Visiting The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas

Claudia Alta Taylor – later known as Lady Bird Johnson and founder of the Lady Bird Johnsson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, was an original champion of native plants and landscapes that fully embrace their genius loci. If you are in the region – visit these gardens; you will not be disappointed.

“I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent. I want Texas to look like Texas, and Vermont to look like Vermont, and every state to look like itself. I just hate to see the land homogenized.” 

– Claudia Alta Taylor (nicknamed “Lady Bird” by a nanny who thought she was “purdy as a lady bird”)

Every time I read this quote, I feel I must newly profess my enthusiasm for the vision of this woman.

I am so proud to know that she was once our first lady, and I am happy that I finally had the great opportunity to visit her wildflower center outside of Austin, Texas, a few weeks ago. It was everything I could have hoped for.

A Photo Tour of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in March

From the thoughtful and forward-thinking on-site water management and their leadership in cataloging and helping gardeners know their own native plants to the collection of culturally appropriate buildings and plants that grow there.

An aerial view of a tepee nestled among trees at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center thrives in an arid desert and shows how local materials can be used to define a place and style beautifully.

As you should expect of a large Texas garden, it features big skies, plants that thrive in the arid desert and summer heat, local stone, and buildings that recall the native people and cultural roots of the desert southwest.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
Water Cisterns that look like silos are dotted around the garden.

One of the largest rainwater capture systems in the world.

There are water silos of various sorts all through the site and a system of rills, culverts, and aqueducts that, coupled with buildings designed to capture runoff, make sure that every drop of water that falls on the site is either used effectively or stored for later.  When it was first built, this was the largest rain capture system in the USA.

A man is flying a kite at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center field.
Big, Beautiful blue skies in Texas hill country.
A windmill stands in the field at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The iconic windmill at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – is surrounded by outdoor fitness equipment that is part of an exercise circuit available to visitors.

The place is made for all sorts of visitors. Out-of-towners get a good sense of what this land and region is all about, and those nearby can also enjoy extra benefits like walking and jogging trails with exercise equipment ready for use.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
Pretty lights illuminate the large courtyard.

Everything in Austin seems like it is open air, and the indoor-outdoor lifestyle and architecture are strikingly different from the more enclosed density familiar in New England (some, including me, might call it claustrophobic at times). I couldn’t help but also notice that in every place (every. single. place), there were strings of pretty white globe lights.

These don’t just serve as impromptu garden lighting. They also direct you to the bathroom; they create false roofs, express amphitheaters, and establish instant dining rooms everywhere.  

I started to wonder if you even need a business license in these parts – it sort of seems like a truck, a picnic table, and a string of lights make you pretty legit in this part of the world.

grasses and a pond at lady bird johnson wild flower center in austin texas
The entrance courtyard garden and water feature at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center near Austin, Texas

The entire visit to Austin included exploring local restaurants and some of the more lively downtown streets that are known for bars and music venues, gathering with friends and colleagues, making over a community garden, and even after roughly 5 hours of planting, pruning, and spreading mulch, still needing to walk off the excess consumption.

Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora
Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) looks similar to wisteria.

A garden with 100% native Texas plants.

While freezing temperatures and even some snow was falling in Boston, it was spring in Austin.  The purple haze of the regional Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora – which looks a little like a non-vining wisteria and smells like grape soda) was blooming in gardens and along roadsides.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
Carolina jessamine - (Gelsemium sempervirens) yellow flowers
Carolina jessamine – (Gelsemium sempervirens)

I also fell in love with Carolina jessamine – (Gelsemium sempervirens – which is not jasmine. It is pronounced jess-a-meene – very different!). It has flowers that look like those of trumpet vine, but it is much tamer and more easily controlled.

Yellow Carolina jessamine flower
Yellow Carolina jessamine – (Gelsemium sempervirens) flower
opuntia cactus by a wall  Rochelle Greayer
Opuntia cactus. Image by Rochelle greayer.
silver agave plants in a garden byt rochelle greayer
Striking Silver-blue American agaves and other succulents grow throughout the gardens.
stock tank ponds at lady bird johnson wildflower center
There are a series of stock tank ponds that house water gardens.

Put all these blooms against a backdrop of bright white desert lighting, lots of silver-grey plants and grey corrugated metal and I felt like I was in a photo shoot for one of the millions of magazines and blogs that are obviously drawn here for the pleasant winter weather, pretty light and excellent side sideshows.

texas bluebonnets (lupinus) by  Rochelle Greayer
Texas bluebonnets (lupinus texensis).

I was even lucky enough to catch the very beginning of the famed Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) coming into flower. Unfortunately, since it was just the beginning of their bloom season, there were only a few dotted around here and there, and I didn’t get to photograph the full splendor of vast meadows full of these beautiful lupines.  Maybe Next time.

Until then, I hope you enjoy this collection of views from this inspiring place.

More details about its location can be found at the bottom of this post.


More images of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
The lady bird johnson wildflower center features 100% Texas native plants and is an excellent place to visit for ideas about how to make sustainable landscapes.
stone work and a tunnel at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
The stonework throughout the site beautifully features the colorful sandstone and limestone of the Austin, Texas, region.
waterfall at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
The extensive trails in the gardens include a grotto passage behind the waterfall located in the family and children’s garden area.
native oak tree in an arboretum at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center in texas
The Wildflower Center is host to the Texas arboretum and features 100% native trees, and the Texas Oak Collection (Texas has the greatest diversity of oaks in the U.S.)
water sistern at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
Part of the innovative 65,000-gallon rainwater harvesting and water management system on-site at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. image by Rochelle Greayer
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden by Rochelle Greayer
A beautiful flowerless planting scheme comprised of grasses, and silvery blue-colored succulents and evergreens. Image by Rochelle Greayer
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center garden cistern and observation towerby Rochelle Greayer
The stone observation tower and 10000 gallon cistern at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Image by Rochelle Greayer

The Lady Bird Wildflower Center is located at 4801 La Crosse Avenue in Austin, Texas.

More information about the garden and it’s extensive and impressive sustainability efforts (there are lots of ideas for home gardeners and garden designers to borrow from)  can be found at their website.

Read more about Native plants, Texas Gardens and wildflowers

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  1. Delphine says:

    I love this place ! thank you, Rochelle. The woman is so cute.

  2. K. Angel says:


    Thank you for visiting and writing this lovely tribute to Mrs. Johnson and sharing your experience. We really are so fortunate to have such a lovely, important space right here outside of downtown Austin, and so many people passionate about preservation on our side!

    Come back soon.


    K. Angel
    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

  3. I live in the Texas Hill Country, an hour and a half away from The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Thanks for featuring it. They’ve done a lot to continue the wildflower tradition in Texas. Brenda

  4. Best Mower says:

    Thank you for this amazing tribute to Mrs.Johnson. I have really wanted to visit this place and your post has inspired me!

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