Wildflower Center

A hedge maze, 10-foot wide bird nests and a wildlife blind are some of the features the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will install in its new family garden, which is currently halfway completed.

Center director of horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya said the $5 million Luci and Ian Family Garden, which will open in May of 2014, will be a 4.5-acre area aimed at educating children about wildflowers and nature.

“Visitors would come to the Wildflower Center, and it’s not terribly kid-friendly … There’s a lot of ‘Don’t run,’ ‘Don’t throw rocks,’ ‘Don’t pick the flowers,’” DeLong-Amaya said. “We really want the new children’s garden to be designed more so that there is a space where kids can run around and make lots of noise if they
want to.”

Mark Simmons, director of research and consulting at the Wildlife Center, said although the addition of the garden could skew some research data because it will create more pollination activity, the garden should significantly improve research opportunities, especially possible sociological behavior research.

“Potentially, you can imagine that sort of data, which is badly needed, on how people react to the natural world, how that improves interaction and how people learn,” Simmons said. “There’s been quite a lot done on that already, but certainly this could be an opportunity to do that because [research] is what [the garden] is designed
to do.”

The garden is part of the pilot program of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, also known as SITES, which is an international program aimed at promoting sustainable
land development. 

TBG Partners, an Austin-based landscape architecture firm, helps ensure the project meets as many SITES credits as possible, TBG senior associate Ronnie Stafford said.

DeLong-Amaya said the garden will include a hedge maze that will have sculptures depicting the life cycle of a frog, from egg to tadpole to adult.

“I think of the maze itself as being sort of a metaphor for life,” DeLong-Amaya said. “You progress throughout your life, change into different things and sometimes you make a wrong turn, and that’s okay. You just turn around and go back the other way.”

The garden is the largest project since the Wildflower Center opened in 1982, DeLong-Amaya said.

“There’s a lot of need for families to have places where they can go to let their children be outside in a safe environment, so that’s one of our main goals,” DeLong-Amaya said. “The idea is that kids will discover things in a more natural setting but also in a more controlled setting.”

Stafford said the project will be helpful to the Austin community because it is focused on nature.

“If people come to it, I think they’ll find out that it’s different than going to a regular playground,” Stafford said. “It gives them an opportunity that a lot of kids don’t have anymore just by playing on a structured playground versus being able to be hands-on, put your hands in the water, utilize the canopy walk to get up into the trees, and go out and get dirty.”

UT students Alison Wyllie and Shelly Bergel remove weeds from seedlings at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Saturday. The seedlings are slated to be delivered to areas affected by last yearÂ’s fires in Bastrop County.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

With Tuesday marking the one-year anniversary of the most destructive fire in Texas history that reduced more than 30,000 acres of Bastrop County to ashes and more than 1,500 homes to mere memories, a UT graduate student is working to restore life to the affected landscape.

UT molecular biology graduate student Vlad Codrea has spent the last year developing and maintaining a tree nursery at UT’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with the goal of delivering thousands of native tree seedlings for Bastrop residents and park officials to plant. Codrea hopes this massive effort will help restore natural areas that were devastated in last year’s fire.

“[The seedlings] will be given out to landowners whose land had been burned by the fires as well as planted across Bastrop State Park,” Codrea said.

Codrea said he plans to distribute the 70,000 seedlings growing at the Wildflower Center to Bastrop residents and park officials in October.

UT’s Green Fee Committee funds the majority of Codrea’s tree nursery, the first of its kind at UT, with a $54,000 grant distributed over three years. A part of the Office of Sustainability, the committee allocates the funds it receives from the $5-a-year “Green Fee” that each student pays as part of student fees.

Karen Blaney, Green Fee Committee program coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, said the project’s originality and long-term positive effects motivated the committee to award the grant.

“In terms of far-reaching impacts, it is up there,” Blaney said. “There is hope for the tree nursery even after he gets his degree and moves on.”

