Austin’s Local Treasures: Barton Springs Nursery
An inside look at Amy Hovis's botanical wonderland in West Lake Hills
Nurturing the green heart of Austin, Barton Springs Nursery isn’t just a garden center — it’s a thriving community where the world of flora and design come together harmoniously. Nestled within the serene expanse of West Lake Hills, this 4-acre oasis invites visitors of all ages to wander amidst picturesque ponds, bring forward questions for their extremely knowledgeable staff, and encounter resident wildlife (be sure to say hello to Fig the turtle or Fern, the black cat!)
Our journey through the nursery led us to Amy Hovis, the co-owner of Barton Springs Nursery and driving force behind Eden, a renowned landscape architecture firm, to learn more about the nursery’s journey and her vision which fuels this luxurious landscape.
The Birth of Barton Springs Nursery
As you step into this planter’s paradise, the hustle and bustle of the city quickly fade into the background, replaced by the gentle rustling of leaves and the soothing melodies of nature—an unmistakable design to support the nursery’s true mission.
Since its establishment in 1986, BSN has been a fixture in the local horticultural scene. Originally founded by Austin locals, Conrad and Bernardine Bering, who shared a deep passion for plants and a strong commitment to educating others about the best gardening practices, the nursery has expanded its offerings to include a wider variety of plants, gardening materials, and expert advice.
As the nursery remains a go-to destination for both novice and experienced gardeners in the Austin area, the Bering’s legacy lives on through the shift in ownership.
From Film Sets to Flowerbeds: Amy Hovis’s Impact on Barton Springs Nursery
Meet Amy, your not-so-typical nursery owner whose journey began in the world of film. Guided by her father, a filmmaker himself, Amy honed her production skills and established her own company, which led her across the globe to the iconic city of Paris. There she spent a decade immersed in the film industry before shifting her creativity into the world of landscape architecture and design.
The French capital instilled the seeds of inspiration as Hovis explored lush landscapes and roamed beautiful gardens abroad. Here she observed the art of elevating everyday experiences in life – a philosophy she’d bring back with her to Austin many years later.
“Little touches can make each day feel so much more special,” Amy explains, and it’s clear that every detail of the grounds is unique and intentional.
Amy continues to be a beacon of inspiration by sharing her business and branding knowledge with those around her just as her father did for her. She also continues to uphold the family-oriented atmosphere started by the Berings by working closely with her own family, including partner and co-owner Greg Thomas, and her two adult children in their daily operations of the nursery.
The Faces Behind the Blooms
A standout feature of this garden hub is its Genus Bar, an on-site resource that serves as a plant troubleshooter’s dream. The informed staff is on standby to diagnose and provide solutions for even the most perplexing plant problems. Whether you’re dealing with drought restrictions or a stubborn garden issue, they’ve got the expertise to guide you.
Just around the corner, you’ll find their Potting Bar, where a member of their team will help you pick out the best-suited home for your new addition to the family.
When asked about her favorite element of the nursery, Amy says it’s her staff. “I love mentoring, and I love helping other people’s careers. That gives me more joy than anything else.” BSN currently has around 50 employees and paves the way for other seasonal businesses as they manage to provide year-round employment – a rarity amongst other garden centers.
Crafting Sustainable Elegance
When she’s not tending to the nursery, Hovis continues to lead as principal at Eden, an award-winning women-owned landscape architecture firm based in Austin.
Eden specializes in crafting outdoor spaces that blend seamlessly with the natural environment and take pride in their ability to design landscapes that are not just visually stunning but also sustainable, considering factors like climate change and water conservation.
“If we want to slow things down when it comes to climate change, this is the place to start, ” Hovis explains, as she urges that private property owners have a responsibility to address climate change through their personal landscaping decisions.
By designing innovative landscapes that are efficient, drought-resistant, and ecologically sound, Eden Garden Design contributes to a greener and more sustainable future for Austin and beyond.
The Artistry of Greenery
Hovis’s passion for greenery and design has culminated in the creation of Barton Springs Nursery, and it truly welcomes everyone. It’s become a destination for fancy dates, while simultaneously remaining a casual stop to swing by after a spin class.
“I want it to feel a little bit elegant but not upscale. For me, design is smart and cool, but if you throw money at something it’s just boring.”
Smart and cool it is. The grounds are thoughtfully organized into sections, each showcasing different plant varieties, with informative plaques along the way providing insight into the floral wonders you encounter along the way.
And nestled among this vibrant community of flora, there’s one resident with a unique celebrity status. Meet “Earle,” the charming staghorn fern gifted to the nursery by none other than Joanna Gaines, the renowned interior designer and television personality. Earle’s graceful fronds add a touch of elegance to the nursery, and it’s become a beloved member that visitors often seek out to admire.
These thoughtful additions, from free drip coffee to an on-site food truck and lending library to the cherished fern “Earle,” further enhance the warm and inviting atmosphere of Barton Springs Nursery, making each visit a memorable experience for all who wander through its pebbled pathways.
The Blossoming Marketplace
Beyond its array of native plants perfectly attuned to Austin’s climate, the nursery boasts a curated selection of home goods and an inviting apothecary. Everything in-store is the product of creativity from local artisans, offering a diverse collection of items, from beeswax candles to plant-themed puzzles and an array of other delightful, one-of-a-kind treasures.
Just when you think that’s as quirky as it can get, it gets quirkier.
Coming soon is the “Museum of Dirt,” an addition that’s part gallery and part garden supply store. As the name suggests, it’s a whimsical concept that promises to educate and entertain visitors about the intricate world that thrives beneath our feet.
Excitingly, there are even plans to introduce an on-site tattoo shop operated by Hovis’s daughter.
BSN continues to be a space for community events such as yoga, live music, and their ongoing Garden Spark Speaker series, but keep an eye out because you never know what might pop up over on Bee Caves Road.