Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lady Bird Johnson And Her Legacy To The Hill Country Of Texas

There are many who say that Lady Bird Johnson was the “better half” of the marriage between the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his First Lady. And, a first lady, she truly was.

Until her death in 2007, Mrs. Johnson was an inspiration to those who knew her personally, but also to those many more who had never met her. During her life, her work to beautify America, through her various projects, left a lasting impact across the nation. Even after her life’s passing, the goal of sustaining and nurturing native plants and landscapes continues.

Things are just a bit more personal down here in the Texas Hill Country, because this is where the Johnson family had its historical roots, where President Johnson first acquired his political base, and where he and Lady Bird raised their family, except for the extensive time they spent in the nation's capital. It is also where, when his long political career came to an end, they both came “home.”

Unfortunately, while the former President did not have many years left after leaving the White House, Lady Bird lived to the age of 94. And, it was in those years following her husband’s death that she helped establish the National Wildflower Research Center. Donating both money and land, but more importantly, her time and influence, she helped set in place a permanent institution in Austin dedicated to preserving the indigenous plants and landscapes of the hill country.

Today, the renamed Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is located several miles south of downtown Austin, and is a part of the University of Texas. Its 279 acres is open to the public, and provides a peaceful and aesthetically attractive location highlighting the native plants and landscapes of the hill country. The architecture of the buildings reflects the history of the hill country, and over 600 native plants are found on the grounds. A beautiful courtyard, and several streams, highlights the gardens. Center volunteers swarm around the grounds and gardens, pruning, clearing, cleaning, and answering visitor questions.

Various non-strenuous walking trails wind through both forests and meadows, and there are conveniently placed benches to provide both rest and meditation along the way. There is a visitor’s center, a learning center building displaying changing special exhibits, a library, green houses, seed silos, and an auditorium. If you are hungry, there is a cafe for lunch. Overlooking everything is an observation tower from which you can look down upon the center’s gardens, grounds, and buildings.

While the flowers you will see in bloom will depend upon the season you visit the center, a visit in any season will provide great fun and satisfaction, even if you are only remotely interested in native hill country plants. My wife and I again visited the center a couple of days ago, and during this very late October visit, we enjoyed seeing many native plants including the Texas Poinsettia and the American beautyberry. Monarch butterflies were everywhere, and this only added to the enjoyment of our day.

There is always a bonus after spending several hours walking through the gardens, trails, and grounds of the wildflower center. A large gift shop, which offers hats, shirts, wildflower note cards, books, and other things, is a nice place to browse. The books about the hill country are my weakness. There are always more books I want than I have money in my pocket. But, I always manage to buy at least one.

Thank you Lady Bird for all you did to preserve the native wildflowers, plants, and landscape of the Texas Hill Country. You, and your many gifts to this area, are not forgotten by those of us who never had the pleasure of meeting you.


  1. I was clicking through the "next Blog" tab on the blogger interface and it took me a long time to find an english speaking one. and there you are. Like your blog.

  2. very good blog, congratulations
    regard from Reus Catalonia
    thank you

  3. I spend a lovely afternoon at the Wildflower Center and thoroughly enjoyed it. Being from "the East" there were lots of new plants and flowers - many that won't grow here. Thanks for the reminder. webb

  4. I had know idea about her contributions to the flora and fauna of our nations countryside. What an incredible passion to undertake when much of the reason several lands serving as home to many go destroyed by natural disasters, something out of our control. What we could control and nurture, she certainly gave reason for doing so.

    Thank you so much for sharing this and pleasure to meet your written acquaintance . . .

    sharing the light,
    miss erica hidvegi,
    the Enlightenment advisor

  5. I was relieved to find an english language blog.
    And, this is a very nice one. I have a crazy one
    on eblog. Please visit.

    Leave a comment if you like. Crazy but funny!