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Stepping Out

Gardens on Tour -Stratford Drive

This garden featured on the 2011 Gardens on Tour Wildflower Center garden tour features a small fern seep wall that drips into a constructed Hill Country stream.
Photo By Glee Ingram

You've flipped through every garden magazine there is seeking inspiration for where to take your garden next and nothing is jumping off the page. Where do you turn?

"There's nothing quite like seeing successful gardens in person to get ideas for your own garden," says the Wildflower Center's director of horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya, who has been busy preparing for the Wildflower Center's annual garden tour held the Saturday before Mother's Day in May.

Your best opportunity will be Saturday, May 7, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wildflower Center's annual Gardens on Tour.

The tour of six Austin-area gardens including the Center itself on the Saturday before Mother's Day is special. "Even if you aren't a gardener, visiting gardens can transport you to a relaxing new fantasy land created by someone else's vision and hard work. Who doesn't enjoy a garden?" says DeLong-Amaya.

If you do garden, there's nothing quite like being invited into private gardens that offer practical, hands-on teaching examples in a way public gardens aren't always able to do.

"Any observant gardener will learn something from every garden they visit, be it winning plant combinations, how native plants are incorporated into gardens, new ideas for terracing or stonework, or how someone has created an intimate space," says DeLong-Amaya.

You also might learn what materials work best for pathways, how to unify garden plantings with architecture or ways to manage invasive species. At the Wildflower Center tour and on most tours, garden designers and homeowners will be on hand to answer questions and explain the work that was done.

Gardens on Tour - Ridgecrest Drive

This garden tour garden in west Austin was designed to integrate the natural and designed landscape. It uses many of the same plants found in the surrounding hillsides like live oak, yaupon, Texas persimmon, Texas mountain laurel and a variety of grasses.
Photo by Andrea DeLong-Amaya

This year's Wildflower Center tour will feature gardens that include a certified wildlife habitat, a fire pit, as well as different approaches to managing stormwater like dry creek beds, rainwater harvesting systems, ponds, streams and pools. One project doesn't have irrigation at all, and another features a seep wall with ferns and other plants. Tour participants also will view fine artistry, sculpture and custom craftwork.

One benefit of garden touring is learning how garden owners and designers addressed certain problems or challenges. "Every garden has its challenges and visitors to gardens can see how these challenges were addressed. These lessons may be useful in one's own garden," says DeLong-Amaya. "One garden on the tour, for example, is totally accessible to deer and would be a good place for gardeners with the same challenge to learn deer proofing strategies."

Challenges aside, other benefits come from garden tours. Gardens with extensive collections will likely introduce visitors to new plants. And of course, looking at beautiful gardens is fun!


Andrea DeLong-Amaya offers this advice for making the most of your garden tour experience:

  • Bring a camera. Definitely.
  • If you are really industrious, bring a notebook for plant names and combinations, suppliers of materials and services, new ideas stimulated by something seen, etc.
  • Go with friends. "I appreciate going on tours in the company of other gardeners or designers. We share opinions and talk out new ideas."
  • On a practical side, be sure to wear a hat, sunscreen, good walking shoes, and to drink plenty of water, especially if it is a hot day. Carpooling is also helpful.

To buy tickets, learn about the 2011 gardens and more


© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center