Wildflower Center aglow with the spirit of the season


Luminarias glowed and tree lights twinkled throughout the native-plant gardens at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center during last weekend’s annual Luminations event. I’ve been several times over the years, but this time the lights extended all the way to the new Family Garden.


We got there at opening and enjoyed the lights as evening fell.


My young nephew was with us, so we headed straight for the Family Garden, passing this golden bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum) along the way. That’s a russet bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at the turn in the path.


In the fading light I was wowed by a mass planting of Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri), whose bleached inflorescences stood tall enough to partially hide a bench. I wish the border of Lindheimer muhly in my own garden looked this fabulous, but it doesn’t get full sun and the grasses remain much smaller and floppier.


Wrapped in lights, a row of Arizona cypresses (Cuppressus arizonica) in the Family Garden made living Christmas trees.


Musical performances were scheduled throughout the garden’s pavilions, including this one, adding a holiday soundtrack to the festivities.


Luminarias lit the way back to the main gardens.


It struck me as kind of strange to be walking through dark gardens by candlelight, where all you could see was glowing paper bags. But it was nice too.


Back in the main courtyard, it was a party, with a steel band playing, people smiling and talking, and hot chocolate being handed out.


We popped into the gift shop. Of course.


I found a glass armadillo ornament, which I immediately realized we needed for our tree. I also perused the shop’s extensive garden-book selection.


Oh, looky here — autographed copies of Lawn Gone! are on display right up front!


At last it was time to go, and at the exit we stopped to ooh and ahh over this enormous live oak, seemingly lit with fairy lights all the way up into the evergreen branches. I was even more impressed to realize that the lights were not physical lights but projected images from four upward-pointing projectors at ground level. How clever, and no ladders required!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    Great pictures! Now I’m wishing I’d popped in to take a nighttime walk. I especially like the picture with the yellow maple matching the luminaries. And I love the idea of using a projector instead of physically wrapping all those lights!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I love that idea too, Lori. I’m wondering how much it would cost. —Pam

      • Pam Duffy says:

        They sell those projection lights on QVC among other places. They come in red, green and blue. They run about $150 depending if they are having a special or not. The further away you move the source the larger the area covered. I’d love to have a green one for the oak trees in the back yard. It looks really pretty when the wind blows and the leaves look like they are fluttering.

  2. We talked about going. But, after two or three really busy days, we decided to just stay home and veg out.

    Wish now we’d gone. Great photos.

  3. The lighting…how romantic!

  4. TexasDeb says:

    There is something special about being out and about in garden spaces at night. It almost feels as if you have snuck in somehow. (or maybe that’s just my outlaw streak surfacing…)

    Gorgeous photos and if you get a projector system I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  5. deb says:

    I so appreciate you using BOTH common and scientific names for the plants you write about! It’s much easier to look them up for my zone. Thanks…

  6. Katina says:

    We try to make a point of going to the Luminarias every year. We usually end up at the center at about 8 at night when everyone with the little kids are leaving. This year we got there at 715 and it was crazy. Shawn did say that he wants to get there at the beginning next year so we can walk around the gardens and actually see the gardens as opposed to just walking around looking at lighted bags. I did really like the lit orbs they had at the entrance to the kids garden. We were dissappointed that they had the tower shut down this year (we usually go up and take a few aerial photos).

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Ha! We’ve always been with the little kid crowd — in fact, the earlier the better so we can get a parking spot without walking a mile. I definitely like being able to see the gardens because, like you say, it’s kind of weird walking around in the dark to look at glowing bags.

      We ran into Andrea DeLong-Amaya and Lee Clippard placing those cool lighted orbs in the family garden! I asked how they plugged them in, out in the middle of the play lawn, and Lee said they are battery operated. I want some! —Pam

  7. […] out for Luminations this Saturday and Sunday, a holiday tradition I highly recommend. (Here are my pics from last year.) This year the staff has upped their game, with red and green Christmas balls adorning the spiny […]

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