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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Wednesday - January 11, 2006

From: Takoma Park, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Information on Mrs. Johnsons efforts in highway beautification
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Perhaps you can help. I am trying to unearth a little history of Lady Bird and her involvement in the beautification of our highways, especially as it relates to using native plants. This is for a proposal I am writing to support development of native plant materials for use along Maryland roadsides. I am rather surprised that there is nothing specific about this topic on the web. There are several references to the Highway Beautification Act, but only as it pertains to billboards. I recall reading a quote once where she had said something to the effect of she wanted a road in Texas to look like it was in Texas, and a road in some other place to look like it was in some other place - sorry my memory fails me. I would love to have that quote. Ms. Johnson really motivates people, and I think this information could help us here in Maryland. Can you provide us any information? Thanks.

ANSWER:

I found a passage in Mrs. Johnson's book "Wildflowers Across America" that sounds a little like what you are looking for. It is from the Foreword, p. 11:

"...my life has taken me to many areas of the United States. I think of walking down a quiet land in Martha's Vineyard, bordered by tangles of pink wild roses, with a cloud of daisylike white blossoms frosting the meadows, or strolling a forest path beside a crystal stream in the Callaway Gardens of Georgia and being stopped still by a heady blaze of wild orange-red azaleas against the forest's emerald green. In New Mexico in September, I saw golden aspen climbing the hillsides and wild purple asters dotting the roadsides. I have always been a natural tourist; Lyndon used to say I kept "one foot in the middle of the big road." Wherever I go in America, I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent."

One of the chapters in the book, "The Beautification Movement and Highway Legislation", gives a brief history in Mrs. Johnson's own words. The full citation for the book is: Lady Bird Johnson and Carlton B. Lees. 1993. Wildflowers Across America. New York: Artabras. It is probably available at your local library, and it is definitely available for sale in Wild Ideas, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center store.
 

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