Friday, September 22, 2017

Lucinda Hutson’s Texican cottage garden: Austin Fling tour

El Jardin Encantador -- the Enchanting Garden -- reads a hand-carved wooden gate in Lucinda Hutson's garden. When you step through, prepare to be enchanted.

Lucinda's Casita La Morada (little purple house) stands out even among the tropical-fruit-bowl hues of neighboring houses. For 41 years, she's lived in her 1940s Gothic cottage, transforming the small front, back, and side yards -- even the driveway! -- into a series of courtyard rooms lush with a profusion of flowers and colorful Mexican folk art. Designed for entertaining, her exuberant, one-of-a-kind garden is a fiesta for the senses.

Our Lady of La Tina, the bathtub goddess that protects the garden
Having grown up on the Mexican border in El Paso, Lucinda absorbed the unique "Texican" culture of the region and imported it to Austin.

"My garden allows my guests and me to go south of the border without leaving Austin," she says. "My bright purple house is surrounded by outdoor courtyard theme gardens: a Mexican mermaid grotto, a raised kitchen garden, a salad 'bar,' a deck for salsa dancing and fiestas, and a tequila cantina. Throughout, one finds whimsical folk art, colorful mosaics, and a wild array of plants: edibles, exotics, aromatics, herbs, colorful flowers, and kumquat trees."

Lucinda is a garden, food, lifestyle, and spirits writer and speaker, and the author of The Herb Garden Cookbook (in print for 27 years) and ¡VIVA TEQUILA! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures.

As one of our generous sponsors, Lucinda will have a book-signing at our Sunday happy hour -- where we're pretty sure we'll be serving up a tequila cocktail or two! -- and it'll be a great opportunity to pick up her popular books (¡VIVA TEQUILA! especially makes a great gift) and tell her how much you loved visiting her garden.

Because we're sure you will.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fling Eats - Austin Style

We know the Fling is all about showing off our gardens, but since you'll be here anyway, we might as well treat you to some of our incredibly tasty food! 

In Texas, Beef is King. Austin BBQ has an emphasis on smoky, flavorful brisket. Sauce is an afterthought, with some restaurants avoiding it altogether. We also make some pretty tasty sausage, turkey and ribs – and for you vegetarians we have you covered as well with delicious sides.

Our other culinary love is Tex-Mex, and as luck would have it, our banquet falls on Cinco de Mayo. Expect a festive celebration! You will have your choice of three different menus, two of those with a little Mexican Flair. You will make your menu choice during Fling registration.

Lunch will be included each day with your registration fee. Even though the box lunch is the easiest and most convenient option, we will try to spice it up a bit. Sandwiches don’t always have to come on bread. We like to serve ours on tortillas too!

Flingers will be on their own for breakfast each day, but we can’t let you visit our hometown without providing a staple of the Austinite diet, the breakfast taco. Many of us (me included) start each day with one or two of these handheld delicacies. Breakfast tacos consist of either a flour or corn tortilla filled with eggs and your choice of bacon, chorizo, sausage, cheese, potatoes, or beans – served with a side of salsa. Look for a mid-morning snack on one of our tour days.

We will also provide daily snacks to get you through the long days of garden visits!

Look for options at registration if you have special dietary restrictions such as vegetarian or gluten-free. 

Posted by Laura / Wills Family Acres

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Prehistoric flora, moon bridge, and more at Zilker Botanical Garden

You'll be stepping back in time -- WAY back -- when we visit Zilker Botanical Garden during the Austin Fling next May

Why? My favorite garden there is the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, built where fossils were discovered (casts of them are displayed today), and planted with palms, ferns, cycads, magnolias, horsetail reed, ginkgos, and conifers -- primitive species that have survived from the age of dinosaurs. In the center of the garden, a bronze dinosaur seems to pause alertly, wondering where the strange, two-legged creatures looking at him came from.

The Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden is another popular garden at ZBG, with an arching moon bridge made of local juniper, koi ponds, a waterfall, and a small island reached by stepping stones. Fling planner Diana Kirby even got married there!

These are just two of the gardens at Zilker Botanical Garden, a beloved, 26-acre, park-like garden that for 60+ years has shown Austinites the variety of plants they can grow in our South-meets-Southwest climate, as well as offering half a million visitors each year a lovely place to stroll and explore near downtown. There's also a butterfly garden, a cactus and succulent garden that was recently redesigned, and a pioneer village with an operational blacksmith shop and two Swedish cabins.

Thanks to Austin Fling sponsor Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy, we'll have lunch one day in ZBG's auditorium and then explore the gardens afterward. 

Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy was established in 2015 to raise funds, increase visibility, and advocate for the garden. The Conservancy is working closely with the City of Austin and Austin Area Garden Council (AAGC) to fundraise for a master plan for the garden and implementation. Its goal is to turn ZBG into a world-class garden!

We're proud to partner with ZBG Conservancy, which is working to get funding and resources for this much-loved Austin public garden, and we look forward to sharing the garden with you!

