Tuesday 25 April 2017
We depart on scheduled flight from London to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Please note that regional flight connections, flight upgrades and/or overnight accommodation before or after the tour are available on request. On arrival in Austin we transfer by coach to our hotel, the 4-star InterContinental Stephen F Austin Hotel. All rooms have private bathrooms along with television, hairdryer, minibar and tea and coffee maker.
In the evening we will enjoy a specially arranged welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Wednesday 26 April 2017
Following breakfast we begin with a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, whose mission is to conserve, restore and create healthy landscapes. Named after the wife of President Lyndon B Johnson, the Center’s gardens display the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South and West Texas, while the Plant Conservation Program protects the ecological heritage of Texas by conserving its rare and endangered flora.
In the afternoon we visit the Lady Bird Johnson Adopt-A-Garden Program at Lamar Bridge. Located along the Hike and Bike Trail of Lady Bird Lake, the program offers individuals the opportunity to adopt an individual garden and design, plant and tend it. Most gardens are concentrated around the Lamar Bridge and offer a wonderful view of downtown and the lake. Gardens are adopted for a year and put up for adoption as they become available. This successful and innovative program is in its sixth year, with 28 gardens adopted.
In the evening we will enjoy a unique Austin experience as we embark on a Bat Watching and Sunset Cruise Tour. Every year, Mexican free-tail bats migrate to Austin and roost under the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. Hundreds of people gather nightly to see the world's largest urban bat colony emerge from under the bridge. In 2010 these 1.5 million beloved part-time residents were decreed the official city animal in part due to their positive environmental impact as they eat between 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects nightly, including agricultural pests. Observing this fascinating spectacle can be very rewarding, however if anyone is squeamish about bats you may of course opt out.
Thursday 27 April 2017
Following breakfast, we depart today for the Zilker Botanical Garden, which is located on 26 fenced acres of varied topography on the south bank of the Colorado River near downtown Austin. Its diverse topography is especially suited to depicting different habitats and displaying an array of native, hybrid and exotic plants. Featured gardens include the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, the Green Garden demonstration garden, a butterfly trail and garden and rose, cactus and herb gardens.
After an opportunity for lunch (not included) we continue with a visit to the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, which exhibits the work of Charles Umlauf and other contemporary sculptors in a natural setting, and provides educational experiences that encourage the understanding and appreciation of sculpture.
Evening at leisure.
Friday 28 April 2017
Continuing our exploration of Austin, after breakfast this morning we visit The Natural Gardener Nursery, which has been voted “Best Nursery” ten times in The Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin poll and has been featured in major publications as a world-class gardening destination known for its pioneering work in organic gardening and sustainable living. The old farmhouse and surrounding land is now a vibrant community resource that includes teaching gardens, free classes, display gardens, a retail plant nursery, a soil yard, a retail garden store, farm animals and acres of beautifully cultivated grounds and wildlife habitat.
In the afternoon we visit three locations in close proximity to each other which offer a taste of the elements that make this area so special including rolling hills, lake and wonderful natural spaces. At 785 feet, Mount Bonnell stands as one of the highest points in the city and offers sweeping views of the communities along Lake Austin. Mayfield Park and Preserve is an island of restful respite located steps from Laguna Gloria. Mayfield Park includes an historic cottage, 2 acres of colorful gardens with towering palm trees, brilliant peacocks and delicate water lilies. Mayfield Preserve is the 21 acre natural area that surrounds the park, containing walking trails and wildlife habitat.
Evening at leisure.
Saturday 29 April 2017
Enjoy your breakfast. We begin this morning at the Plant Resources Center of the University of Texas, a scientific resource collection composed of the University of Texas Herbarium, the Lundell Herbarium and associated reprint collections and facilities. The core of this institute is the collection of over 1,000,000 pressed, dried and preserved plant specimens from all parts of the globe, including the best herbarium collection of Texas plants anywhere, and one of the finest collections of Mexican plants in the United States. Some specimens are over 150 years old, including early Texas collections, although most are from the 20th Century.
