Postcard from... Austin


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The Independent Online

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centre, you can stroll along paths featuring colourful blooms abuzz with butterflies, relax while swinging under towering oaks, let the children play in a new family garden, get ideas for using native plants in their own landscaping, and even glimpse research on topics like building green roofs to survive harsh heat of Texas.

Children can play in giant birds’ nests made of native grape vines, splash in a small rippling creek, explore caves, play on giant tree stumps and wind their way through a maze made of native shrubs. This interactive  centre is the embodiment of the vision of its founder, the late wife of President Lyndon Johnson, who had a passion for horticulture.

The centre was founded in 1982 by the former First Lady and the actress Helen Hayes to protect and preserve native plants. The National Wildflower Research Centre had no public space, but that didn’t stop public curiosity.

“We didn’t expect to have visitors, but they came anyway,” explained Joseph Hammer, one of the directors.

The centre, named after Mrs Johnson in 1997, became part of the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. Lady Bird Johnson died in 2007 at the  age of 94.