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LADY BIRD WILDFLOWER CENTER

January 30, 2012

Lady Bird Wildflower CenterGrowth Plans in Full Bloom at Lady Bird Wildflower Center

They’re thinking outside the flower box at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with plans for new attractions that could increase attendance by up to 50 percent. The events coincide with the 100th anniversary of Mrs. Johnson’s birth and are seen as a tribute to her legacy.

One new attraction–a $1.4 million, 16-acre arboretum–is under construction and scheduled for completion this spring. Called the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum in honor of a major supporter of the Center, this will provide a show case for the vast diversity of native Texas trees, including the 53 species of oak trees that are native to this state. Descendants of trees that helped shape Texas history will be displayed in a “Hall of Texas Heroes.” Standing their ground here, for instance, will be off springs of the Alamo Live Oak, Austin’s Treaty Oak and the Sam Houston Kissing Bur Oak.

More venturesome is the planned $5 million, 4.5 acre children’s garden now on the boards and scheduled to open in 2013. The Center has not offered a playground for children heretofore for fear of endangering its plant collections. In the new playground children will be able to run, play, jump, dance and climb, in an open space of their own, while learning about biology, botany, ecology and more.

Lady Bird Johnson founded the Wildflower Center in 1982 with actress Helen Hayes, on a small site near the old Mueller airport. She called it “my gift to the nation.” The center moved to its present site in 1995. In 1997 it was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In 2006 it became a research unit of the University of Texas at Austin. Today the center’s research and education arm is internationally known.

Mrs. Johnson was born December 22, 1912, in the small east Texas town of Karnack and was always captivated by nature. During LBJ’s tumultuous years in the White House, 1963-1969, Mrs. Johnson became known as the “Environmental First Lady.” Not only did she put environment on the political agenda, she also campaigned successfully for the passage of scores of bills that called for “beautifying” America’s highways, creating scores of new national parks and protecting native plants throughout all of North America. She often argued that using native plants was good “for the soul and the pocketbook.”

With all that’s “coming up” here, the Lady Bird Wildflower Center is still a restful place where you can find quiet niches for meditation. The buildings and gardens sit quietly on the grounds still looking, as Mrs. Johnson wanted, “as though God put them there.”

NOTE: This is just a heads-up for my friends. My story on the Wildflower Center will appear in the spring issue of Home magazine. For more information, meanwhile, you can visit www.wildflower.org. This is chock full of news.

GWEN GIBSON

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