Exploring Fortlandias creative hideouts

Exploring Fortlandias creative hideouts

December 21, 2022
Chrysaline fort

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 tabbed Fortlandia, and I unchangingly go see it. This year, considering 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 versifier 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 sprint inside with squeals of glee. Fun!

Mars Base

Mars Base by Austin Diamond Lab was a hive of worriedness 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 trappy wood cutouts of astronauts, fantastical animals, flowers, and…prickly pear?

In flipside room, an exuberant science-lab mural adds color.

Tree Free Fort

Landscape tracery firm Studio Balcones designed the farm-like Tree Free Fort out of packages of hay topped by a bamboo hut. Good old-fashioned fun.

There were a couple increasingly 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 trappy scene.

And an arching, red-berried possumhaw holly glowed red versus the corrugated-steel wardship buildings. Gorgeous!

Inside the souvenir shop — ta-da!my books were on display, front and center! How tomfool 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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Digging Deeper

Come learn well-nigh garden diamond 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.

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