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The Wildflower Center is committed to sustainability and the Family Garden was designed and constructed according to the most rigorous guidelines for sustainable landscapes. It has been selected as a pilot by the Sustainable SITES Initiative, which provides a national rating system for "green" landscapes (and happens to have been developed at the Wildflower Center).


Soil is the foundation of a sustainable garden. It provides a variety of benefits, including removing pollutants and cleansing water, storing water for plants, wildlife and people, and providing habitat for organisms such as microscopic bacteria and earthworms that transform wastes into nutrients for plants. The Wildflower Center took several steps to maintain the health of the soil. These steps consisted of avoiding soil compaction during garden construction, saving and amending the topsoil for reuse in the new garden beds, adding compost to enrich the soil, and laying down mulch to maintain moisture content.

Sustainability features in the Family Garden:
  • Topsoil was saved, reused and amended
  • Compost and mulch added to all gardens
  • Compaction of soil was avoided
Learn more about the health of soil


Water is a tremendously important, finite resource. Using water excessively in the home and garden depletes the amount of freshwater available for everyone. The Family Garden provides an opportunity to expand the Wildflower Center’s existing rainwater collection system. An efficient irrigation system is an additional way of using water sparingly. Rain gardens also collect surface water, effectively slowly it down to allow for aquifer recharge to occur.

Sustainability features in the Family Garden:
  • An efficient irrigation system was installed
  • A rainwater collection system is in use
  • Rain gardens allow for aquifer recharge and add plant diversity
Learn more about using water efficiently

Plants: Defining Place

The Wildflower Center is dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants including wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees in natural and planned landscapes. To fulfill this vision, the center made a variety of ecological decisions about the Family Garden’s vegetation, including salvaging many plants before construction and replanting them in the new garden beds. The other garden areas boast locally sourced native plants. There were also efforts to preserve trees in the construction zone. With the implementation an invasive species management plan, these local plants have the opportunity to truly thrive for wildlife and visitors alike.

Sustainability features in the Family Garden:
  • Plants salvaged before construction and reused
  • Locally sourced native vegetation planted throughout
  • Tree preservation
  • Invasive species management plan
Learn more about the importance of native plants.


Materials that are used in construction or landscaping have the potential to cause environmental damage even before they are purchased. Energy is required to harvest and transport materials and pollution is generated by these processes. Disposal of these materials in a landfill means this damaging course continues. To combat these trends, many materials found on site were utilized within the Family Garden. This includes rocks, soil, stumps, and plants. Those materials that could not be found on site were locally sourced to eliminate energy-intensive transportation costs. To avoid purchasing toxic materials, no PVC piping was utilized in construction.

Sustainability features in the Family Garden:
  • Organic site materials repurposed (rocks, wood, etc.)
  • Additional materials sourced locally
  • No polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used
Learn more about environmentally-friendly materials

Human Health

Interacting with the natural world is important for human health and wellbeing. A host of research studies outline the ways in which we benefit from the environment. For instance, outdoor activities decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and some cancers. Plants cleanse the air that we breathe of pollutants. One study shows that contact with nature can reduce stress and wellbeing. Another study found that students who play in a vegetated playground are more creative and able to concentrate over those who experience an asphalt and playground. Some have even found that outdoor play in green settings reduces the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. On top of these benefits, outdoor play also helps to properly develop immune systems. The Family Garden promises mental, physical, social, and spiritual benefits, as well as a whole lot of fun experiences!

Healthy features in the Family Garden:
  • Outdoor activities decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and some cancers (from the LFL website)
  • Plants cleanse air we breathe of pollutants (from the LFL website)
  • Growing an edible garden can minimize exposure to pesticide residues (from the LFL website)
  • Contact with nature can reduce stress and improve well-being (from the LFL website)
  • Time spent outdoors can combat vitamin D deficiency which has increased among U.S. children (Kumar, Juhi et al. 2009)
  • Myopia (nearsightedness) might be prevented by spending more time outdoors (Optometry & Vision Science 88.4, April 2011)
  • Children are more active when they spend more time outdoors and less likely to be overweight (Cleland, V. et al., 2008)
  • Biologists have found that children exposed to a larger number and diversity of microbes by regularly playing outdoors, for example, tend to have fewer allergies that do indoor city kids. (Dr. Rob Dunn, Getting Dirty for Good Health, National Wildlife Magazine, July/August 2013 pg. 16-18)
Learn more about the health benefits of the environment


Energy production is not easy on the environment. Here in Texas we typically rely on the burning of coal to create electricity, which is especially harmful. Water is also required in the production of electricity in our state. That is why the Wildflower Center believes in only using electricity when it is necessary. To minimize the energy footprint even further, solar panels have been installed on the Robb Family Pavilion in the Family Garden.

Sustainability features in the Family Garden:
  • Solar panels
Learn more about using energy wisely.

Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) Program Certification

Working with Nature, Not Against It

When we practice sustainable land use we work with nature, not against it. We recognize that a healthy environment is essential to all life-- including our own. With this in mind, the Luci and Ian Family Garden was designed and constructed according to the most rigorous guidelines for sustainable landscapes and is a pilot project of the Sustainable Sites Initiative ™ (SITES™) program. Through careful and well-planned use of natural resources like soil, water, plants and other materials, the Family Garden demonstrates our commitment to meeting the environmental needs of both current and future generations.

More about the SITES ™ Program

The SITES™ program is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.

To learn more about the Sustainable SITES Initiative™ Program visit: http://www.sustainablesites.org/

Landscape For Life ™ Program

Taking Action at Home

You can take action to make your own yard or community more sustainable through the Landscape For Life™ program which is based on the principles of the SITES™ Program.

To find out more, visit: http://landscapeforlife.org/

© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center