Former Laredoan John L. Dromgoole has been recognized by the Austin Broadcasting Association with its Excellence in Broadcasting Award. The recognition was conferred on July 7.
Dromgoole is recognized for numerous broadcasting efforts, including a radio show called Gardening Naturally, “the longest continuously running organic gardening show in the world.”
Gardening Naturally has aired for the last four decades on KLBJ AM 590. The bi-weekly Saturday and Sunday show offers a question and answer format for organic gardeners.
He was also recognized for a segment called “Backyard Basics,” which is part of PBS affiliate KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener and the “Weekend Gardener” on KXAN TV’s Saturday First Cast.
Dromgoole hosts a one-hour country and western show called Dance Halls and Last Calls on SUN Radio, Austin’s award winning non-profit radio station. The show airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
The 1966 graduate of Nixon High School found his beginnings in radio as a DJ on KLAR AM. He also hosted “Sonidos de la Paz” (Sounds of Peace) from a Nuevo Laredo station. He studied radio, TV, and film at Texas A&I in Kingsville.
HE HAS A DAY JOB
John Dromgoole’s day job is operating The Natural Gardener, the eight-acre organic nursery and horticultural center he established in southwest Austin in 1991 with his wife Jane.
The Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin Poll has recognized The Natural Gardener as the Best Nursery for 12 years. The diverse gardens at the store have been featured in Texas Highways, Herb Companion, and Fine Gardening magazines.
The Natural Gardener was recognized nationally in 2008 as the “Innovative Garden Center of the Year” by Garden Center Magazine. In 2014, it was named one of the Top 5 Garden Centers in the country and #1 in the Southwest Region by Today’s Garden Center Magazine.
Much of the site of The Natural Gardener is a registered wildlife habitat dedicated to the ecosystems of birds, butterflies, and critters; and demonstration gardens for vegetables, herbs, and xeriscape.
The company has 45 fulltime employees and another 45 seasonal employees.
Throughout the Spring planting season, the store is filled with gardeners of all ages moving through vast inventories of blooming plants and shrubs, budding fruit trees, vines, tables and benches of vegetable and herb starters, and an area filled with xeric plants. There’s a greenhouses dedicated to succulents and tropicals. There’s a great inventory of tools, organic plant foods and pesticides, seeds, birdhouses and feeders. A “Garden Pharmacy” conducts analysis on plant problems and offers an organic solution.
And there’s a Zen garden for contemplative reflection on life’s gifts and/or travails and on all the vibrant living stuff in the little red wagon you’ve pulled through every square foot of The Natural Gardener.
THERE’S A WONDER TO IT
The most pronounced aspect of the place — there’s a wonder to it. If you love plants and how they look and smell and how they make you feel — it’s a sensory overload of botanica, birdcalls, and dragonflies.
The store reflects Dromgoole’s longstanding work to advance organic gardening, water conservation, xeriscape, and environmental issues in Austin.
Absent from The Natural Gardener is the pervasive smell of chemicals and pesticides that most nurseries emanate.
Like a latter day J. (Appleseed) Chapman, Dromgoole preaches the gospel of cultivation in the natural world.
A prolific artist, he is on demand as a speaker on the virtues and benefits of organic gardening, and lately has narrowed his presentations to the spiritual nature of trees.
(The Natural Gardener is located in South Austin at 8648 Old Bee Caves Road. You can tour the nursery at www.naturalgardeneraustin.com though a personal visit would be far more rewarding. If you want to skip the uninspiring trip from San Antonio to Austin on IH-35, take U.S. 281 in San Antonio to Blanco, jump on 290W, and end up in South Austin and a stone’s throw from The Natural Gardener.)