Glass art and cacti galore at Living Desert Ranch


The weird and wonderful, from plants to garden art, can be found at Living Desert Ranch in Spicewood, Texas, about 30 miles northwest of Austin. Part cactus and succulent nursery and part art gallery, Living Desert is the creation of Darrell Dunten, who ran the business for 30 years out of a shop in Bee Caves (see my 2009 post about it). About five years ago, as development in Bee Caves exploded, Darrell moved his plants and art out to rural Spicewood, where his tin ornaments spin in the breeze under tree limbs and chunks of colorful slag glass (not as easy to get as it used to be, he says) sparkle in the parking lot.


Darrell has expanded the business since moving to Spicewood. He and his wife DeAnna also run a B&B and offer brunch (an entirely plant-based menu) every Thursday through Sunday.


The slag-glass art is what I remember best about the original Living Desert, and lots of Darrell’s pieces are displayed in his greenhouse, alongside his plants.


These garden stakes topped with glass chunks look like wizard staffs.


Beautiful cacti are neatly arrayed on nursery tables.


Many were in bloom during my visit a couple of weeks ago, when I stopped on the way to my Hill Country wildflower photo safari.


Hello there!


Even cylindrical snake plant (Sansevieria cylindrica) was blooming, which I’d never seen.


Glazed ceramic cones stamped with floral patterns make pretty wall planters for cactus and succulents.


There were rectangular hanging pots too.


Molded faces dangle eerily here and there.


I liked this metal heart with a glass heart glowing inside it.


Donkey ears kalanchoe (I think) in towering bloom


Frankenstein’s monster? This is a grafted creation, with two different species turned into one plant.


Personally, I prefer them the way they naturally grow.


In Darrell’s hands, anything makes a good planter.


But some of his treasures are not for sale, like this beauty. I’ve no idea what it is, but wow, isn’t it gorgeous?


Living Desert Ranch is definitely worth a visit if you enjoy cactus and succulents and unique yard art. And unique Texas characters too.

Note: Living Desert Ranch is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. And according to its website, it will be closed every day next week until Easter brunch.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

Tony Thompson+Hanson garden shop comes to Austin


Seven years after the shuttering of Gardens, a boutique nursery and home-and-garden shop on W. 35th Street, Central Austin has a new contender for the high-end gardening market: Thompson+Hanson, an Austin branch of the longtime T+H in Houston’s River Oaks.


Austin’s Thompson+Hanson is located just off W. 35th Street in the newly remodeled Kerbey Lane Village, a collection of charmingly modernized, white-painted bungalows.


Of course I had to visit the nursery area first. It’s very compact, just a handful of tables filled with plants and some potted arrangements.


But after all, this is an urban area and space is tight. They’re stocked with annual color, some lovely succulents, and a handful of pretty plants suitable for potting up, like ferns, ivies, and hydrangeas.


There are also a few surprises for such a small nursery, like artichoke (or cardoon — I never can tell them apart).


Artichoke is even growing in a tiny garden bed just off the parking lot.


A small side porch has been outfitted with a potting bar.


I wonder if they plan to do demonstrations here?


Garden orbs made of chicken wire and grapevines


And lovely garden pots


Walking around back, you find a long deck with faux wicker seating — all for sale, I believe.


Classic garden decor: a marble-topped table, a blue hydrangea, fern, and ivy.


Stepping inside, I found myself in a long, shiplap-walled room with lovely round chandeliers. Will this contain more retail space, I wonder? I should have asked.


For now, anyway, the home goods are for sale in the front rooms of the shop.


Everything is beautifully displayed.


One room showcases natural-fiber clothing, jewelry, and straw hats. I couldn’t resist the hats and ended up buying one.


A beautiful orchid brightens a corner.


Another pretty display includes more orchids, candles, and straw tote bags adorned with indigo tassels.


Across the parking lot, a Tiny Boxwoods cafe is going into the old, lemon-yellow (now white) Hill-Bert’s building. Tiny Boxwoods at the Houston Thompson+Hanson is hugely popular, especially for weekend brunch, and I’m sure it will prove to be the same here.

I’m delighted to see a new boutique nursery and gift shop arrive in Austin and hope Thompson+Hanson finds Austin to its liking. We’re much more casual than Houston, especially compared to the River Oaks area. But the old Austin neighborhoods just south and west of W. 35th Street are full of updated bungalows and traditional homes that seem well suited to the classic garden style of T+H. Plus, we Austinites love to eat out! Now when will they start serving those famous cookies?

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Wildflower fields abloom at Wildseed Farms


A wildflower photo safari is my springtime ritual, and I especially like to drive out to the Texas Hill Country to photograph wildflowers against the rugged hills, rocks, and prickly pear. This spring, thanks to a mild winter, Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are carpeting roadsides a few weeks early, so there was no time to lose if I wanted to see our state flower in its blue splendor.


Here’s what a field of bluebonnets looks like — sparkling blue heaven.


Unfortunately, while I saw plenty of bluebonnets along the roadsides from Spicewood to Llano, there was nowhere to safely pull over to photograph them, and I didn’t see any fields in bloom. Even scenic Willow City Loop off Highway 16 was downright sparse.


Happily, there’s always Wildseed Farms just east of Fredericksburg, where you can view farm fields of wildflowers, which they grow for their seed-selling operation. (Here’s my obligatory annual pickup truck-and-wildflowers picture.)


Right now Wildseed Farms has fields of bluebonnets and corn poppies in full flower.


Yesterday’s high winds made photographing the long-stemmed poppies challenging.


I always like spotting a few pink poppies amid the red ones.


I’ll leave you with a view of Enchanted Rock, which always deserves a detour if you’re driving Highway 16 north of Fredericksburg.

For my previous wildflower safaris, check out these blog posts:
Wildflower drive through the Texas Hill Country, March 2016
An Easter wildflower safari, April 2015
Wildflower safari in the Hill Country, April 2010
Texas wildflower Bloom Day, April 2010

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Follow