The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, TX


The wildflowers were the winners (by a short head) in yesterday’s poll, so here they are! These pictures were taken during a snatched visit to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I thoroughly recommend a visit: allow at least half a day if you want to see everything.  

In April, the state flower of Texas is one of the stars of the show. The miniature, startlingly blue bluebonnets are familiar at a gut level: one of the archetypal wild flowers, in any language.

Oenothera speciosa

For an English person, this blend of the familiar with the unfamiliar continues round the garden: it’s fun to see stately agave, exotic trumpet vine and Indian paintbrush mixed in with the pink evening primrose, aquilegia and galliarda so commonly found in our gardens.

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing agaves naturally associating with other plants in the landscape. I love their cool blue foliage and the way a delicate imprint is often left by the edge of a leaf on one that has been next to it: a visual record of closeness.

Red meadow

I haven’t a clue what the red flowers are that draw the eye along the path. It couldn’t be salvia, could it? The day was a little windy, so the pictures are a bit too impressionistic for identification.

I used the Lady Bird Center’s excellent wildflower identification tool to find out the names of several of the flowers. The various folk names are, as ever, a delight. The flowers above turns out to be a member of the Iris family, Nemastlis geminiflora (Prairie celestials or Pleatleaf). I liked the way the stamens seem to be clinging on to each other for protection.

I wasn’t so sure about the crossvine Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’ (below). It makes a spectacular show, but the flowers all look like hungry little mouths. I dare say busy pollinating insects appreciate this kind of blatant invitation.

You’ll perhaps have spotted that I like flowers. For me, a garden without them is a sad place. So it was perhaps ironic that here amongst a cornucopia of wildflower treasures, I was particularly fascinated by a patch of lush, sinuous, grey-green leaves: Rudbeckia maxima.

I don’t know if it was the evident health and happiness of the plants or the promise of things to come that made these leaves so alluring. I’m sure this part of the garden will be even more beautiful when the tall yellow coneflowers appear later in the season.

Rudbeckia maxima leaves

I could have spent a lot longer in the family garden. I had to resist a strong urge to play in The Stumpery, so I’m sure children will love it. I’ve used a slideshow format for these pictures, though it may take a second or two to load (if you can’t see them, let me know in the comments as I can easily reformat).

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The tree trunk fence post works really well as a support for the log fence, don’t you think?

About 30,000 lbs of wildflower seeds are sown along Texan highways each year, creating a spectacular sight in spring and early summer. All mowing, except where essential for safety, has been delayed for the last sixty years(!) until after the early summer wildflower season ends. I’d love to see this done more widely in England.

15 Replies to “The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, TX”

    1. Good spot – my sweetheart says it is a type of salvia – red Texas sage, also called Hummingbird sage. I didn’t see any hummingbirds, sadly!

  1. Stunning garden and photos! Also amazing fact about Texan highways.

  2. I love to see flowers grown that way – I once saw a rambling rose trained very low as a boundary hedge around a veggie patch which was very nice. (I’ve been told it is Texas sage, a type of salvia.)

  3. Thanks to your wonderful blog I am learning about the plants of the area I Iive. Thank you for this wonderful review and the pictures! I am in Austin almost every day for work. Seeing it from an “English person” opens a wholly new perspective.

    1. I’m glad you found your way to the bluebonnets over here! You’re so lucky to be able to spend time in Austin – there’s rich pickings there for anyone who likes all things creative! I was very sorry that our visit was such a brief one.

      1. Actually I just clicked on everything and happen to land on the bluebonnets: the flowers in your pictures are just addictive. I hope there will be next time in Texas.

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