The Natural Gardener
After the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, my grandma and I went to check out The Natural Gardener, a very impressive garden center and teaching facility, tucked away on the southwest outskirts of Austin. The offered an educational class a few days before that I came across online, but didn’t manage to attend – but it peaked my interest enough to want to visit the facility itself – and I’m really glad we did!
“The Natural Gardener is one of the most beautiful and unique garden centers in the world. It’s like a candy store for gardeners, but non-gardeners love it, too. It’s a fun, beautiful, educational destination for everyone. Bring the whole family to The Natural Gardener- even the dog! ” — TNG Webpage
This is a view of the landscaped street corner of the Natural Gardener, complete with a windmill, branded water tank and stonework structures accented with Texas native plants!
Here’s a video tour of The Natural Gardener from another visitor’s perspective!
We pulled into the Natural Gardener parking lot and headed toward the central building and greenhouses. Right at the corner of the parking lot was this directional pole, pointing out the various areas of the grounds like the store entrance, gardens, compost tea brewery and other stops!
We continued toward the central store and came across a graphical map of the facility, and took this picture to put the center into better context with what all is going on on-site!
A view of the outdoor ‘solar cashier’ building and the seasonal & annual plants section.
Not only does the Natural Gardener have rows and rows of plants, but also integrated sustainability practices and other features throughout the facility – like the rainwater barrel fed from the building roof with an owl deterrent for the local birds on top of it. Talk about stacking functions!
This is a view of the covered pavilion for grasses and other ground covers, with an artistically-made raised bed for ornamental plants made from white stones in front of it.
Below is one of the signs highlighting the various types of plants for sale at the garden. And from a marketing/graphic design perspective, I really appreciate the overall sign design with rustic typography on the sun-burnt wooden, paint-peeling background.
The other aspect to the center is education, like the laminated sign below, outlining the various Texas Bumblebees with this I.D. chart! I didn’t realize there were so many physical trait differences!
Here’s another view of an outdoor covered pavilion, specifically housing the sun perennials.
More educational signage, listing a 7-step Guide to Organic Gardening.
Another interesting part of the Natural Garden was the Microbe Brewery Compost Tea House, where the facility made it’s specialty compost teas for plants!
On the other side of the Microbe Brewery Compost Tea House was the information board, with some information guides and a couple of gardening quotes!
“My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.” — Brenda Schoepp
Throughout the garden center were eclectic works of art and statues, like this frog in overalls fishing in the frog pond with his cane pole!
This portion of the center is the organic gardens, with various vegetables and trellising structures!
Grandma and I then walked into the herb garden, which was designed in a circular spiral shape with various beds for plants and a couple of statues intermixed in.
The pathway rounded through to the on-site fruit orchard made up of grape vines, almost like a small backyard vineyard!
Further along the trail we came up to the goat pens and chicken coops! The goats were a little shy and stayed in the back half of the pen to play and jump around.
Here’s a view of the chicken coop hoop house. I really like this design because it keeps the chickens contained, which is my preference compared to free range – that way they are used to being in smaller spaces and can be put to work in mobile pens.
The Tropical House of plants was the next stop on our tour and I was thoroughly impressed with the exotic plant collection inside the greenhouse!
One of my favorite plants in the Tropical House was the pitcher plant!
Adjacent to the Tropical House is the Funky Greenhouse, full of unique plants like succulents and cacti, ferns and hanging planters!
From the Funky Greenhouse, we passed the trees department to the back edge of the commercial section of the Natural Gardener and entered the Enchanted Walk – which featured an entrance made from recycled wagon parts that could no long haul customer’s plants. Pretty creative idea!
The Enchanted Walk was really artsy and creative, something I wasn’t expecting to see at a garden center! It included themed bird feeders, metal cutouts, a hand-painted sun dial, artistic bug habitats, nature sculptures and many other works of art! It was pretty fun to look at.
We reached the end of the Enchanted Walk to the ‘shipping and receiving yard’ with not much to see there, so we headed back toward the parking lot to see the other installations and product gardens on the other side of the dividing central road.
Another cool design at the center was the Guitar Garden! Literally a garden in the shape of a guitar, complete with a fret board and strings!
The Natural Gardener also has an on-site labyrinth, a repeated feature from my travels across the country, that leds to a tree in the center of the maze!
