Support Your Independent Nursery Month: The Natural Gardener

It’s Support Your Independent Nursery month! Each Wednesday in October I’m posting about one of my favorite independent garden centers in the Austin area. Today I’m shining a spotlight on The Natural Gardener, located at 8648 Old Bee Cave Road, just past the “Y” in Oak Hill.

It still feels like the country out here, although neighborhoods of two-story homes and apartment buildings now crowd the rolling, scrubby acres that surround the nursery grounds. But as you drive through the gate and park in the dusty gravel lot, the city falls away and you can easily spend a couple of hours here…

…looking at the beautiful display gardens…

…strolling the labyrinth…

…taking a peek inside the tepee…

…visiting the resident animals (donkeys, chickens, exotic birds, and now goats as well)…

…smelling the herb garden…

…examining the vegetable garden and orchard to see what’s ripening…

…and browsing in the large gift shop and pot yard.

And then there are the plants, and they aren’t too shabby either! You’ll find plenty of native and adapted species, with a particularly large selection of succulents, vines, trees, and shrubs.

The Natural Gardener bills itself as not only a nursery but a “teaching facility dedicated to promoting organic, time-tested gardening practices.” They offer gardening classes throughout the year. Coming up on October 22, George Cates of Native American Seed will present “How to Start a Wildflower Meadow,” with a demonstration in their wildflower area. And on November 12, a Conservation Program Specialist with the City of Austin will explain the City of Austin’s Landscape Conversion Rebate Program. As a bonus, attendees receive a coupon good for 20% off one item purchased that day (excluding bulk soil yard products and sale items).

True to its motto—“Organic Gardening Headquarters”—The Natural Gardener sells only organic products and strives to educate local gardeners on their benefits. It also sells top-notch soils and mulches, which I always recommend to my design clients. I especially love their Hill Country Garden Soil, which they’ll deliver by the cubic yard for a delivery fee. Alternatively you can buy it by the bag under the Lady Bug brand (it’s sold at other nurseries in Austin too), or you can bag it yourself to save money. This fall I had a load of Sylvan mulch delivered and spread across all my garden beds. It may be pricey, but it’s the good stuff; you get what you pay for.

The owner, John Dromgoole, is a local gardening celebrity, instantly recognizable by his gray ponytail, round wire-rimmed glasses, and soft drawl. He has had his own radio talk show for 27 years, and he appears in the “Backyard Basics” segment on KLRU’s “Central Texas Gardener” TV show. He is not just the driving force behind the nursery but its public face as well.

All of this is why, when the Austin bloggers hosted the first annual Garden Bloggers Fling in 2008, we brought everyone to The Natural Gardener for a visit. It exemplifies all that’s good about gardening in central Texas.

Join me next Wednesday as I post about The Great Outdoors, a nursery with a hipster vibe just south of downtown. For a look back at my post about Barton Springs Nursery click here. And please check out my sidebar link Area Nurseries, where I’ve posted photo tours of many of our local garden centers and described what I like about each one. Austin gardeners are blessed with so many good local nurseries. Let’s support them in this tough economy and help them stay in business. I can’t imagine gardening without them. Can you?

Also, check out these posts about The Natural Gardener by other Austin garden bloggers:
The Shovel-Ready Garden
Getting Grounded
J Peterson Garden Design
Rock Rose
Sharing Nature’s Garden
Gardening in Austin

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

22 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is a place one would love to browse often.

    Oh yes, Lisa. There’s always something new to see. —Pam

  2. Looks like a nice labyrinth…for my next trip, whenever that is! That painted succulent wood carving is a nice touch, as many other things there. What would be even cooler is running into all of you at the same time there!

    David, we will have to get together the next time you’re here if your busy schedule allows! This is a great nursery for out-of-town visitors; you should definitely pop by. —Pam

  3. Jenny says:

    I don’t know how I missed the donkeys. Usually I hear them making a noise! It is always interesting to see another perspective on a visit. I keep thinking ” Hm, I don’t remember seeing that” I’ll have to go back and of course I will and next time it will be for more shopping. That reminds me- I haven’t planted those tulips yet!

    Yep, those donkeys are generally quite vocal. But I missed the goats, which you saw. The place is becoming a barnyard, isn’t it? Fun for kids. —Pam

  4. Caroline says:

    Love this nursery! Great shots of their amazing display gardens. I’ll be shopping there this Sunday, after the Wildflower Center’s plant sale on Saturday!

    That sounds like a fun weekend, Caroline. Hope you find some good plants. —Pam

  5. TufaGirl says:

    The Natural Gardener is my favorite nursery of all time. Since our move to the DFW area I have had quite the search to find anything to compare to the NG. My favorite in the our new home is Redenta’s Garden in Arlington – organic, Texas Natives, roses, and things that grow here that I have never been able to grow in Central Texas. I did a little posting to add to your theme:

    Thanks for joining in with a post about a nursery in your own area, TufaGirl. Redenta’s looks like a great place. —Pam

  6. Shirley Fox says:

    The Natural Gardener looks like such a great place to visit, it’s definitely on my list and I always enjoy John’s segments on CTG.

    This week I posted about Rainbow Gardens in San Antonio

    Thanks for joining in again, Shirley. Rainbow Gardens is a place I’ll have to visit the next time I’m in your city. —Pam

  7. Robin says:

    Pam, nice post. There are so many things at Natural Gardener to showcase! I’m fortunate to live so close to so many of our independent nurseries, I can drop in anytime. Years ago, I bought a new variety of Salvia Coccinea there that they named “Molly Ivins” and I thought it had disappeared, never to be seen again. Last week after our blessed rain, a seedling popped up and is blooming again. A plant that wasn’t available anywhere but Natural Gardener.

