Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Austin, Texas
November 2007

Anyone who loves the idea of using native plants in landscaping knows of the work done at the Johnson Wildflower Center. It is justly famous for the work it does promoting the use of Texas natives. November is not the best season for wildflowers, but when you’re near a garden you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit, and November found me in Austin, Texas.

The address says the garden is in Austin but you drive pretty far from the city to get to it. It’s pretty easy to find but the entrance from the road is not well marked. The garden is located well off the road so when you reach it you really feel like you’ve escaped civilization. The entrance is across a wide, dry (at least when we were there) creek bed, through majestic live oaks. The live oaks are covered in tillandsias, which I found pretty exciting. I rarely see epiphytes in the wild. Beside the path is a large cistern connected to a visually interesting aqueduct, all part of an elaborate water harvesting system.

garden entrance tillandsia

The central area of the garden is a courtyard surrounded by buildings constructed in a way that reminds me of a 19th century Mexican estate. I know it's not really old but I had to keep reminding myself of that. The buildings house a very nice gift shop, a visitor's gallery, as well as research and administrative areas.

garden courtyard courtyard planting

Most of the 42 acre site is devoted to fields of wildflowers. They were not much to look at in November, but must be spectacular in spring. Fortunately there are plenty of other areas of interest here. Beyond the courtyard is a walled area called the "theme gardens". These beds highlight different combinations of native plants. Some are designed to highlight grasses or succulents, others to attract butterflies or hummingbirds. All give great ideas of how to use native plants.

theme beds

On a terrace above these theme gardens are three "home comparison gardens". These are designed to show distinctly different landscape styles, using both native plants and suitable non-natives. A very educational display.

home garden

This is a garden everyone should see. There are excellent interpretive signs explaining the reasons for things and the plant identification labels are abundant. The gardens themselves are a nice mix of manicured gardens and wild areas. Even in November there was much of interest. Only a few things were in flower but those few were abuzz with butterflies and other insects. Seed heads were abundant and beautiful and attracted birds galore. I'm anxious to go back and see it in spring.

here to see more photos of the Johnson Wildflower Center.

To visit the official website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, click

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