On average, the last freeze in the Austin area happens around March 1 even though the capricious Texas weather has been known to play tricks on the early gardener. For many backyard farmers the hunt for the unusual plant or the perfect garden ornament is nearly as fun as planting the acquisition.
Here is a list of some of my favorite area nurseries in no particular order.
Dig This! in Hamilton has one of the best offerings of plant-related paraphernalia available at a small town nursery. It doesn't hurt that the proprietor makes some of them, like bird feeders made of teacups on saucers hot-glued to tall iron stakes. The shop also has a good selection of garden plants, house plants, and trees and shrubs.
At 620 S. Rice (U.S. 281) on the south side of Hamilton, Dig This! opens Thursday through Monday. For information, call 254/386-8868.
Fanick's Garden Center has been handing out sound advice and selling unique plants since 1946. Now run by a third generation of gardeners, the nursery in southeast San Antonio has a collection of plants from trees to cactus covering eight acres.
Michael Fanick, the founder's grandson, says they stock more than 250 varieties of roses and 115 kinds of pecan trees. No bragging, just fact. Imagine the other tropical and native plants you can find there. From Austin take I-35 to Loop 410 and head southeast to the Rigsby Avenue exit, turn right (north) and go two traffic lights to W.W. White Road, turn right on Holmgreen Road. Fanick's is at the end of the road at 1025 Holmgreen, or call them at 210/648-1303. Open daily 8:30am-5pm.
The Antique Rose Emporium sells a lot more than just roses. Several restored houses are full of gardening supplies and the grounds are covered with a wide variety of extraordinary plants. Besides specializing in roses, the nursery also stocks a selection of herbs, fruit trees, and native plants. North of Brenham, the plant store is in Independence on the La Bahia Road (FM 390), the only road in the state that is classified both as a scenic and historic byway.
The Emporium is less than a mile south of FM 390 on FM 50 and opens Monday-Saturday, 9am-6pm, and Sunday, 11am-5:30pm. For information, call 409/836-9051 or 800/441-0002 to place phone orders.
Shumacher's Hill Country Gardens specializes in xeriscape plants and has several large greenhouses of plants, many of them raised from seedlings at the nursery. With the exception of a few trees, palms, and succulents, the pricing is simply $1.50 for 4-inch pots, $5 for gallon pots, $7 for 2-gallon pots, etc. On March 16 at 10am, master gardener David Jacobson presents a seminar on growing and cooking with herbs.
The nursery doesn't carry a lot of frivolous gardening supplies and opens Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 10am-5pm. Northwest of New Braunfels off of TX 46, Shumacher's is about seven miles from I-35 at 588 FM 1863. For information, call 830/620-5149 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
The Fredericksburg Herb Farm has something for everybody. Along with a selection of unusual plants they have a small cafe, soap and herb shop, antiques, and even bed and breakfast accommodations. Wandering the farm's gardens is half the fun of visiting the herbatorium. The Star Garden, centered on an antique windmill, features the different uses of herbs: aesthetic, medicinal, cosmetic, culinary, and ornamental. They also sell a variety of gardening supplies and books.
The herb farm is at 402 Whitney St., off of Milam Street (FM 965) south of Main Street. The shop and gardens are open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:30pm and Sunday noon-4pm. For information, call 830/997-8615 or 800/259-HERB. Their Web site is at www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com.
The Wildseed Farm is one of the most spectacular sights in Texas when the 400 acres of fields are in full Spring bloom. If you haven't sowed your wildflower seeds by now, then it is probably too late for a colorful crop this year, but it is never too early to plan for next year. They often have wildflower plants for sale as well as gardening supplies and a variety of household knick-knacks and Texas food products. This is a great place to take out-of-town visitors, and the Brew-bonnet Biergarten makes a pretty good sandwich.
The world's largest harvester of wildflower seeds is between Johnson City and Fredericksburg on U.S. 290. Doors open daily 9:30am-6pm. For information, call 830/990-1393 or visit their Web site at www.wildseedfarm.com.
561st in a series. Day Trips, Vol.2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.