Zilker Botanical Garden

Visit: 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX 78746

Garden hours:
9 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5:30 pm)
Thursdays open until 8 pm (last entry at 7:30 pm)

Find us online:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

East Austin Succulents: Supporting sponsor of Austin Fling

All you succulent lovers, this is the place for you! East Austin Succulents is a fun, funky, succulicious nursery and our partner for the 2018 Austin Garden Bloggers Fling! It's a must-see nursery stop if you're planning a sightseeing day in Austin. After all, succulents pack easily in carry-ons and suitcases, and if you're driving you can take home one of their creatively potted arrangements made out of repurposed cookie tins, melted LP records, old toolboxes, or even a deli meat grinder!

Owner and grower Eric Pedley has a passion for succulents and cacti that's contagious. He and his team of young growers are focused on cacti and succulents for the home or landscape. "We specialize in making arrangements, as well as having the most diverse selection of retail succulents in the nation."

I like to go browse for a unique, thrifted pot -- Eric hits estate sales and antique stores for unique items that can be turned into planters, plus he stocks all kinds of ready-made pots -- and then cruise the greenhouse tables, packed with candy-colored succulents, for the perfect mix of plants. 

The nursery also carries an assortment of accent rocks and gravel toppers as well as tiny animal figurines to add a little personality to your planter. So go, have fun making your own succulent creation or pick up one of theirs.

The tagline at East Austin Succulents is:

"Life is short, surround yourself with beauty!"

And this is the place to do it, in lighthearted, thrift-shopped Austin style.

East Austin Succulents

Visit: 801 Tillery St., Austin, TX 78702
Store hours: 10 am to 5 pm every day

Find us online:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Precision Camera: Supporting sponsor of Austin Fling

We are so excited to have Precision Camera & Video as a partner for our 2018 Austin Garden Bloggers Fling!

Precision Camera is Austin's prime destination for photography lovers. They have been in business for over 40 years and cater to both professionals and amateurs alike, with knowledgeable staff, guaranteed low prices, and an extensive variety of equipment. I have spent hours with the staff at Precision discussing cameras, lenses, and accessories. While looking for my latest lens, they brought out both new and used lenses, which I got to test out before buying. They give all used lenses a complete check up and you can get some incredible deals. They accept used cameras and equipment in trade as well, to save a little money on your new purchase.

Classes & Photo Excursions

Precision also offers a wide variety of classes and photography excursions taught by industry professionals. Fling attendees will have the exciting opportunity of attending one of these great classes free of charge. One of Precision's instructors will be meeting a busload of flingers at The Wildflower Center on Friday morning. Sign up will be available during your Fling registration. Don't miss out!

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am an avid vegetable gardener and also love to cook. I've tried adding recipes to my site, including step-by-step instructions. The problem is that my photos are atrocious. I figured that food photography couldn't be that different from garden photography, but that couldn't have been farther from the truth.

After many failed attempts I finally decided to take a class at Precision. I took "Intro to Food Photography". It opened my eyes to the world of back lighting. Always being outside, I've never had to worry about artificial light. A few simple tips have dramatically improved my food photography skills. I look forward to taking a general advanced photography class as well as other specialty classes in the future.

Shop Online!

As lucky as us locals are to have such an incredible store, those living out of the immediate area can benefit as well. Precision offers online shopping and has great prices and free shipping on purchases over $200. They provide support over the phone or email, before and after purchase. Their webpage is also a wealth of knowledge, including an active blog!

Precision Camera & Video

Visit: 2438 W. Anderson Lane
Suite B-4
Austin, TX 78757

Hours: M-F: 10am to 7pm
Sat: 10am to 6pm
Sun: 1pm to 5pm

Find us online:

Posted by Laura/Wills Family Acres

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Welcome to this place I love so much": Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at Austin Fling

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center played matchmaker when I moved to Austin in 1994, giving me the nudge I needed to fall in love with Austin’s rugged and often spiny natural beauty. Twenty-three years later, I'm still smitten, and I can't wait to share the Wildflower Center, a native-plant botanical garden and research and conservation center, with everyone who comes to the Austin Fling next spring.

Lady Bird Johnson, visionary

Former First Lady and native-plant proselytizer Lady Bird Johnson founded the Wildflower Center in 1982, along with co-founder Helen Hayes, with the simple but essential mission to inspire the conservation of native plants. Dismayed by miles of landscape-cluttering billboards and junkyards along the nation's highways, she fought to preserve and celebrate the unique beauty of each region of the country. "I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont," she famously said.

A lot more than wildflowers

While spring wildflower displays at the garden are always a huge draw, I like to point out that the Wildflower Center is about so much more than Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush. You'll find all kinds of Texas natives growing in the 284 acres of gardens, woodlands, and savannas. Even the popular new family garden -- fun for kids of all ages, so don't miss it -- features 100% native plants. Yuccas, grasses, trees, shrubs, perennials, wetland plants, cactus, native turf grass, and yes, wildflowers -- a fascinating range of Texas natives, from across our vast state -- can be found here.