After an opportunity for lunch (not included) we continue to the Sunshine Community Gardens, which have been in existence since 1979 with over 200 plots on about three acres of land in north central Austin. The land is leased from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and they are generous partners in providing the members of Sunshine with an urban oasis for growing organic food and flowers. Sunshine, through its parent organization, Community Garden Initiative of Central Texas, offers educational opportunities with garden tours, donations of seed and plants, and meeting space for other non-profits. A number of plots are set aside as designated gardens to grow fresh produce for the Micah 6 Food Bank.
Evening at leisure.
Sunday 30 April 2017
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and travel to the town of Fredericksburg, which lies about 80 miles to the west of Austin, in the Texas Hill Country. As well as the Spanish influences which are common throughout Texas, Fredericksburg also has strong German influences, evidenced in local food, beer, architecture and music. Our first here will be the Vogel Orchard. Famous for its delicious, juicy peaches, the Vogel family (note the German name) have been selling their produce since 1953. Visitors have the opportunity to visit the orchard and pick their own seasonal peaches, plums, blackberries and more or they can stop at the historic Vogel’s roadside market located on Highway 290. A visit here can include all sorts of goodies such as Grandma Nelda’s preserves and jellies, peach butter, blackberry ice cream, cobblers, and of course the seasons freshest pickings!
There will be an opportunity for lunch (not included) at the Brewbonnet Biergarten, located at Wildseed Farms, the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. After lunch there will be a chance to enjoy some of the colourful flowers in the Lady Bird Meadow, Market Centre and Blumenhaus.
Later in the afternoon we will have a barrel tasting and behind-the-scenes tour at Grape Creek Vineyards. This beautiful 100 acre estate is set around a romantic Tuscan Villa, nestled among the oaks and vines. We will enjoy a glass of Petite Sirah or Cuvée Blanc and experience the feel of “Tuscany in Texas”. Grape Creek has won over 100 medals in the last two years, including 90+ point wines, double golds, and best in class honours from the two most prestigious San Francisco Wine Competitions.
We then continue to our hotel in Fredericksburg, the Inn on Barons Creek. All rooms have private bathrooms along with television, hairdryer, minibar, iron and ironing board and tea and coffee maker. The hotel also has full spa facilities and heated pool. Dinner (not included) is available in nearby local restaurants.
Monday 1 May 2017
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and depart for a visit to the Japanese Garden of Peace at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. A military history museum brings to mind violence, destruction and loss — the price of freedom paid with human life – but here there is a place of respite, a tranquil oasis for solace and reflection. This is the Japanese Garden of Peace, a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States, in honour of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. At the entrance to the garden is a replica of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Marshal-Admiral Togo's garden meditation study. It was built in Japan, disassembled and shipped to Fredericksburg, where it was reassembled (without nails) by the same craftsmen who created it in Japan. Many of the elements in this classic Japanese garden are symbolic: the black and white stones in front of the study represent the balance of nature — yin and yang. The raked gravel symbolizes ocean waves where stones and plantings stand in for Pacific islands. The flowing stream tells the story of a single raindrop returning to the ocean.
We conclude our sojourn in the Texas Hill Country with a visit to The Pioneer Museum, which celebrates a unique community created by early settlers for future generations. The museum features historic structures, authentic objects, photographs, and much more, giving an insight into early Texas family life, education, professions, and culture. Located on three acres, the museum complex is landscaped with plants native to the Texas Hill Country.
Following our visit we return to Austin and the ‘Stephen F’, where the evening is at leisure.
Tuesday 2 May 2017
Enjoy your breakfast. On our last full day in Austin we will be privileged to visit some of the private gardens that feature in the Inside Austin Gardens Tour event. This will be a unique opportunity to learn about the pleasures and pitfalls of gardening here in Texas and compare notes with enthusiastic gardeners.
Evening at leisure.
Wednesday 3 May 2017
After breakfast, sadly we check out of our hotel but we will have most of the day free for shopping and sightseeing at leisure in Austin. At an agreed time we will reassemble and transfer by coach to Austin International Airport, in time to check in for our overnight flight home.
Thursday 4 May 2017
Arrival is due in London this morning, when the group will disperse or make onward connections.