The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has always been a great spot to get family photos in the bluebonnets and a leader in promoting the use of native plants in our landscapes. In 2012, the Center opened the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, the state’s largest native plant arboretum and a repository for significant trees from our state history, including a clone of Treaty Oak (and the location of dozens of inviting swings). Now, the Center is realizing the last part of its master plan with the opening of the Luci and Ian Family Garden on May 4, 2014.
The 4.5-acre Family Garden is the only native plant garden developed for families in Central Texas. Nurtured by reclaimed water, the Garden is a pilot project of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an effort to utilize certain land development and management practices to address global concerns such as climate change, biodiversity loss and resource depletion. Partly inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, which chronicles the disconnect between kids and nature, the Family Garden provides children and families with over a dozen interactive and educational features to experience nature in a whole new way.
Located on the opposite side of the Center from the Arboretum, the Family Garden doubles the garden footprint of the property. The features include:
- a Nectar Garden showcasing more than 25 different species to draw butterflies, hummingbirds and other nectar-lovers
- a one-acre Play Lawn
- a Metamorphosis Maze to represent the cycle of life made up of 10 species native shrubs (when you complete the maze, you will be greeted by a large frog sculpture)
- the Robb Family Pavilion to expand the Center’s capacity to host events, such as Nature Nights
- the Hill Country Grotto, made up of reclaimed boulders, with pictographs inside, complete with its own waterfall (but not for swimming)
- Watering Holes to allow kids to observe and interact with the wet stuff
- Dinosaur Creek, winding through the landscape with dinosaur footprints and karst boulders (since what kid doesn’t love a creek?)
- Nature’s Spiral, a mosaic–inlaid kid-sized limestone wall that illustrates the spiral shapes found in nature
- Dry Creek Overlook to observe the action below
- Stumpery with giant tree stumps for kids to climb on
- Larger-than-life Giant Birds’ Nests, woven with vines and branches harvested on-site and accessible by small ramps, stocked with wooden eggs to stimulate creative play
- A Wildlife Blind to stop for a moment and marvel at the avian visitors who visit an adjacent pond
I had the opportunity to take a sneak peek of the Garden a few weeks ago, and am getting really excited about the opening and the opportunities our kids will have to grow an appreciation for nature and the outdoors.
On May 3rd, the Wildflower Center will host a preview for its members from 9am until 3pm. The following day, the Center will be open to the public from 10am until 7pm. For more information about the opening events, visit the Wildflower Center’s website.
As we mentioned previously, you can also enjoy the Family Garden this summer, when the Wildflower Center hosts its Nature Nights Programs. Nature Nights are fun explorations of plants, animals, and the ecology of Central Texas. Each evening features interactive presentations and nature crafting for kids of all ages.
- Thursday, June 12-Plants and Play in the new Family Garden
- Thursday, June 19- Fossils
- Thursday, June 26- Wondrous Water
- Thursday, July 10- Snakes
- Thursday, July 17- Wildlife Tracking
- Thursday, July 24- Birds of Prey
What’s your favorite part of the Wildflower Center? Which features do you think your kids will like most?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 8-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]