Spring Fling: The places

– Posted in: Events

In a previous post, I told you a little about the people I met at Spring Fling, the first national meet-up of garden bloggers, held in Austin, Texas on April 5th. Here are photos of some of the places we visited, along with my thoughts and observations. (Click on any photo for a larger version.)

Zanthan Gardens

Image of a shady cottage garden full of larkspur

This is what greets you when you go through the gate and enter the back garden at Zanthan Gardens.

Image of Larkspur, Swiss chard, and blue bonnets growing in the same bed

Zanthan is a true cottage garden, mingling flowers and vegetables wherever they grow best. Starting on the left, you can see larkspur, Swiss chard, and bluebonnets.

Bluebonnets are not as tall as I imagined. I knew they were in the same genus as the lupines I’ve grown in my garden, and I just assumed, without reason, that they would be the same height. They’re shorter. As a matter of fact, when I look at them out of the corner of my eye, they “read” as grape hyacinths. Now, they’re bigger than grape hyacinths; I just mean they give a similar impression.

Image of a bed of larkspur

This bed of annuals features “blue” and white larkspur. The other white flower is . . . cilantro . . . I think

Yes, larkspur is a spring annual in Texas. I saw it everywhere as we were driving around. It is used in public places (median strips in gas stations, etc.) a lot more than it is up north, where it blooms in the summer. I was wondering why, and the best hypothesis I could come up with is in the North there’s too many perennials blooming at the same time, competing for the same planting spots. And you don’t have to replant daylilies and ornamental grasses every year, so that’s what Northerners plant for their low maintenance median strips.

The Natural Gardener Nursery

Image of red poppies

There were two large patches of these poppies on the premises of Natural Gardener nursery. Not sure if they are breadseed poppies or opium poppies.

These are the same poppies whose seeds are sold on eBay. It wouldn’t surprise me if Natural Gardener harvested seed to sell from these big patches.Image of fire engine red breadseed poppy

The sign says

I just love a business with a sense of humor. This threat is enough to strike fear in the heart of an inattentive parent.

Image of container planted with yellow daisies, blue lobelia, and purple sweet potato vine

One of several planted containers that caught my eye at the Natural Gardener

Image of a stone slab bench

I love benches made out of natural materials, especially for wilder areas of the garden. I would love a bench like this along the path in the woods–if the stones just happened to be nearby. Hauling them there would be a nightmare.

Image of bench with old leaf rakes for the back of the bench

I appreciate the quirky humor of this bench, though it’s probably not very comfortable, and should really be considered garden art. Also at the Natural Gardener.

And here’s a selection of birdbaths. I decided I have a thing for birdbaths. Garden art that serves a purpose beyond just looking pretty. I took several photos at Natural Gardener, because they had a good selection.Image of a variety of concrete birdbaths

Image of a selection of birdbaths

I really like the one in the back, with the snowdrops on it.

Image of several birdbaths

James David’s Garden

On to James David’s (pronounced “dah-VEED”) garden. Okay, so I am never going to have the moolah to install a stone stairway such as this:Image of stone stairway leading to fish pond But, you know, I don’t think I’d ever want to. The garden at the front of the house was intimate, on a human scale, but the spaces in the back garden were too big. They felt institutional, public–meant for crowds. And the stairway led down to this:Image of formal fish pool bordered in stoneOne thing this whole area taught me, was that in addition to feeling uncomfortable with heights, I don’t like edges, especially unguarded edges. If you follow the staircase on the left, it leads to the swimming pool. The only way to get to the other end of the swimming pool is to walk on the “edge” of it. I put edge in quotation marks because it is a paved walkway probably four feet wide, but there is nothing but water on the one side and a drop off on the other. (There is a good photo at Suburban Wildlife Garden, it’s the sixth one of the James David photos.) The drop is short enough that if my young, flexible kids deliberately jumped down, they wouldn’t get hurt. Their middle-aged, not so flexible mother might sprain an ankle, but almost certainly wouldn’t kill herself.

