Stop Everything: We Just Discovered East Austin Succulents
On the first official day of Spring in Austin, Texas, I was recovering from the chaos of SXSW when a friend tipped me off to a cactus nursery in a hip part of town called East Austin Succulents, which has subsequently changed my perception of cacti as I know them.
East Austin Succulents is an outrageously-gorgeous cacti and succulent nursery in East Austin, the quickly gentrifying “hipster” part of town that I have come to know and love over many years traveling to the city. East Austin is home to Practice Yoga, the iconic Franklin BBQ, and Cycleast Bicycle Shop— but my latest discovery might just be the “most Austin” of all. East Austin Succulents scours the state of Texas, the nation, and the globe to find rare and hard to find cacti and succulent species, which come in 2″, 4″, and 6″ varieties.
As an extension of the Tillary Street Plant Co-op, they also have a terrarium-building station and an on-site airstream home to a friendly black cat and a collection of endearing, hand-painted garden signs. Visitors can shop for a variety of native, local plants– including mesquite, agave, bougainvillea, Esperanza, date palms, Texas plumeria, loquats, laurels, brown turkey fig, and literally every variety of cactus or succulent I have ever seen, and then some.
The nursery’s real showstopper comes in the form of an endearingly-styled cactus greenhouse, which was blasting the Gift of Gab Pandora station on the day that I arrived, which, for those familiar with the “Keep Austin Weird” mantra, is a very “Austin” thing to do in a greenhouse. The entry way to the greenhouse features a sign that says “Thank You For Being A Person”, and the young, attractive staff wore bandannas and colorful sneakers to compliment their Ray Bans.
Many of the cacti in their collection looked like creatures from Star Wars, filling out their tiny pots with warped, gnarled hues of color. I found myself particularly attracted to a legion of blood-red moon cactus, and a pinky-orange hybrid that I have never seen before (and I’m the type of person who seeks out weird plant matter).
Every time I leave Austin, I bring home a tiny succulent or cactus that I typically wrap in a towel and smuggle through in my checked bag; it’s one of the more endearing practices I’ve developed in my growing relationship (and love affair) with Texas– the cactus is so evocative of this beautiful part of the American southwest. This year, however, I couldn’t limit myself to just one. When I landed back in New York after visiting East Austin Succulents for the first time, I immediately opened my checked bag to make sure that not just one, but all six of the cacti that I purchased had made it home safely. Much to my delight, not even a needle was out of place. Even the leaves on the native Texas Plumeria stalks that I shoved in my backpack had made it through the flight unscathed. In my mind, this was a beautiful metaphor for the hardiness and resilience of things that grow in the desert: nobody messes with Texas– and the same goes for its plants.