Discovering the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Experience joyful wandering, stone pathways, perennials, cacti, stately oak and pecan trees, a meadow of carefree wildflowers and so much more at this Austin Wildflower Center.

| February/March 2006

The Hill Country of Central Texas has a breathtaking beauty in the springtime, when wildflowers sweep across fields in hues so vivid they don’t seem quite real. One looks at the vistas and understands that “Don’t mess with Texas” isn’t just some macho cowboy ultimatum, but rather a call to preserve and treasure the wild beauty of this countryside.

And an answer to this call lies tucked into the hills of southwest Austin: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a 279-acre public garden dedicated to preserving native plants. Its work in landscape restoration, plant conservation and environmental education is a national agenda—not just a source of pride to Austin residents, but an inspiration to visitors from across North America.

The center opened in 1982 at a different location and under a different name—as the National Wildflower Research Center on a small plot in east Austin. Opening on Lady Bird’s 70th birthday, it was the fulfillment of the vision and passion of this former first lady and her good friend, the acclaimed actress Helen Hayes, now deceased.

Over the years, as the center has grown and changed and moved, Lady Bird’s tireless commitment to this cause has never wavered. Now well into her 90s, this grand Southern woman has made her name synonymous with beauty in the landscapes of the United States.

“I’m optimistic that the world of native plants will not only survive, but will thrive for environmental and economic reasons, and for reasons of the heart. Beauty in nature nourishes us and brings joy to the human spirit; it also is one of the deep needs of people everywhere,” Johnson wrote in a letter to wildflower center supporters in 2002.

Wander Joyfully

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a perfect setting for joyful wandering, with stone pathways winding through a series of naturalistic plantings of grasses, perennials, cacti, stately oak and pecan trees and a meadow of native wildflowers, carefree and cheerful. A bright red native sage near the entry waves hello, making it quickly evident that herbs fit comfortably into this graceful vision.

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