Shoppers browse for plants at the Texas Master Naturalist Country Chapter’s Native Plant Sale and Festival, which was held Saturday at the Riverside Nature Center. 


To the Brandts, filling their yard with native plants is critical to building the kind of garden they want.

 “We’ve seen both here and in Florida what introduced species can do to damage the environment,” said Judy Brandt, who lives part-time on the outskirts of Kerrville and part-time in Florida. “They just sort of take over and they’re really hard to get rid of once they take over. ... We want to make sure we do the right thing and plant the stuff that belongs in the environment here.”

 That’s why they decided to go to the Riverside Nature Center and the Texas Master Naturalist Hill Country Chapter’s Native Plant Sale and Festival, which happens annually on the first Saturday in October.

 While the event has been going on for more than 20 years, this year was a little bit different in that there was a buy one, give one special for the Hill Country Youth Ranch, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic care for abused and orphaned children.

 “It means a lot considering the fact that the ranch already does so much for us as it is,” said a HCYR resident named Skyler.

 In 2016, the fine arts building on the HCYR’s campus burned down. The building has since been rebuilt and a courtyard designed, but one thing is still lacking — plants to put in the garden. That’s why the organizers of the plant sale decided to help the HCYR.

“We just want to fill out the courtyard to make it more inviting and make it look more at peace for our children when they visit the fine arts building,” said HCYR Recreation Director Richard Hernandez. “Everything’s actually prepared for the plants to put in already.”

The plant sale collected around 30 plants for the garden project, Hernandez added. They plan to plant their new leafy friends quite soon.

The monetary proceeds of the sale went to the Riverside Nature Center and the Texas Master Naturalist Hill Country Chapter to benefit their educational programs.

“It’s more of a community service and an education opportunity for our local people to learn about the benefits of the use of native plants,” said Becky Etzler, the executive director of the RNC. “We’ve got some great native plant nurseries in close proximity, but some folks don’t take the drive out to these places. It’s just nice to have it local for them.”

There were a lot of shoppers — more than 300 people — and many of them were lined up outside the gate before the sale opened its doors. Etzler said that within 45 minutes, about 75 percent of the plants were already purchased.

“It has become a true, local event,” Etzler said. “People mark their calendars and wait for this to happen.”

The shoppers were from all over the Hill Country, some coming from as far as Leakey, like Peggy Berkstresser, who has attended the sale in past years.

“It’s always fun to come,” Berkstresser said with a smile. “I just love native plants. You’re always looking for something the deer won’t eat.”

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