December 21, 2022
Each fall through winter, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center entices kids and kids at heart to explore a handful of creative “forts” built by Austin landscape architects, architects, designers, and artists. It’s called Fortlandia, and I always go see it. This year, because the Center’s arboretum has been taken over by thousands of fiber-optic lights for Bruce Munro’s Field of Light, the Fortlandia exhibition can be found in the family garden.
Chrysaline by artist Jamie Spinello is my personal fave this year. Colorfully translucent windows glow within an aluminum chrysalis, with openings at front and back. I watched two little girls dart inside with squeals of glee. Fun!
Mars Base by Austin Design Lab was a hive of activity and seemingly the hands-down favorite among older kids. I mean, first of all, the name. Secondly, it looks like a gerbil-tube set-up for humans. What kid could resist?
Inside, small rooms are decorated with wild abandon. This one has beautiful wood cutouts of astronauts, fantastical animals, flowers, and…prickly pear?
In another room, an exuberant science-lab mural adds color.
Tree Free Fort
Landscape architecture firm Studio Balcones designed the farm-like Tree Free Fort out of bales of hay topped by a bamboo hut. Good old-fashioned fun.
There were a couple more forts that I didn’t get pics of, plus the ever-popular fort-build area, where kids can construct their own hideouts out of wooden blocks, bamboo poles, and branches. Fortlandia runs through January 29, 2023.
Wildflower Center gardens
Naturally I took a spin through the gardens while I was there. A meadow planting of gone-to-seed liatris provided a wintry but beautiful scene.
And an arching, red-berried possumhaw holly glowed red against the corrugated-steel administration buildings. Gorgeous!
Inside the gift shop — ta-da! — my books were on display, front and center! How cool is that? And yes, wouldn’t they make a terrific holiday present for some lucky gardener in your life?
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Solstice to all my garden-loving friends and readers! I hope you’re staying warm and cozy, and I wish you peace and joy this holiday season.
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Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. You can find this year’s speaker lineup here.
All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.