Still, walking down the length of that four foot wide pavement bothered me. I didn’t panic, but I sure didn’t feel comfortable, either. I tried very deliberately to keep panic at bay, breathing slowly and deeply, and telling myself, “I can do this, there is plenty of room on this walkway” as I made my way down the length of the pool to rejoin the path at the other end. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to attempt it in high heels under the influence of a cocktail or two. (It does seem like the place to throw a fancy cocktail party. But I’m just guessing that, since I’ve never been to a fancy cocktail party myself.)

Image of secluded dining areaOn the other hand, I really like this dining area. It’s secluded, yet not too far from the house. I don’t think you can see them very well, but there are strings of small lights overhead, that would add a festive atmosphere for dining at night. And I imagine that in the Austin summertime, night is the best time to be outside. In the winter, the stone would yield the warmth from the sun and offer protection from the wind. I’ll bet this particular area is used almost year round.

This isn’t really all of it

I’ve shown you my pictures from Spring Fling, but there’s more. Along with a few others, I stayed an extra day and got to tour Lucinda Hutson’s garden. If I kept to my original resolution, I’d now continue with my visit to her garden. But this post is long enough, and her garden is worth a post of its own.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to visit the compilation of blog posts about this event. You’ll see more and better photos, and encounter different perspectives about the sites and sights that were part of this meet-up.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

wiseacre April 21, 2008, 8:17 pm

I’m just starting to make the ‘Fling’ rounds. It looks and sounds like it was a really good time. Nothing beats a gaggle of gardeners in Spring. Visiting all the gardens just adds to the fun.

Robin (Bumblebee) April 19, 2008, 3:46 pm

Kathy, these are some great photos from the weekend. I’m very glad you got the “Children will be given espresso and a puppy” sign. I laughed out loud at that one!

Robin at Bumblebee

commonweeder April 19, 2008, 11:33 am

These are wonderful pictures of Texas gardens. Our daughter moved to Houston a couple of years ago and we were amazed at the different soils, the different flowering seasons, everything so different. We expected it, in a way, but when actually put in the position of making gardening suggestions we were at a loss. We bought her a book! My answer to any dilemma.

Curtis April 18, 2008, 9:42 pm

Thanks! Nice to see what you saw on your spring fling. Pam over at Digging said there is a plan for next years fling in the fall if I remember right.

Kim April 17, 2008, 9:41 pm

Interesting thoughts re: the David garden. I can see why Pam/Digging loves it for the reasons she gives… and I can also see why you were uncomfortable. Do you think if it were your garden… and you had time to become familiar with the footings, etc… you would have a change of opinion? (Hard to hazard a guess there, I know, but I wanted to ask anyway.)

Rurality April 17, 2008, 9:13 pm

Great series of pics! I thought the same thing when I saw Bluebonnets for the first time, earlier this month.

Come to think about it, I got in a lot of trouble saying the same thing about the Eiffel Tower. πŸ™‚

Mr. McGregor's Daughter April 17, 2008, 3:47 pm

I missed that rake bench – that’s wonderful. I also had to take a photo of that sign to show my husband. (It definitely appeals to our sense of humor.) The narrow walkways in David’s garden didn’t even register on my consciousness. (Probably because I’m always walking on the top of my raised bed’s edging & balancing on very small stepping stones.)

Emily April 17, 2008, 2:39 pm

Kathy, what gorgeous photos. I especially like the close-up of the red flower.

Annie in Austin April 17, 2008, 11:17 am

Hi Kath – it’s fun to see what photos each person took and hear their impressions. I love your pictures of Zanthan Gardens and the way it felt to look across the meadows.

I’ve been to the David garden twice and appreciated the opportunity to wander its paths and steps but it’s not my favorite. Maybe if I’d first seen it when I was in my thirties as Pam did there could have been more childlike delight, but I got here 20 years too late for that! I found it so taxing to constantly worry about footing that I missed many of the interesting plants and never even saw the Voodoo lily featured on other blogs.

