January 28, 2024

Once a year, designers submit creative fort designs to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The winning forts become part of the garden’s annual Fortlandia event. For a few months, kids get to play on them — climbing, leaping, crawling, lounging, and chasing through them. I always go visit to see the fun designs the makers come up with.

By the way, Fortlandia ends this Sunday, February 4th, so if you want to see the forts — and perhaps play on them yourself — go soon.

Texas Wild Cards

My favorite fort this year was Texas Wild Cards by Jen Robichaux. Who hasn’t had fun building a house of cards as a kid? Now you can play inside one!

Jen’s sturdy cards feature the native flora and fauna of Texas.

Bluebonnets are the star, of course.

What a charming fort, and kids seemed to enjoy it too.

According to Jen’s website, she’s making actual playing cards with these designs too.

Bloom Boxes

Bloom Boxes by Coxist Studio represents pixelated colorful wildflowers that carpet the countryside in spring. These rainbow-hued boxes have lots of crawling and hiding places for kids to explore.

Bluebonnet Bend

Bluebonnet Bend by Point B Design Group has winding crawl-and-climb spaces and is painted that distinctive bluebonnet blue.

House of Birds and Words

House of Birds and Words was built by Bluebird Speech‘s Beata Longo, a speech-language pathologist.

On the exterior walls, it shows the names of birds in sign language and braille.

Inside, bird voices are written on the walls.

It’s cute, although I wonder if any kids actually do the reading, or if that’s mainly to entertain parents.

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders by Designtrait Architects has colorful, abstract florals and ramps to get inside. Slides offer quick “chutes” back down to earth.

Monkey Bar Fort

The colorful Monkey Bar Fort was created by Ria Bravo for old-fashioned climbing fun.


Wormholes by sculptor Brent Baggett of Oculi Studio has a trippy pattern and peekaboo windows. It “invites visitors to squirm and wiggle their way through spiraling passageways as they imagine themselves in a subterranean world.” I like it!

I somehow missed seeing Creature Feature by Rialto Studio and Wisteria by Shelley McDavid. But I’m sure they are equally fun and have been played on nonstop during another season of Fortlandia.

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Digging Deeper

March 16: Attend the third annual Budding Out Plant Sale & Festival on 3/16 at the John Fairey Garden in Hempstead. Rare and distinctive plants from the garden’s nursery and from select plant vendors will be for sale. Additional offerings include art, ceramics, jewelry, food, music, and presentations. Admission: $5 for members, $10 for non-members, children under 12 free. Hours: 10 am to 4 pm; members get early admission at 9 am (memberships available on day of event).

April 6: Come out to Austin’s Mayfield Park on 4/6 for the Mayfield Park Gardening Symposium & Fundraiser, 8:30 to 11 am. This annual benefit for the park includes a raffle, plant sale, and garden speakers.

Come learn about gardening and design at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, authors, and gardeners 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. Season 8 kicks off in fall 2024. Stay tuned for more info!

All material © 2024 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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