wrap-up; Garden Bloggers Fling Austin 2018

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the last night’s post-tour dinner in a field of larkspur

Austin opened its friendly arms wide, Texas-style, in a full-circle welcome to garden bloggers from all over the world. These annual soirees and orgies of garden touring and plant talk are known as the Garden Bloggers Fling, and it all started here in Austin ten years ago. (Way back in the Dark Ages Before Paypal, as Diana Kirby wryly observed, one of the original co-founders along with Pam Penick, who were joined this year by Laura Wills.) The Fling is simply one of garden blogging’s great rewards. The incredibly generous sponsors are listed here.

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The afterparty was held on the fabulous grounds of Articulture Designs. Paul Glasse and his trio played some great Django Reinhardt-inflected Texas swing, and the inspired cocktails all began with tequila, from recipes out of Lucinda Hutson’s ¡Viva Tequila! Texas BBQ just had to be on the menu, I prayed, and it was — the brisket was divine.

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Thundery skies threatened at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the first stop on the tour…and it was no idle threat. What ensued was an epic soaking rain that had us scattering through the wildflower fields for cover, triggering local flash flood warnings and vestigial memories in me of similar childhood rains in my now drought-prone home. My shoes and socks were soaked the rest of the day, but it was an indelible, emotion-charged Here Comes The Rain Again moment that vividly conveyed the source of all the green lushness of Austin in late spring. (When not experiencing drought, average rainfall in Austin ranges 32-36 inches, and the heaviest rainfall occurs in May and September.)

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For me the iconic plants on the tour were the oaks, the yuccas and dasylirions, the hesperaloes everywhere in bloom, and the majestic whale’s tongue agaves, which are one of the handful of agaves hardy enough to overwinter outdoors in Austin. Casually chatting about the merits of the various hesperaloe varieties on the market with the creator of many of them, David Salman of High Country Gardens, is a one-of-a-kind experience typical of the Fling.

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The First Lady’s legacy at the Wildflower Center is not a demure homage to pretty wildflowers, but a kick-ass, cutting edge, contemporary setting for Texas’ incredible range of native plants.

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And then there was that stonework. The pale, luminous limestone, kurst, marl — whatever you call it, that is the geologic evidence of Austin’s ancient shallow seas, is everywhere, as cladding for houses and garden structures, edging plantings, laid down in paths, stepping stones. It bestows on Austin’s houses and gardens an unmistakably strong regional style. Along with the stock tanks and giant gleaming cisterns, the limestone is part of a vernacular design vocabulary that, as far as I know, is uniquely Austin’s own.

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I’ll be unpacking more impressions from the trip to Austin in the coming weeks. Warmest thanks to the planners and sponsors who helped make this visit to Austin possible — and to all the old and new friends I met on the tour.

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11 Responses to wrap-up; Garden Bloggers Fling Austin 2018

  1. Pam/Digging says:

    It is wonderful to read about our city and gardens through your eyes and lens, Denise. And I so enjoyed spending time with you last weekend amid the whirl of the event itself. Thanks for coming! And thanks too for your epic characterization of the Wildflower Center, the garden that taught me to love Texas’s native plants and natural beauty: “The First Lady’s legacy at the Wildflower Center is not a demure homage to pretty wildflowers, but a kick-ass, cutting edge, contemporary setting for Texas’ incredible range of native plants.”

  2. Gerhard Bock says:

    What a great write-up. Your prose is as luminous as the Texas limestone. I still have stone envy!

  3. Kris P says:

    Despite the downpour, your photos of the Wildflower Center are clear and thoughtfully framed, Denise. How did you manage that?! I’ve already thrown out a pile of mine, spotted by the rain on my lens or cock-eyed due to holding the camera in one hand while juggling my umbrella.

  4. Renee says:

    It’s great to see these gardens from your point of view, and you’re so right about the stonework! I hope we get to see more of your pictures? And it was great to meet you in person!

  5. Alison says:

    Looking forward to more of your posts about the Fling.

  6. Peter says:

    Can’t wait to hear more of your impressions of Austin and am sorry I missed seeing y’all in Texas.

  7. Ah those are lovely photos Denise, Austin captured as only you can. And as Gerhard said, stone envy is running deep here too. We’ve got our basalt but the sun-baked color of their limestone sets off the plants so well.

  8. Denise says:

    @Pam, the tour is an amazing achievement. Bravo to you and the planners!
    @Ah, Gerhard, thank you! I need to write close to the event when I’m still all jazzed up.
    @Kris, I just kept ducking in and out of cover to grab some photos, which had to be brightened considerably in postproduction!
    @Renee, so much fun to meet you! It should be so much fun to return to Austin right away for the Formula One — maybe your dad needs to see the Wildflower Center? 😉
    @Alison, I didn’t take near the number of photos as many bloggers, and the very last garden with the great view — I sat on the shaded porch and gabbed away the visit. Bad blogger! But there will be a few more posts.
    @Peter, you were sorely missed!
    @Loree, I don’t have nearly enough photos of the stonework. I’m really looking forward to everyone’s posts on this trip.

  9. ks says:

    Your socks were way more saturated than mine-you took one for the team team to get these cool photos. I sure would have liked the chance to visit here rain-free.

  10. hb says:

    Besides the Oaks, the Hesperaloes, and A. ovatifolia, the Gallardias and Ratibida columniferas everywhere!

  11. Excellent statement about the Wildflower Center vs. what some I know think. I’m glad they set the bar high instead of “demure homage”! Limestone wall architecture is actually all over the TX Hill Country, and spills out into the Texas landscape as far as NM. Well stated – all.

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