Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Huisache Tree in Lady Bird Wildflower Center
Huisache Tree in Lady Bird Wildflower Center

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.

Wildflowers in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, TX

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.

Lupinus texensis, Texas bluebonnets
Cistern used to water the plantings at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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?


  1. There was a book you bought and I didn’t? I am incredulous. I did run home and order The Deaths of Sybil Bolton. As per your instructions. Good piece of reporting on how Lady Bird got her name………

    MA, it was a children’s book. A picture book and a little young for Bear, but I wanted her to know more about the First Lady.~~Dee

  2. Kathleen says:

    Another cold weather wimp chiming in to say how much I enjoyed your post about Lady Bird’s garden. It sounds like you all had a wonderful time together.

    We did, Kathleen. Maybe you can come to the next one.~~Dee

  3. Aiyana says:

    Hi Dee,
    I found that small kid’s book, Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America at a thrift store last year. Although it was written for kids, I enjoyed reading it.

    Aiyana, me too. I thought it gave some great information about Miss Lady Bird. Bear thought it was sad.~~Dee

  4. Hey Dee,

    Boy, was I glad to meet you. What fun you are! We’ll need to arrive early to the next Fling to have some fun.

    I am still stuck here in San Francisco. I can’t wait to get home–if even for a bit–to mow the lawn and catch up on my own garden chores. Seems like heaven right now.


    Robin at Bumblebee

    Robin, it was a joy to meet you too. I’m glad we’ll have more Flings. I can see it growing into something big. Why are you still in San Fran?~~Dee

  5. kate says:

    This was a interesting post about the wildflower centre and Lady Bird Johnson. I have always wondered how she got her name. The Bluebonnets are gorgeous. I’m looking forward to hearing more about Spring Fling here.

    Kate, thanks so much. The Spring Fling was a lot of fun, and we learned a thing or two.~~Dee

  6. Nancy says:

    Lady Bird Johnson was a natural resource all to herself. After she opened the Johnson ranch to tours, she would often meet the visitors and welcome them in person. She never felt imposed upon, rather, she felt honored to have so many guests.

    When the area organisations would put on fish fries or Bar-b-que dinners as fund raisers, she’d either send someone, or be driven to it and buy several plates. I suspect she had other, more private donations that she never wanted anyone to mention…she was a good neighbor by all accounts.

    Nancy, thanks for this wonderful information about our First Lady. I didn’t know these details.~~Dee

  7. This post is an example of something I am very much appreciating while exploring blogs on ‘Blotanical’.

    The bulk of them are in North America – and, as a UK dweller, I feel I am being privileged with a glimpse into aspects of America which most of us simply don’t come across otherwise.

    As well as the Redbud trees (which have been catching my eye in photos) I have been humbled by thoughts of tornados and impressed by those who are living with snow in a way I have never needed to. Weather is ‘real’ there.

    And – in this post – ‘Green Austin’.

    I don’t want to be too heavy – but, our news about the USA and the environment is almost always about the difficulties other countries are having in persuading it to face up to issues of Climate Change.

    Sometimes it’s hard to keep in mind that America is so big and there are so many people there – that the opinions of its citizens are not necessarily those of its government.

    Reading these blogs is mind-changing me.

    I am seeing a gentler side of America – and am appreciating it.

    You are being great ‘Ambassadors ‘ for your country.

    Some people (and I include myself in this) are at times so frightened by America’s role in the world, we have to make a conscious effort to not to become ‘anti-American’.

    It may not be world-shattering news to many of you that the wife of one of your presidents cared about wild-flowers, or that people in Austin are ‘going green’ – but I would say that letting the rest of the world know about it by mentioning it on your blog – is a truly peace building action.