This sign led from the Labryinth to the prayer/altar spots, and really stuck out to me. I feel like it reinforces what I’ve been doing with my life, yet at the same time – a journey generally has an end, and I don’t think that’s the best metaphorical approach to live life.
This is the Buddhist altar spot with a prominent Buddha head statue surrounded by white stones for tranquility, accented with some flowers and a potted lucky bamboo plant!
Just a few steps up the path was another altar/prayer spot for the christian symbolic icon, the Virgin de Guadalupe!
At the top of the slope is the Natural Gardener’s Revival Tent, which really does look like a traditional revival tent for outdoor christian sermons. The Revival Tent is used for hosting educational classes for large groups of people and other events that need lots of seating.
Grandma and I finally made it to the Butterfly Garden on-site at the Natural Gardener, which not only shows which plants can survive in Texas that butterflies prefer, but also serves as a certified wildlife habitat and monarch butterfly waystation! Pretty ingenious using the garden as a plant showcase while also providing habitats for animals and pollinators to benefit the garden center!
Inside the Butterfly Garden fence is a directory of butterflies that are in or pass through the Austin area, specifically listing their wingspan, seasonal flights, and preferred host plants!
Here are some more pictures of the Butterfly Garden!
These bushes in the Butterfly Garden next to a sitting bench are shaped to look like bugs with the added eyes and antennas! Very creative!
On the other side of the Butterfly Garden were the rain barrels for sale, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and even textures and materials!
Our final stop outside was the Cedar Grove outdoor planters and pots, where grandma spent some time looking at some planters for the front of her house.
We made our way into the air-conditioned main store for a break from the summer heat. Inside, it was almost as eclectic and interesting as it was outside!
This wall in particular featured metal bird cutouts, various bug habitats and a couple of bat boxes and bird feeders for sale.
Another product section featured anything and everything needed for terrariums, from the glass containers to plant filler to how-to books!
The Natural Gardener’s seed library collection was also fairly extensive and wrapped around two walls! The center island had more seeds for turfgrass and a large chalkboard highlighting specific flowers and veggies for the month of July.
While the seed library collection was extensive, so were the awards and articles written about the Natural Gardener covering just about every inch of the walls outside the restrooms!
In the back half of the store were a multitude of gardening tools, several strands of decorative rain chains, and shelves of Dripping Springs Ollas!
Also in this section is the Natural Gardener Info Desk, where customers can bring in plant or insect samples and talk to the resident experts about the issues in their gardens and find solutions!
“At The Natural Gardener, we’re passionate about providing our customers with accurate, cutting-edge horticultural information. That’s why we’ve dedicated a whole section of our store to it. The Natural Gardener Info Desk provides FREE professional consultation and diagnosis of plant problems seven days a week. We have a microscope, a reference library, online resources, and experienced gardeners on staff ready to help you solve your toughest gardening mysteries.” — TNG Webpage
We picked up several information sheets about gardening tips and native plants, and I bought grandma an organic seaweed fertilizer for her distressed trees, recommended by the manager, to work like a tree tranquilizer so they wouldn’t be as active in the scorching summer heat. Below is a picture of the t-shirt wall next to the cash registers before we checked out and headed back home!
I was really blown away at the quality and selection of plants, products and services offered by the Natural Gardener! I didn’t expect to see a garden center and nursery to have functional organic gardens, goat and chicken pens, artistic walking trails, wildlife habitats and such an in-depth knowledge of plants — so my experience at the Natural Gardener has really raised the bar for garden centers I go to in the future.
My grandma also really enjoyed her time at the Natural Gardener too, and told me she would come back for a class or buy some plants — if she could remember how to get there.
- The Natural Gardener Webpage
- The Natural Gardener Media/Tips Webpage
- The Natural Gardener – John Dromgoole Webpage
- The Natural Gardener – Monthly Planting Tips Webpage
- The Natural Gardener Facebook
- NPH Network – The Natural Gardener Resources Webpage
- John Dromgoole YouTube Videos
- Dripping Springs Ollas Webpage
- Local nursery The Natural Gardener offers classes, plants, gifts – Community Impact Austin Article
- Milkweed of any kind will do butterflies a world of good – My Statesman Article
- Weekend Gardener: Installing your own butterfly garden – KXAN Video
- Weekend Gardener: Treating tomatoes – KXAN Video
- KXAN Weekend Gardener YouTube Channel