RAISE 'EM RIGHT: PLANT & HUMAN COMMUNITY AT BARTON SPRINGS NURSERY AUSTIN, TX
Photos courtesy of Barton Springs Nursery, all rights reserved - see full gallery at bottom of post.
If you ask me, the independent nurseries and growers of our world – especially those focused on helping us as gardeners not only create beautiful gardens, but also gardens that contribute to the ecologies of our places, are some of our great national treasures.
This week following Labor Day, we celebrate these treasures wherever they may be in conversation with one: Barton Springs Nursery in Austin, TX, where since 1986 the owners and staff having been raising both plants and gardeners right. In 2021, Barton Springs Nursery succeeded from the founder's Conrad and Bernadine Bering into the skillful and passionate hands of garden designer Amy Hovis (at Eden Design), horticulturist, William Glenn and photographer and systems designer, Greg Thomas.
The three, plus their dedicated and knowledgeable staff continue the long and beautiful Barton Springs Nursery legacy of offering in-house, seed-grown, native and climate adapted plants (without the use of toxic chemicals), inspiring display gardens, and garden education ensuring low-impact, high contribution - and even higher joy - gardening for Austin – and the planet. Listen in!
You can follow Barton Springs work - online at Barton Springs Nursery, on line at Eden Design, and on Instagram @bartonspringsnursery
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Speaking of Plants...and Place:
and those people and plants that encourage others, this week I have oaks on my mind. Maybe because the fat green acorns of my local blue oaks are beginning to fall here with the acorn woodpeckers and squirrels quickly grabbing them up, maybe because of the remarkable diversity of native oak species, but maybe because oaks – like good nursery and growers in our world – nurture myriad lives beyond just their own. This is why they are often known as keystone species in an ecosystem, or mother plants in their immediate environments.
In the beech family –Fagaceae and the genus Quercus, oaks include an incredible 600 species native across much of the northern hemisphere down to northern South America and even in India. Although Australia has the Australian silver or silky oak, this is in fact a Grevillea not a Quercus, and so not related to the oaks of the north.
More than 40 varieties (native and native naturally occurring hybrids) of oak are native to California, somewhere around 60 varieties are native to Texas, just under 20 in Florida. While Great Britain is home to only 2 native species English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea) – the oak is a signature in the UK and research there indicates that upwards of 2,300 other organisms rely on oaks for their life cycles – and more than this if you count microorganisms.
So if you live in the US or the UK – or anywhere else in the northern hemisphere there’s an oak for you.
Quercus are divided into two large groups – the white and the red oak groups, differentiated by specifics of their leaves and their acorns (the seed form specific to oaks) including whether their caps have hair, and how these acorns develop and mature – all in one season or over two seasons.
The many species and naturally occurring hybrids means the oaks offer gardeners a lot of choice: deciduous or evergreen; fast growing and slower growing, large and smaller – and all beautiful. Large, long-lived habitat and shade providing oaks include Quercus rubra – the common Red Oak, California’s endemic native Valley Oak – Quercus Lobata which within 30 years can reach over 100 feet tall, almost as wide; and the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) famous in the southeast for its wide low branches draped in Spanish moss lichen. Adaptable mid-size oaks include the Bur oak, which is native throughout much of the central US and the northeast – but west to Montana – and its large acorns have recognizably beloved and textural caps. For smaller, dryer loving choices try the western natives Gambel or Emory oaks are both great scrubby shrubs or small trees and both are drought and climate tolerant across the US southwestern deserts.
When you think of the word tree – it is the image of a large oak’s wide – sheltering – canopy that often comes to mind or image and an Oak is the state tree of Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey, and Iowa, as well as the official tree of Washington DC.
Building on his life’s work advocating for gardens as much needed ecological connectors and contributors, biologist and entomologist Doug Tallamy dedicated his 2021 book The Nature of Oaks to this greatest habitat-providing genus and why we should each individual or communally plant one or more oaks in our lifetime. Why? To feed us and our wildlife now, but more importantly to invest in and vote for the food, shelter, biodiversity and beauty of the next 200 or even 400 years of birds, bears, bees and healthy forests, air, watersheds and humans. When I consider the valley oaks, the blue oaks, the black oaks, the interior live oaks, even the oracle oaks of my region and the legions of lives that grow from them – I know Tallamy is right, and the oaks are right – and at home wherever you might be in the northern hemisphere.
Plant one – or 10 - and see the life you grow.
Thinking out loud this week:
Don’t you love the motto Raise Em Right for a nursery? I do. Better yet, I think it's another great motto for our garden lives in general.
And how about Barton Springs’ other motto – "TODAY PLANTS THE FUTURE"
Never forget it gardeners. Through rain, snow, blistering heat, insect songs and insect stings, we are planting and growing the world we want to see.
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