had a long drive home awaiting me that day, we were determined to spend a little time there. I have to say, it was worth it. In my mind, when I imagine what I want my garden to be, it is exactly this expression of place:

The entrance, with the sort of elegant stone work that is so common to central Texas.

A beautiful rustic corridor.

There are plenty of educational planting beds, with suggestions for appropriate native plants.

I wish I had a space in my garden for this covered bench.

I've already written about this pond and how well-designed it is in an earlier post on water features.

It rained throughout our visit, but it didn't diminish the experience a bit--in fact, given how I feel about rain, it probably enhanced it.

I love this Gulf muhly. I'm thinking of planting some of it this spring in this bare spot in front of my house:

Can't you just see it there? This a brand new bed, just waiting for the plants. I plan to move that lavender (a volunteer) to another spot, and plant the muhly, a gray-leaved cotoneaster, santolina, and some native flowers (players to be named later).

This lovely corner of the center is the kind of sitting garden I am trying to create in my front yard. I like the way it feels---as if there is no separation between human space and wild space.

In my mind, my prairie homesteader's kitchen garden looks like this, only with buffalo grass and blue grama in the paths.

And then finally, I wish I could build something like this beautiful, soothing spring well structure. For those of you not familiar with some of the spring-fed rivers that flow from the central Texas limestone, they are often not only clear all the way to the bottom, but they have an otherworldly, bluish cast to them in places. The holding pool on this well is painted blue, I presume to reference that color.

Kambra and I got in out of the rain at the little restaurant on the grounds and had a tasty, inexpensive lunch of chili and sandwiches. Here's a view through the windows at the rain:

Would that my own lunch nook at home were so lovely. Naturally, I covet the grain silo in the background. What says "Texas" more than a big hunk of galvanized metal smack dab in the middle of the garden?

Well, I suppose a big belt buckle or an over-sized pick-up truck out there might say it more.

Or a smoked brisket.

What else can I report except that I was absolutely smitten by this public garden? It was as if the blueprint for the garden I've always desired suddenly appeared before me. I plan to return in the spring for a more leisurely exploration. And of course I have to return for some of that Gulf muhly they sell in the nursery that is on site...


  1. So glad you got to visit the garden. I went there with the Spring Fling bloggers in April 2008, and I love that cistern and everything else at that garden. They used my photo of the cistern on their pamphlet. I was thrilled.

    How about a cuphea or two in that bed in front of the muhly. I believe it's hardy in your part of Texas. I found the cupheas to be some of my best plants this year.

    Can't wait to hear more about the bees.~~Dee

  2. Dee--Cuphea is a good suggestion. It's a pretty popular plant around here and I've always admired its tidy habit.

  3. Dee-PS, how wonderful that they used your photo on the pamphlet. I wish I'd known that. I'm not even sure I picked one up, but I certainly will now, the next time I'm there.

  4. The Wildflower Center was my introduction to central Texas natives and my inspiration to begin gardening here. Fifteen years later, it still inspires me. I'm so glad it did the same for you.

    And I have to say I'm intrigued by Dee's mention of her photo on their pamphlet. Now I want to see it too.

  5. A lot of nice stone in that garden. I've heard a lot about the garden, would love to visit it someday. I can see a lot of things to copy for a home garden.


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