The gardening business isn't an easy one. Local nurseries regularly face problems with weather, pests, disease and supply. This year, not only have they been faced with a rough economy, the current drought has taken an even greater toll on our local independent nurseries.
In spite of those challenges, we are fortunate to have many successful and thriving local nurseries that carry fresh, healthy plants, beautiful decor, excellent gardening products and -- as important as all the tangible things -- great advice. We are fortunate to have many great places for all things 'plant', so our fellow Austin blogger, Pam, of Digging has invited local bloggers to recognize October as "Support your Independent Nursery Month."
This inspired idea has all of us singing the praises of our favorite haunts. I'm probably the closest blogger to the Natural Gardener - a local icon and a full family adventure located at 8648 Old Bee Cave Road, just past the “Y” in Oak Hill. Let's just say I'm there a lot.
I always find something I want at the Natural Gardener. Their supply of native and adapted plants seems limitless and the stock always looks great. They carry only environmentally friendly organic products and excellent tools. The staff's sense of design is insightful and selections of plants are always tucked in with shiny new pottery and garden art.
The Herb Garden, designed by garden author Lucinda Hutson, is one of my favorite destinations in the nursery, which is surrounded by large and creative demonstration gardens. They also have a butterfly garden, a stream garden, a tipi, a vegetable garden, a vineyard and orchard, a xeric garden and a compost tea brew house.
The Natural Gardener staff is always knowledgeable and friendly, recently helping me with an interview for one of my articles for the Austin American Statesman. They regularly host classes about every possible gardening subject. And the owner, John Dromgoole, one of the founders of the organic gardening movement, has long been a local superstar, appearing weekly on Central Texas Gardener on KLRU and on Saturday and Sunday morning radio shows on KLBJ (which I never miss - I get it live on my iPhone now and carry it with me in my pocket out in the garden).
But my very favorite way to enjoy the Natural Gardener is with my 8-year old daughter. We marvel over the butterfly garden, we bray back at the two resident donkeys, we cluck at the chickens and peer at the goats. Filling my cart with the nature's beautiful specimens is wonderful. And the resident cats always say thank you from the counter as we check out. But ambling through nursery at a leisurely pace, enjoying this native Texas paradise of plants and animals (and insects), is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.