Codrea received the grant before the fires took place, with the intention of creating a student-run tree nursery at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, but moved to the Wildflower Center and integrated his efforts with theirs after seeing first-hand how destructive the Bastrop fire had been to native plant species in the Lost Pines region.

“After the fires, we knew we had a great responsibility and opportunity to help with the reforestation and restoration project of the Lost Pines,” Codrea said.

Since receiving the grant, Codrea has worked with the Wildflower Center to build a suitable greenhouse for the nursery and hosts student and community volunteers every Saturday. 

Microbiology graduate student Jeremy Henderson helped tend to the seedlings for the first time at last Saturday’s volunteer event.

“By replanting the trees, I think it is a reminder that not only is there a community available to help them nearby, but it also helps them heal those wounds of loss,” Henderson said.

Saralee Tiede, spokesperson for the Wildflower Center, said the nursery is the most extensive project a student has ever conducted in conjunction with the center.  

As for the use of the Green Fee funds on the nursery, Blaney said the nursery is a very visible example of the Green Fee at work and its benefit to the University and community.

“Every single year, students come and wonder what UT is doing for the surrounding community,” Blaney said. “The tree nursery is a really good answer for one way that UT can contribute to the region.”

Blaney hopes the free and public nursery that often hosts student volunteers will spur student interest in conservation and sustainability issues.  

“Not many people get to grow a tree,” Blaney said. “Who knows what it will spark in somebody?” 

Printed on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 as: Seeds donated to Bastrop 

Elyse Sens talks to customers about the water stones she creates and sells at the Lady Bird Johnson Arts and Artisans Festival, Sunday afternoon. The festival was held in honor of Lady Bird Johnson's 100th birthday and featured various local artists that highlight nature in Texas with their work.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

The annual Lady Bird Johnson Artists and Artisans Festival allows people to view exhibits and purchase artwork that highlights the beauty of Texas’ environment.

Over 20 art vendors and several hundred visitors attended the event, which took place at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center on Saturday and Sunday. The exhibits featured many different styles of art, including watercolor, origami and mixed media collage.

Joseph Hammer, director of product marketing at the Wildflower Center, said the festival serves as part of the center’s commemoration of the former first lady’s centennial.

“She would have been 100 this year, so we have special events to commemorate her life,” he said. “She liked art and collected some herself, and this event gave her a chance to interact with people who shared those sentiments.”

Hammer said the festival allows people to view nature in a different way than they normally would.

“It’s kind of ironic. Sometimes people see more when they look at a painting than when they look at the real thing,” he said. “I’ve often thought some of these wildflower paintings make people view plants a completely new way.”

Hammer said the festival displays the wildflower center’s values in a fun, interactive way that many people enjoy.

“We want to help people appreciate the art in nature,” he said. “It’s great that people recognize this is an important place. This center is not just about Austin or Texas, it’s part of a North American environmental organization and we pride ourselves on that.”

Sue Kemp, an artist and watercolor paint instructor in the art school of Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria, has shown her paintings at the festival for more than 10 years. Kemp said depictions of nature in artwork can touch people deeply.

“Art allows people to discover a story within a piece they relate to and find a deeper meaning,” she said. “In turn, nature lets you get away from the business of life and routine of things.”

Kemp said artwork that depicts nature can affect someone positively just as much as the real thing.

“In between our busy lives, nature is a good escape — whether you do so in person or through artwork,” she said.

Kelly Fisher, who attended the festival, said she was blown away by the different artistic styles present at the festival and how they portrayed nature.

“It’s great to see local Texas artists here, I’ve been very impressed,” she said. “It’s nice to see what people are doing locally with materials and the wildlife here.”

Fisher said having nature and artwork depicted side-by-side helps people take a close look at its beauty and appreciate all its qualities.

“It’s nice to be able to have the inspiration and product of human creativity close by each other,” Fisher said. “It’s great to be here and have the opportunity to view nature in such a unique way.”

Printed on Monday, March 19, 2012 as: Local art festival displays Texas nature