If you are in the Austin area, like I was this past week, or not even close but just need a destination for a road trip, or have a burning desire to add to your cactus collection, I would suggest Living Desert Ranch in Spicewood, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Austin west on Hwy 71. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
I have frequented the Living Desert for more years than I can remember, dating back to the original location in Bee Cave, down the road from the new location in Spicewood, and always enjoy my stops there to buy yet more cactus that I really don’t need and to visit with Darrell Dunten, the owner. Darrell and his wife Yvonne, started the business in 1978 after moving to the Lake Travis area and trading a 9 to 5 job for one, as Darrell put it, that is eight days a week!
This is the original location. I took this right after he had to move. Now there is some ugly concrete and brick car lube place there, and they cut down all the trees! What a waste.
You will have to be on the look-out and ready to turn at 22701 Hwy 71 into the new Living Desert Ranch. The greenhouse sits back on the property away from the busy highway, and that is a pleasant change from being right up on the highway like before.
I asked Darrell if they ever regretted making the change, and he shook his head no. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do-take something we love and turn it into our occupation? And he did, enjoying the geometrically-designed plants that can endure a harsh environment that reward the faithful with beautiful flowers.
Darrell is also an artist who can create beautiful paintings, but he also uses that talent to create glass and metal sculptures for the garden, and uses glass pieces as hardscape touches with cactus plantings.
Things have changed for Darrell: he lost his wife Yvonne to ALS in 2010; his son Jared was left a paraplegic from a tragic swimming accident; the business made the move from Bee Cave to Spicewood. But life goes on, and the Living Desert continues.
His son Jared, his wife Kimberly, and their twin sons Levi and Asher, live on the grounds of the Living Desert, and Jared has further developed his own artistic talent in spite of his paralysis and has his art gallery open at the Living Desert. Darrell has a new love in his life, DeAnna Lynn, and the Living Desert has diversified from being just a cact5us nursery, also offering itself as a destination for corporate meetings, wedding, reunions, overnight stays, and other occasions.
Even if you think you aren’t a cactus and succulent fan, the Living Desert is still an interesting stop with lots of things to see, art to appreciate, and ideas to offer for your landscaping.
For more information and pictures of the Living Desert, check out my cactus blog at www.cactusarecool.wordpress.com