The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin, an extension of the University of Texas at Austin, has long been a beloved destination for the city, and the nation’s leading voice for native plants, natural landscapes and ecological health. Since its founding in 1982 by the former first lady and actress Helen Hayes, the 279-acre site has educated people about the beauty and versatility of wildflowers and performed research into the many environmental benefits native plants provide.
The latest development at the Wildflower Center is an exciting one. This May, the new Luci and Ian Family Garden will open, connecting children and their families to the natural world by providing more than a dozen interactive features on 4.5 acres that will be a model for eco-friendly landscaping. Named after lead donors Luci Baines Johnson, the youngest daughter of President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, and her husband Ian Turpin, the wonderland of native plant gardens will double the current garden acreage on site.
“There is nothing like this garden in Texas,” says Susan Rieff, executive director of the Wildflower Center. “The Luci and Ian Family Garden will offer children a fun and safe environment for exploring the natural world that we hope will instill in them a sense of wonder and excitement.”
This May, the new Luci and Ian Family Garden will open, connecting children and their families to the natural world by providing more than a dozen interactive features over 4.5 acres.
The walkway leading to the Family Garden is surrounded by a nectar garden, which will draw butterflies and hummingbirds, making for an enchanting entrance. Here, families will find a giant play lawn next to the solar-powered Robb Family Pavilion that will host workshops, talks and story times. A spotlight feature will be the Dinosaur Creek, with "footprints" cast from models of dinosaur fossils found in Central Texas. Cascading water will be running through, leading to several grottoes and caves made with stone dug up from the site.
A wildlife pond with birds, fish and turtles will be safely behind a blind with viewing spots, so that visitors can observe the animals' behavior in a more natural habitat. A nature build area with loose items such as hay bales and branches will allow kids to create their own nature constructions. Other features include porous limestone “pedestals” for adding water to a creek, giant bird’s nests, a metamorphosis maze, a spiraling wall inlaid with mosaics and much more. Numerous raised walkways will run along the dry creek overlook, as well as a picnic area, nature trails and of course plenty of landscaping and wildflowers to complete the Family Garden.
Part of the goal of the Family Garden is to connect today's children back to nature, says Damon Waitt, Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. "Kids aren't spending as much time outside these days... This garden is intended to give them the opportunity for nature play," Waitt says.
Funding for the Family Garden was received via an ongoing capital campaign that has raised over $5 million from more than 100 generous donors including Lynda Johnson Robb. The grand opening will be held on May 4, 2014.