Back in 1999 when we were house-shopping for our move to Texas, our relocator took me to the Natural Gardener… it’s become a genuine Austin landmark. Your photos captured the wonderful poppies, the coveteble birdbaths, and the whimsy!

Happy belated birthday! Did your kids make you a cake, Kathy?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

britt April 17, 2008, 8:23 am

I am loving your posts, unfortunately I am on the opposite end of the scale when it comes to birdbaths. They kind of gross me out for no apparent reason. I mean I like them until they get placed in a yard and then I can’t stand them (which might explain why the one from the previous owners of our house is now holding the basketball hoop up). The whole ledge/water path thing is something I would think about if I had kids b/c they probably wouldn’t kill themselves, but the opportunity to be inconvenient enough to hurt someone is definitely present.

Frances April 17, 2008, 6:32 am

Hi Kathy, thanks for taking us back to Austin again. I need to review my own pics to visit that garden again. I also felt leery crossing that path to get to the steps and wondered why it had no railing, not up to the building code for public places! Just kidding on that, it is a private garden, but like you, I was glad to not be wearing hard to walk in shoes. Like Pam, I loved all the secret hidey holes in the back, it’s what made it special to me. Mss’s garden was such a delight also, that is cilantro with the white flower. I wished we had traveled by car so some of those large colorful pots from the Natural Gardener could come live at my house. The birdbaths were nice too. ;->

Nancy April 17, 2008, 2:23 am

It was a challenging area to get around, but I did notice that, as grand as it all was, James David knew and loved every inch of it.

I wish I’d been able to walk more of it, but sitting let me notice things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Pam/Digging April 17, 2008, 1:22 am

You DO have a thing for birdbaths, with all those photos. πŸ˜‰

I liked your thoughtful consideration of why the James David garden didn’t do it for you. And Dee and Bill echo your sentiments. However, I feel just the opposite. Although his garden is very large, each space feels human-scaled, even intimate. I have a childlike delight in stairways, narrow passages, twists and turns, and bridges—and this garden has them all in spades! It reminds me of the spirit, if not the aesthetic, of the Oriental Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden. My kids and I love to climb the steep moon bridge, traverse the stepping stones across the pond, climb the rugged staircases with insufficient handholds. For the kids it makes it fun. For me, yeah, it’s fun, but all those slightly dangerous paths make me slow down to appreciate what’s around me, to notice the beauty and the specific plants. David’s garden does the same thing.

bill / prairie point April 17, 2008, 12:32 am

The more I think about the David garden the less I like about it. There were details about it that were interesting, but most of it was not anything that I would want for myself. I did like those great steps that led down from the house however.

jodi April 16, 2008, 11:42 pm

Great photos, Kathy, and nice to be able to tag along with you on this trip. That sign cracks me up, and I’m glad that Austin IS so far from here and I can’t get to the Natural Gardener any time soon…or my grocery budget would all go to pots and plants.
Wait a minute…it does that now! πŸ˜‰

kate April 16, 2008, 10:42 pm

Carol, I was about to ask Kathy if that was you talking with MSS. I was happy to see these photos of MSS’ garden – it must have been wonderful to see the garden in person. The Natural Gardener Nursery looks like an amazing place. Cool birdbaths.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens April 16, 2008, 10:25 pm

Thanks for the nice reminders of a great weekend. Who is that lady in the light green shirt in the distance in some of those photos? πŸ˜‰

Dee/reddirtramblings April 16, 2008, 10:11 pm

Oh, and I really like how you’ve framed your photos with the captions. Very dignified. Very pretty.~~Dee

Dee/reddirtramblings April 16, 2008, 10:11 pm

Kathy, I didn’t notice that sign. I wish I had. What great humor. I, too, like bird baths. I have two, but I’d like to have one more with a bubbler. Maybe next year.

Until you posted about it, I didn’t think about why I was uneasy in their garden, but I didn’t like the stairs or that ledge/walkway either. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.~~Dee