    Gosh, Esther, I never had such lofty goals in mind when I started a gardening blog, but I agree, it helps us to know each other as individuals. I’ve decided I just don’t believe much of anything I see on the news. In fact, I don’t watch the news anymore. I read our local paper and some stuff on the internet. Keeps me sane. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.~~Dee

  8. Gail says:

    Hello from Tennessee! You are so right there was way more to see at the Center than I imagined and seeing them through the other bloggers’ eyes has been a delight. It was fun to meet another Okie (other than my dear husband) and then to find out Frances is also from OK, too much! I will be back to see and read about your Red Dirt Ramblings.


    Hey Gail! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you, your husband and Frances. It felt like we were all extended family.~~Dee

  9. Pam/Digging says:

    What a nice post about Austin and one of my favorite inspiring places here, Dee. Thanks for sharing what you learned about Lady Bird and the native-plant research center she founded. It was great visiting with you here in Austin. Thanks so much for coming!

    Well, Pam, thank YOU for organizing this event so very well and having us over. Love your place too.~~Dee

  10. Brianna says:

    Haha–I’m a cold weather wimp, too, Dee.

    I’m glad you had such a good time in Austin. I certainly enjoyed meeting you.

    Lady Bird Johnson’s life and ideals are inspiring, aren’t they?

    Brianna, I’m so glad your husband talked you into coming. It was nice to put your face with your words.~~Dee

  11. CurtissAnn says:

    What beautiful pictures and commentary– like I was there with a guide! Oh, you reminded me of the years Jim and I traveled the interstate highways and began to see them spreading wildflowers in many areas, rather than mow. I did not know it was Lady Bird’s work. And Helen Hayes– my goodness, a favorite!

    Look forward to more.

    Rosebud, you should have met our docent. She was from England and had the most beautiful garden herself. What knowledge, and you know how much we Americans love that British accent.~~Dee

  12. Curtis says:

    Thanks Dee for taking us along and telling the stories of the fling. What a great story about the Bluebonnets.

    Hey Curtis, thanks for coming along. Wish you could have been there.~~Dee

  13. Frances says:

    Hi Dee, you did a wonderfully thorough job of educating us about Miss Lady Bird, thanks for that. I remember seeing her speak at the convention center in Tulsa as a middle schooler. We were allowed to miss class to go hear her, so everyone jumped at the chance. But she was so eloquent and her accent and passion were very apparent, even to a bunch of hormone racing kids our age. We will look forward to the rest of your posts on our wonderful weekend.

    Frances, thanks for sharing your memory of Miss Lady Bird. I wish we’d gone to the same school in Tulsa. I never saw her in person, but she’s always been my hero. I think I was a budding gardener even then.~~Dee

  14. David says:

    Dee, can’t thank you and the others enough for bringing the rest of us along on your grand adventure. Thank you, each of you for your insights and pictures, for sharing them so willingly.

    David, MA and I thought of you all weekend. There were so many great photo ops, and Tom Spencer spoke right to our hearts.~~Dee

  15. I too am a long-time admirer of Lady Bird (although I always thought that was her real name, like one of those weird Southern names). I’m hoping that soon “progress” will mean things like rainwater cisterns as standard architectural features and green roofs as the norm. I had a blast visiting Austin with you!

    MMD, you are really fun too. I got to know you better because we shared the same car. Thanks MSS for driving. I thought her nickname was her real name too.~~Dee

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Keep flinging those Spring Fling posts onto the computer. I am just lovin all these posts.

    Thanks, Lisa, I’m working on the next one. My internet was down due to a storm.~~Dee

  17. I enjoyed this post with more info on Lady Bird Johnson, since I didn’t do a lot of research about her before going to the wildflower center.

    It is sunny and 69 degrees in my garden and I just finished mowing the lawn for the first time. A picture perfect day for a perfect long weekend with thoughts of nothing but gardening.

    It was a great pleasure to meet you in person and I look forward to more of your posts about the spring fling.

    Carol, you must have brought the great weather back with you. Hope it keeps up. We’re having more storms for lunch.~~Dee

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