AUSTIN (KXAN) – A new attraction at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a dream come true for Johnson daughter, Luci.
“I wanted a garden that would appeal to the child in all of us and that is exactly what I think we have here,” Johnson said this week during a tour of the garden with KXAN News Anchor Shannon Wolfson. “We hope this will be a place where its not all about instructional learning– its about observational learning, experiential learning, its about going outside and having fun and playing.”
The 4.5 acre Luci and Ian Family Garden, named for Johnson and her husband, Ian Turpin, is the only native plant garden in Central Texas developed for families and is designed to encourage hands-on, creative outdoor play, with sustainable features including giant birds’ nests, a creek, caves and a maze.
The maze portion of the garden was donated by Ann and Roy Butler, longtime friends .f Lady Bird Johnson, and the namesakes of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
“Of course they partnered with Lady Bird Johnson on what is now appropriately known as the Butler Hike and Bike Trail and what is now known as Lady Bird Lake and to see Ann come and share in my dream and Ian’s means the world to us,” Luci Johnson said.
There are more than a dozen interactive and educational features made of natural materials such as Nature’s Spiral, a mosaic-inlaid limestone wall that illustrates the spiral shapes found in nature. Other features include a maze made of native shrubs, giant tree stumps for kids to climb on, giant birds’ nests made from native grape vines, a grotto with caves and a waterfall, a lawn designed with native turf, a creek with dinosaur footprints and water activities, and much more.
The Family Garden is a family affair, as well. Johnson’s sister, Lynda Johnson Robb, is also one of the garden’s largest donors and a pavilion on site is named in honor of her family.
“My sister Lynda Robb has created this little gem people can come to and have family celebrations,” Johnson said.
“It’s a delicious experience but also I know that what parents and grandparents seem to have the least of is time and you can get on and be able to enjoy some outdoor exercise equipment and at the same time be able to observe your children.”
Johnson said she hopes her mother would be pleased by the garden.
“I will not put words in Lady Bird Johnson’s mouth in her death as I can assure you I dared not in her lifetime, but I hope that she would be delighted that children of all ages are going to come and discover in nature as she did, the joy of being alive, the gift that our native land has for us.”
Designed by landscape architect and artist W. Gary Smith and architecture firm TBG Partners, the Family Garden is a model for eco-friendly landscaping as a pilot project of the national Sustainable Sites InitiativeTM program.
The Luci and Ian Family Garden was made possible by more than 200 generous donors, who together, contributed more than five million dollars to fund the project.
The grand opening was Sunday, May 4.