Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Welcome to this place I love so much": Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at Austin Fling

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center played matchmaker when I moved to Austin in 1994, giving me the nudge I needed to fall in love with Austin’s rugged and often spiny natural beauty. Twenty-three years later, I'm still smitten, and I can't wait to share the Wildflower Center, a native-plant botanical garden and research and conservation center, with everyone who comes to the Austin Fling next spring.

Lady Bird Johnson, visionary

Former First Lady and native-plant proselytizer Lady Bird Johnson founded the Wildflower Center in 1982, along with co-founder Helen Hayes, with the simple but essential mission to inspire the conservation of native plants. Dismayed by miles of landscape-cluttering billboards and junkyards along the nation's highways, she fought to preserve and celebrate the unique beauty of each region of the country. "I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont," she famously said.

A lot more than wildflowers

While spring wildflower displays at the garden are always a huge draw, I like to point out that the Wildflower Center is about so much more than Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush. You'll find all kinds of Texas natives growing in the 284 acres of gardens, woodlands, and savannas. Even the popular new family garden -- fun for kids of all ages, so don't miss it -- features 100% native plants. Yuccas, grasses, trees, shrubs, perennials, wetland plants, cactus, native turf grass, and yes, wildflowers -- a fascinating range of Texas natives, from across our vast state -- can be found here.

There's a lot to see: the observation tower that doubles as a rainwater cistern, a family garden, stream and pond gardens, a meadow, an arboretum with tree swings for kids and adults, theme gardens, a pollinator habitat garden, and more. If you can tear yourself away from exploring the gardens, you can watch a short film in the visitor gallery about Lady Bird and the native plants she advocated for and/or shop in the center's well-stocked gift shop and bookstore.

Photography Workshop

On the morning that we'll visit, we're excited to be able to offer a special early-bird bus to the Wildflower Center for those bloggers interested in a garden photography workshop led by one of our generous sponsors, Precision Camera & Video. Look for this opt-in class when we open registration in early November. Those who want to sleep in or enjoy a leisurely breakfast will join us at the Wildflower Center on a bus that leaves just a little bit later.

We look forward to sharing this unique native-plant botanical garden with you and feel sure that you'll enjoy all that the Wildflower Center has to offer. And if the matchmaker works her magic on you, it's OK with me if you fall in love with Austin's natural beauty too.