Friday, March 2, 2012

Wandering the Wildflower Center

Last week I had the privilege of spending a day with two of my favorite gardeners at one of my favorite gardens. These women have answered countless questions, stocked my garden with innumerable plants and offered inspiration through their wonderful gardens.

Who are these paragons? My mother-in-law, and my dear friend Lona. We met at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in south Austin to tour the grounds and have a “ladies’ lunch” at the on-site and aptly named Wildflower Café. The day was perfect:  sunny and unseasonably warm.

View as you enter the demonstration gardens area.

Listening to these gardeners converse about plants, while I trailed after pretending I knew what they were talking about, was simply wonderful.

None of us had been to the center in awhile, though we have visited extensively in the past. We were all interested to see changes since those last visits.

We first stopped to inspect a new garden area at the head of the Hill Country trails, freshly landscaped and just being planted with natives. Next, we noticed the Ashe juniper logs lining the trails. In the demonstration gardens area, we were impressed with the small beds planted using round metal watering troughs.

One of my main goals for this trip was to inspect a small rock garden that I remembered seeing, since I am working on a rock garden here on the hill. The one I remember did not offer much inspiration, but the center’s staff had installed a bed in the demonstration gardens with desert plants and décor that jumped right out at me.  Yes!

At the center, located on the southern edge of Austin, one is guaranteed to see wildlife. A friend (actually, my husband’s fourth grade teacher!) who volunteers at the center pointed out the great horned owl that had taken up residence a few days earlier in a pocket bed high on the entrance wall.  To the left of the entrance is a small pond, in which three turtles were basking on a rock. This area is guaranteed to fascinate any young child passing by.

Because we visited in February, before most growth has begun, we enjoyed seeing the bones of the gardens. Lona commented that it would be interesting to come back and see how the gardens evolve over the course of the year. She’s right.

If you haven’t visited this wonderful place, you should. It abounds with native plants and landscaping tips and ideas especially relevant for central Texas. 

Our ladies' lunch was delicious, too.

One can even find inspiration in the parking lot!


  1. When I live in San Antoinio the golf course superintendents association I belonged to had a meeting soon after the gardens were renamed(I think)The demonstration gardens have really matured since then.

    1. I think those gardens must change over time. Many of them were different from our last visits. Always fun!

  2. Gardens and friends and lunch and a warm day-- what could be better?

  3. Hi Cynthia,

    Elizabeth and I were talking about chickens this morning while she was getting ready to go on her next 3-week working sojourn. She's been involved in developing new chicken standards for Whole Foods over the last year or so and travels to farms all over the place to see the variety of production methods, as well as train employees and auditors.

    So, while waiting to take her to the airport, I recalled you mentioning that you had a blog and found it via Google. When I read your experience with the Cornish meat birds I asked her about it. Bobtom recently harvested some and had also mentioned the toughness of the meat. She said that they're bred to harvest in 44 days, so that might be a factor. I think Bobtom let them grow for 12 weeks.

    Wiki has a pretty good page on broilers here.

    Anyway, it was fun reading a bunch of your entries, I like your writing style and humor. Especially the one where you said - flood and drought, it's how we roll. I have an old buddy, Crispin Cioe, who plays sax and he often uses that expression, so I chuckled when I saw it.

    We're fans of the wildflower center also and usually get there a few times a year. Up in Michigan we spent endless hours, years in fact, traipsing through vast forests taking photos while we ran the dog off-leash. We had a recreation area near our house that was 20,000 acres full of some of the best old-growth forest left in the state. It was hilly with huge meadows, ponds and lakes, an amazing bog with Tamarack trees and insect-eating plants (can't recall the name, big red flowers with tiny hairs angled down into the digestive area) and tons of wildlife.

    Thought I'd share a bit of that since you are such a nature-lover as we are. Happy blogging, John

    1. Hi John - glad you stopped in! Yeah, we probably let those chickens go a little long, looking for size. Perhaps we should quit worrying about that - but, in Texas, isn't everything supposed to be bigger?

      Your Michigan experience sounds fantastic. We have friends moving there soon, perhaps we should plan to visit . . .

  4. If I ever get to Austin, I will not miss this garden. So many bloggers rave about it and every image that I see makes me want to see more. I am pretty sure I would not know many of the wildflowers, but would appreciate them all. That long pergola is wonderful.

    1. There is always something beautiful to enjoy. Hope you make it down sometime!

  5. I love this place. Enjoyed your pics!

  6. I was glad to see your post on the WFC as I have not been there yet this year. I was supposed to give a tour on Sat. but it was cancelled and it was going to be a good chance to see what has changed since last fall. I don't know when you went but I imagine the last few weeks have brought the garden on in leaps and bounds. My garden certainly has. I imagine it i going to be a bumper year for the garden and the hill country. It is such a lovely place and we are so lucky to have it on our doorstep, with all the resources that it offers. Glad you had a lovely time and do come back when everything is in bloom. Maybe I could give you a personal tour.

  7. Jeez, i went with mom a long time ago, however i do not remember it lookin' this baeeuutifuuul!!! good pics mother!!!!!