Winter Tree Fest showcases forts designed by Austin architects, designers, students

Brenna Hinshaw

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosted its annual Winter Tree Fest on Saturday in the Wildflower Center’s arboretum.

This year’s tree festival was centered around the Wildflower Center’s “Fortlandia” exhibition, a temporary exhibit showcasing 10 different forts built by local architects, designers and students from UT’s School of Architecture.

“Most of us spend time as kids building forts,” said Tanya Zastrow, director of programs at the center. “Fortlandia helps people connect to that part of their childhood.”

One fort called “The Rainbow Room” included colorful plastic glass in its design, along with an old piano to play. Another fort named “Blanket Fort” consisted of three tents and was created using vinyl tarps.

“All of the forts have different designs,” Zastrow said. “It’s fun to explore them and look at them from different viewpoints.”

In addition to showcasing the center’s programming, the festival gives attendees the chance to learn about and connect with nature, said conservation program manager Minnette Marr. Activities included a tree and plant sale and informative tours given by arborists and ecologists about trees and native plant life called “Walks and Talks.”


“I think the Winter Tree Fest is a particularly important event for the Wildflower Center because it sort of rounds out our programs,” Marr said. “It’s not just about wildflowers, it’s also about native trees and shrubs.”

The Winter Tree Fest also encourages locals to help conserve native plant life, Marr said.

“By having the tree and plant sales, it gives people the opportunity to have native plant life in their own yards and neighborhoods,” Marr said.

Attendees also enjoyed a tree climbing area, a campfire to make s’mores and an area to play corn hole.

“(The festival) is all about getting outside, connecting with nature and plants and enjoying the trees,” Zastrow said.

UT alumnus Aaron Kong had never been to the Wildflower Center before the festival.

“The demographic here is mainly kids and parents,” Kong said. “If there was a way to run a bus out here, a lot more students would visit the Wildflower Center.”

Zastrow said there are many ways for students to connect with the Wildflower Center.

“(The Wildflower Center is) a part of the University, and students get in for free,” Zastrow said. “UT students can connect with nature, relax, get away from campus and have fun.”

The “Fortlandia” exhibit will be open through Feb. 25.