The layout of a North Austin church’s meditation labyrinth has indeed provided some inspiration.
Though not quite finished, the Labyrinth Community Garden, on land owned by St. John’s Episcopal Church on Parkfield Drive by Braker Lane, is designed to somewhat mirror the adjacent meditation labyrinth.
During the design stage, "someone suggested a spiral idea, like the labyrinth," said Hal Hughes, a member of the church vestry and of the steering committee for the garden. While in the planning stages for several years, the first 14 beds have been built so far this year, with more to come on the 10,000-square-foot area, Hughes said.
"It’s open to everybody," said Hughes, a semi-retired civil engineer. "The whole reason for it," he said, is to bring together community members. Although it is a church program, and operates under the church’s nonprofit status, it is not solely for church members, he said.
The still-growing garden will be the beneficiary of proceeds from the NXNA 2017 Garden & Artist Tour on Saturday. It will also be included on the tour, along with a variety of other gardens.
"We’re all different," said E.J. Brown, co-chair of the tour. "Some are more manicured. … You don’t ever see the same thing twice."
The self-guided NXNA (North by North Austin) tour is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; cost is $10 per person (children younger than 12 are free). Tickets can be purchased online or in person; the visitors must begin at one of three "starting point" gardens, where they will receive a map/program and a wristband. In a clever twist, the wristbands are made of paper with wildflower seeds, Brown said, "so they can be planted afterward."
The 16 gardens are in the North Austin area, roughly bound by U.S. 183 and Parmer Lane and Interstate 35 and MoPac, Brown said. (Brown calls two sites "bonus gardens" because they are outside the boundaries.)
As well, the gardens will feature artists selling their work — from oil paintings to ceramics and sculptures — on this Mother’s Day weekend. In some cases, the person whose garden is on the tour is also the artist selling artwork, said Brown, a mixed-media artist.
Brown’s eclectic garden is on the tour, featuring "a whimsical collection of upcycled art pieces" as well as a tree nicknamed a "Who Tree" because it is likened to something "straight out of a Dr. Seuss fantasy world," according to the tour program.
Her yard includes plenty of plants displayed amid bottles, statues and even a tricycle raised above ground.
"I don’t ever believe that less is best," said Brown, 65.
The program describes other gardens on the tour as showcasing fairy gardens, trickling fountains, purple martins, native plants and more.
Regarding one garden on the tour, the program says: "This postage stamp sized yard was once a barren wasteland. Over the years it has been transformed and filled with a smorgasbord of herbs, perennials, and diverse plantings of colors and textures."
In addition to private gardens, the tour includes gardens at Barrington Elementary School and NYOS Charter School, as well as the North Austin Community Garden at the YMCA of Austin and Adelphi Acre Community Garden.
This will be the third NXNA garden tour; previous tours occurred in 2013 and 2015, Brown said. She has helped work to resurrect the tour and plans to make it an annual event on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.
Brown said she is not sure how many visitors to expect to take the tour, but she was told by a gardener on a past NXNA tour that more than 250 people visited his garden that year.
One goal for the tour, Brown said, is to show people "There’s a real strong sense of community" in North Austin.
The Labyrinth Community Garden was selected as the beneficiary because "We are going to grow together," Brown said.
Uncertain about how much money will be raised, "The only idea I’ve committed to is a bench for the labyrinth (garden)," Brown said. "When they’re working on their plot, there’s no place to sit down."
In the meantime, volunteers at the Labyrinth Community Garden are working toward more progress, including monthly workdays to finish building a fence, among other things. They have also gotten donations of fruit trees from TreeFolks and received several grants.
The garden beds are available in two sizes: 4-foot by 10-foot and 4-foot by 20-foot; those who are renting garden beds agree to use organic products and to donate 10 percent of produce to a food bank, according to the church web site.
Plans also call eventually to have a pergola and other features. Though this is the first growing season at the garden, some beds recently already had tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and more.
"I hope this time next year, it’s going to look gorgeous," Hughes said.
More information about the tour can be found at www.LoveNorthAustin.com/NXNA-garden-tour. Additional information about the Labyrinth Community Garden is available at www.austinstjohns.org/community-garden