There's a lot to see: the observation tower that doubles as a rainwater cistern, a family garden, stream and pond gardens, a meadow, an arboretum with tree swings for kids and adults, theme gardens, a pollinator habitat garden, and more. If you can tear yourself away from exploring the gardens, you can watch a short film in the visitor gallery about Lady Bird and the native plants she advocated for and/or shop in the center's well-stocked gift shop and bookstore.

Photography Workshop

On the morning that we'll visit, we're excited to be able to offer a special early-bird bus to the Wildflower Center for those bloggers interested in a garden photography workshop led by one of our generous sponsors, Precision Camera & Video. Look for this opt-in class when we open registration in early November. Those who want to sleep in or enjoy a leisurely breakfast will join us at the Wildflower Center on a bus that leaves just a little bit later.

We look forward to sharing this unique native-plant botanical garden with you and feel sure that you'll enjoy all that the Wildflower Center has to offer. And if the matchmaker works her magic on you, it's OK with me if you fall in love with Austin's natural beauty too.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Garden Bloggers Fling

Whether you’re jumping up and down with anticipation about returning to Austin to commemorate the 10th anniversary of your first Fling, or you’re coming to verify the tall tales and see where it all started, mark your calendar for May 3-6, 2018.

Believe all the hype – we’re planning a whiz-bang shindig bigger than Texas for all the bloggers who flock to the second Austin fling.

The colorful roots of the original Garden Bloggers Fling come up each year when we gather.  Whether sharing the history with newbies or reliving great personal memories of the original event, the interest in bringing it back to Austin has grown with each passing fling.

At a time when most bloggers hid behind the anonymity of the internet, the concept of a meet up was a novel idea.  Pam Penick, of Digging, suggested we invite bloggers we were following and those following us, to come to Austin for a garden adventure.

A group of Austin bloggers had already been meeting locally for a while, and it was so much fun, we thought – let’s have a party!

We started planning, hoping like in Field of Dreams, if we built it, you would come.

And come you did.  While we weren’t sure anyone would attend, we proceeded to plan a one-day event.  

Our itinerary was jam packed with public and private gardens, fabulous food, and breakout sessions about the social and technological aspects of blogging. 

Then we crossed our fingers and started blogging about it, inviting everyone we followed.

Connecting to our blogging pals and touring gardens proved to be a wonderful experience.  We had 37 attendees from Texas and 12 other states. 

Successful beyond our wildest dreams, we bonded in private and public gardens while extending a big-as-Texas welcome to the group. 

We opened the Fling with a buy-your-own Mexican dinner at local icon Matt’s El Rancho -- with 37 separate checks!  While the cacophony might have been a few decibels less than at recent Fling gatherings, we to raise the roof in our eagerness to get to know one another and talk about our gardens and our blogs.

Our  transportation consisted of 5 or 6 Austin blogger’s cars, driving participants around town between gardens with a personal tour guide.  All the bloggers thoroughly enjoyed this as it enabled them to really get to know their passengers.  

Jenny Stocker of Rock Rose gave bloggers a tour of the Wildflower Center.

We recommended folks stay at Holiday Inn Express along the highway – no banquet rooms or swanky bar and lobby there.

We then had a lovely happy hour at Pam Penick’s house. 

Carol Michel spoke about the evolving social aspects of blogging, while Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening discussed the emerging technical issues of maintaining a blog. 

Bloggers shared their experiences with Blogger and Word Press, monetizing blogs and the future of blogging.

These were our first break-out sessions – a cluster of new-found friends sitting on the porch while another group gathered in the living room.  And all with Mexican martinis in hand.

Our last event was a lunch with a local icon Tom Spencer as our inspirational speaker -- we actually collected checks for for our Tex-Mex lunch at the door.  After all, Paypal didn’t even exist yet!

 We arranged our final dinner at the County Line, where they served up mouth-watering BBQ.  We ate, made a few speeches, and raffled off a host of fun garden prizes.  

We’d received a few donations from local nurseries for participants, and then added to them from our own stashes of extra garden books and goodies.  Everyone received a small prize.

Garden author Susan Wittig Albert signed books for bloggers at the Wildflower Center and donated a few of her books as prizes.  

In spite of our shoestring budget, we all had a wonderful time getting to know each other and putting a face to the anonymous names on the internet.

Oh, how things have changed in a decade! 

We've seen amazing gardens all over the US and Canada.  Now a convention-style 3-day event with two full-sized charter buses, and a banquet with happy hour - it’s hard to believe we started with such humble beginnings.

So, sign up as soon as we open registration, it will fill fast. Not only will you see the best that Austin has to offer, attendees at the Austin Fling will receive a free commemorative souvenir booklet highlighting 10 years of Flings.  For those who can’t join us, the booklet will be available to previous fling attendees for purchase by mail after the event.

Mark your calendar for May 3-6th -- or longer – stick around for more fun on your own.  Learn first-hand why our motto is:  Keep Austin Weird.  We will have information about other Austin sights and activities if you decide to make a bigger vacation out of your visit.

Keep an eye out for the registration announcement, and y’all come on down!