    I bought that same salvia this spring, Robin, and yes, I believe I got it at The Natural Gardener. The plants got a little crispy this summer, but I’m hoping the cooler weather and rain will revive them. —Pam

  8. Everyone’s posts about this place have me dying to visit! For this weeks post I’m talking about all of Oregon’s nurseries… with a special focus on Cistus.

    I love that you’ve posted about so many of your local nurseries over the years, Loree. Thanks again for joining in from the West Coast! —Pam

  9. Wow, Pam. Lucky you! This would definitely be on my list of haunts if I lived in Austin! This is the kind of visioning that recognizes the garden center as an oasis and place of beauty available to the public at any time. What a treat! Thanks so much for sharing! Your camera eye always knows what to showcase! xoxo

    Thanks, Kathryn. This place is not only educational but inspirational. It’s a great resource for gardeners. —Pam

  10. Great post, Pam–that labyrinth is really one of my favorites. This nursery really puts its money where its mouth is–they are so committed to organics, if I have a question I always know where to go!

    The labyrinth was a favorite feature for my kids when they were younger, along with the animals. It’s a good place to introduce kids to gardening. —Pam

  11. This is one of my favorites.
    They have a soil yard in Dripping Springs. I drove out last spring for some veggie transplants. It’s a busy place. Lots of big trucks being loaded up. Took a while to navigate between them.
    I need to get out to my ONE local place and get some pictures, sometime soon.
    Thanks for the tours.

    My pleasure, Linda. I look forward to a tour of your local nursery. —Pam

  12. Lola says:

    What a wonderful tour. Thanks. Sure wish we had one around here close.

    I wish you did too, Lola! —Pam

  13. Greggo says:

    Pam, you are such a great tour guide. Love your posts. A fun adventure indeed. Don’t know if I could afford to live in Austin, if you know what I mean.

    I do indeed, Greggo. But I think these nurseries can save a gardener money if he or she would normally buy from the box stores only to find out the hard way that many plants they sell aren’t suited to our climate. And local nurseries are definitely less expensive than mail-order, yet still have an excellent selection. —Pam

  14. Laura Munoz says:

    Aren’t we so very lucky to have The Natural Gardener? Your photos are awesome and I was just there. I’m sort of a nursery ho depending upon my needs & mood, but The Natural Gardener is one of the best. I love Barton Springs too and The Great Outdoors, It’s About Thyme, PlantEscape Gardens…I keep hearing about Hill Country Water Gardens, but it’s so far north I’ve not been there yet. Thanks! Laura

    You need to make a trip, Laura. Hill Country Water Gardens is definitely worth a visit, especially if you have an interest in water gardens. They have a nice succulent selection too, at least in the warm months. —Pam

  15. Diana says:

    Love your meme and all it’s doing for our local nurseries. Great idea and it’s just nice to say “thank you” isn’t it? thanks for giving us the opportunity to do that together as a group.

    It’s my pleasure, Diana. We Austin gardeners love our local nurseries, don’t we? And it’s nice to be able to sing their praises and let others know about them. —Pam

  16. Just as well I can’t drive there from Seattle! TOO many fun things I’d want to bring home.

    I had that same feeling at several wonderful independent nurseries in Seattle and Portland this summer, Karen! I wished I had driven instead of flown. —Pam

  17. One of the best nurseries ever.~~Dee

    It’s a good one! —Pam

  18. Pam, I love that labyrinth, what a fairly inexpensive way to construct one.

    Yes, that’s true. Those little sedges are lovely, aren’t they? —Pam

  19. Melissa says:

    This is my favorite in Austin. I obviously haven’t done a very good job wandering (guess I get a little distracted by their gorgeous perennials for sale)… where is the labyrinth? I love their soil selection… by the tractor scoop, bag yourself, or pre-bagged. And you can get the Square-foot gardener’s Mel’s Mix already mixed and ready to go! Did I mention their perennials? Great photo tour Pam!

    Thanks, Melissa. Yes, it’s really easy to get distracted here, in a good way. The labyrinth and tepee are behind the colorful glazed pots that you see when you drive in. Walk through the gravel parking lot behind the pots, and you’ll see a cedar-branch gate that leads to the labyrinth. —Pam

  20. What a fabulous place — looks and sounds like a wonderful local resource. And there is nothing like someone who has a long personal history with a region and a business to make the classes and the shopping a valuable experience. The sedge labyrinth is a beautiful idea.

    It’s an inspiring nursery, Linda. Glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. —Pam

  21. Katina says:

    Finally posted my entry (I’m really slow and I love the sound of deadlines whooshing by):

    Thanks for joining in for Support Your Independent Nursery Month, Katina! —Pam

  22. Yolanda BazDresch says:

    Hi Pam –
    I shut down during our awful, depressing summer. No new plants and all I could handle was to keep my trees alive, but now I’m inspired! As the cool-er temperatures are approaching I’m heading out to my local (N. Austin) nurseries in search of more drought-tolerant plants and maybe a little more hardscaping and lawn alternatives(no more St. Augustine!). Thanks your for the education, motivation and inspiration! Yolanda

    A lot of us felt that way this past summer, Yolanda. I’m glad you’re feeling inspired again! Don’t forget to enter the Austin Nurseries Giveaway on my blog and others for a chance to win gift certificates to seven local nurseries. —Pam