I want to thank, once again, my new, dear friends in Austin. Specifically, Pam/Digging, MSS/Zanthan Gardens, Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden and Bonnie/Kiss of Sun, for puttin’ on the dog for us in their wonderful city. I’ve decided the Spring Fling was so exciting and full of things to do that I’m going to devote several posts to it. It is cloudy outside at the Red Dirt Haciendo, so until it warms a little in anticipation of this afternoon’s thunderstorms, I will be indoors writing. I don’t like to garden when it’s chilly.
That’s right my northern friends. I’m a cold weather wimp.
Our first stop on the Spring Fling Tour was the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which resides on 284 acres in the southern part of Austin. Lady Bird Johnson and actress, Helen Hayes, founded the original organization in 1982. For me, it was an opportunity to visit the work and legacy of one of my childhood heroes. I remember watching the First Lady on Good Morning America, speaking about the importance of wildflowers and the loss of them along our highways. She devoted herself to the idea that America should love and care for its wildflowers and other native plants at a time when “progress” was paving over or mowing down much of the countryside without any thought to its repercussions. Actually, now that I think about it, “progress” still is.
However, I believe we are all better stewards and more conscious of our environment because of people like Miss Lady Bird.
When I walked down the gravel path into the center, the first thing I saw was a large cistern. Our docent pointed out a flume where collected rainwater ran into the cistern providing water for the garden. Austin is a very “green” city with lots of bicycle and walking paths. Xeriscape gardening seems to be the norm; the local Starbucks has a green roof; and billboards promote green housing additions. It was truly a unique place to visit.
According to Miss Lady Birds Wildflowers, How a First Lady Changed America, which I bought at the center for Bear, a neighbor told Lady Bird that she once saw Lady Bird’s deceased mother, Minnie, running down the drive with a bouquet of bluebonnets in her hand. Lady Bird was very sad about her mother’s death, but this vision soothed her, and from then on, the sight of bluebonnets gave her the sense of being loved. After seeing so many bluebonnets in person, I can understand why they were among her favorite flowers. I’ve grown bluebonnets as annuals here, but I’ve never been able to get them to reseed. I think it is just too cold at my homestead. Lupinus texensis is one of six different Lupinus species growing in Texas and identified as the state flower of Texas.
While in Austin, I saw many things I would like to grow and some which grow well here, but so many need Austin’s warm USDA zone 8 weather to survive. I live in zone 7a. I kept asking, “Will that grow in Oklahoma?” One of the Austin bloggers referred me to the Native Plant Database at the Wildflower Center. I searched several plants on the database, and it is extremely easy to use. There was so much more to see at the Wildflower Center, but our group needed to move on, and so do I. Look for another post soon about our next stop which was lunch and a very special talk from Tom Spencer of Soul of the Garden.
By the way, the legend is that Lady Bird got her nickname from her Nanny, who said she was as pretty as a Lady Bird. The Lady Bird beetle is also known as a ladybug. I think she was destined to be a gardener, don’t you?