Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
I must admit to a certain amount of bias when it comes to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. 23 years ago I worked at the original location of what was then known as the National Wildflower Research Center. Much of our focus was on raising the funds to build the beautiful facility now located in Circle C Ranch, about a 20 minute drive south of the city. I had a chance to see the architectural drawings of the new site before I resigned, which makes it that much more special to now walk around the grounds and see those drawings brought to life.
I love the way traditional building materials have been merged with a much more modern form, which results in a look that’s simple and uncluttered, yet so welcoming. There are wide covered porches, cisterns that collect the rainwater from the roofs, a beautiful gift shop and an inviting little cafe. Strolling along the extensive pathways, it’s the attention to detail that continually surprises. There’s something to see everywhere you turn, not just for adults, but also for children.
Toward the back of the grounds, there is a fantastic area where you’ll find a maze, a waterfall, a tunnel, an area where running water passes through a limestone formation, logs for children to play on, huge child sized nests made with some very large twigs, tepees and more. I can’t imagine any adult who can walk through that space and not latch on to some strong memories of childhood playtime.
We visited the Wildflower Center at the beginning of winter, which isn’t exactly an ideal time to visit a garden, but there was so much to see in the way of architecture, hardscape, art and informal as well as formal planting areas that you don’t end up feeling that you’re missing out on anything. I have to add though that we’ve already decided that we’re returning in the spring. What a beautiful sight it must be to see the fields covered in wildflowers!