A blooming good time at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


Spring is the Wildflower Center‘s showiest season, and last Saturday I shared the gardens with many other flower-peepers. (Click for part 1 of my Wildflower Center visit.) In this post we’ll revisit the nearly 1-year-old Luci and Ian Family Garden, where Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) was in full bloom.


Gulf Coast penstemon is one of my favorite spring-blooming perennials for part shade in my garden, and it’s beautiful in a full-sun rain garden here.


An extended gutter carries rainwater off the roof of a shade pavilion and into a large cistern. Excess water overflows into a surrounding rain garden.


Hill Country penstemon (Penstemon triflorus), I think


And more penstemon


I really like this screen of Arizona cypress ‘Blue Ice’, fronted with masses of Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima), autumn sage (Salvia greggii), and Wheeler’s sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri). Wouldn’t this be pretty to screen neighboring houses in your sunny, dry back yard? That is, if you have no power lines to watch out for; those cypresses get tall.


Rivers of autumn sage and feathergrass


A stream runs through the family garden, and irises were in bloom along the margins. A tile “pictograph” in one of the play caves makes a fun backdrop.


One little girl was fascinated by the waterfall…


…and the stream. I wish this garden had been here when my kids were little. They’d have loved being allowed to muck around and do some hands-on exploration. Luckily for them, their parents knew where to find streams in the greenbelts around Austin, so they had plenty of mucking time anyway.


I never see many kids playing on the walls or walking the Nature’s Spiral, but I guess it’s hard to compete with running water.


Gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana) was in full bloom here, as in my garden.


Although the Wildflower Center’s gardens contain only plants native to Texas, the staff horticulturists are not averse to using new cultivars of old favorites, like ‘Brakelights’ red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), a smaller, red-flowering version.


I’m a sucker for red and blue and enjoyed this combo of Arizona cypress, ‘Brakelights’ red yucca, and Wheeler’s sotol. It looks like ground-covering purple verbena is starting to fill in nicely too.


Looking back at the shade pavilion, and the cistern shown at the top of this post


Bluebonnets mingling with the fresh green leaves of an emerging plant — standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) maybe? liatris (thanks, Agnes!).


Throughout the family garden, bronze animal sculptures await discovery. Here we have an inquisitive raccoon…


…a jackrabbit about to bolt…


…a pair of coyotes howling at the moon…


…a roadrunner with a freshly caught anole in its beak…


…and a covey of quail under a mesquite.


A large play lawn is seeded with Habiturf, a low-water, native lawn mix suitable for the hot, sunny Southwest. It looks beautiful, doesn’t it?


Lady Bird’s vision for increasing environmental awareness and appreciation of native plants lives on, especially here in Austin.

Up next: Swinging in the Wildflower Center’s native arboretum. For a look back at the Wildflower Center’s birds and blooms, click here.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

21 Responses

  1. Agnes Plutino says:

    I believe that is Liatris (Gayfeather),not Standing Cypress coming up in that one photo. That’s what it looks like to me. By the way, these photos are just gorgeous!!!

  2. This looks like a good place to visit.
    We have to get over there. Seems like Spring is flying by.

    Great photos….

  3. Wow, Pam! It looks beautiful. This is one of my very favorite places. It looks like Austin has received some good rain and there have been additions since my last visit. Thanks for sharing. I would like to share this with some of my friends if you don’t mind! ~Julie

  4. Alison says:

    I love the tile pictograph. I’d like to play in there.

  5. peter schaar says:

    Thanks for these postings, Pam. I was down Friday for the plant sale. It was raining, chilly, and I had to pick up some things at Barton Springs Nursery, so I didn’t really get to look at the LBJWC gardens this time. BTW, my P. tennis is blooming also. Isn’t it a great plant for dappled shade? Would P. triflorus be successful in the same situation? What do you think?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I haven’t grown the Hill Country penstemon, Peter, but based on the name I assume it would want better drainage and more sun than the rain-garden-friendly P. tenuis, which, yes, does well in dappled shade. —Pam

  6. peter schaar says:

    Spellcheck again. I was asking about hill country Penstemon!

  7. Jenny says:

    Weren’t the penstemons gorgeous. I would love to have more but never seem to find them. And did you notice they have taken down the old colonnade with the Mustang grape ivy adjacent to the greenhouses. I hope they plant the wisteria which is really stunning this year. I saw the screening up last week but thought it had something to do with the plant sale. Today they were erecting the new posts. All gardens need a renewal from time to time.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I did notice that the grape pergola on the right side of the demo garden is down. I figured it was just time to replace rotten wood. I wonder if they will replant the grapes or go with another vine? I enjoyed the native wisteria on the other side. —Pam

  8. Pam Duffy says:

    Pam, these photos are wonderful. In the first picture, what was growing between the autumn sage and the walkway? Thanks. Lots of ideas here.

  9. Absolutely spot on fantastic! Love it! When I went last it was high summer, so the view was very different.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Ooh, you’re a hardy garden visitor, Shawna, if you made a visit under the high beam of the Death Star. Maybe you’ll have time for a return visit during the gentler, and more flowery, days of spring when you’re in town next week. —Pam

  10. TexasDeb says:

    Pam you are always getting good shots, but that combination of the bluebonnets with the emerging Liatris is especially gorgeous. The saturation of those colors! How fortunate you had great light so you could capture the beauty without bright sunlight washing the vibrancy away. The staff there should have you on standby every overcast day to chronicle the Center year ’round!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Aw, you’re kind, Deb. The soft light was nice for photography, although I was kind of hoping it would rain so I could get pictures of the rain gardens in action. —Pam

  11. rickii says:

    How wonderful to leave a legacy of such beauty.

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