This may be the year you resolve to see a public garden included on many Top 10 travel lists and recommended by Lonely Planet's 2013 travel guide. If so, in January, you can visit the Wildflower Center for free from Jan. 2 through Jan. 31.
The Center also offers a new art exhibit and other indoor options that are delightful -- even if the weather outside is frightful. And you can be among the first to glimpse our new eco-friendly admission kiosk before it opens this spring.
Entering the Center you will see the new admission kiosk being finalized near the white limestone cistern. The newly-located kiosk should eliminate traffic backups that occurred during busy days at the original gatehouse at the Center's front entry.
"The new kiosk will streamline entry by letting guests park before they visit the kiosk to pay or to show their membership card before entering the grounds," said Damon Waitt, the Center's senior director.
Just off the central courtyard, The Store has myriad items to consider, including nature books, beautiful shawls and scarves, and vibrant jewelry. There is a winter clearance sale throughout January, and you can view the lovely wildflower watercolors of Jerry Kimmel on the walls all month long.
Meanwhile, a new exhibit will open Jan. 12 in the McDermott Learning Center of the eye-catching lithographs and other art of Margie Crisp. "Never the Same River Twice" reveals the animals and plants that live along the Colorado River in all their stunning beauty.
On your way to McDermott at the back of the gardens, consider stopping off at the Visitors Gallery, which features two centennial kiosks about the life and conservation legacy of Lady Bird Johnson. The exhibits were unveiled this year as part of a range of activities honoring the 100th anniversary of her birth. The nearby café provides a great place to grab a lunch or mid-afternoon meal, and members receive a free cookie with a meal throughout January.
As is true of other Center buildings, the admissions kiosk was designed for functionality and to serve a larger purpose. The roughly 8 x 14-foot building will be small, but it will pack a lot of enviro-friendly features into its footprint. It will be topped with a green roof that showcases Habiturf™, the low resource-use lawn of native grasses developed by the Center's Ecosystem Design Group
Kiosk features include an ADA-accessible admission window and a green wall of native plants watered with condensate from the kiosk's HVAC unit.
The little building is made of corked flooring, recycled steel, Forest Stewardship Council-certified green wood siding and other elements that have been obtained locally. Waitt said, "This is the first new building since we opened this location in 1995, so we wanted it to be a model of sustainable building practices."
If funding is obtained in the future, the building will be outfitted with solar panels that will power a flat-screen TV that will display admission fees, daily event information and more. "It's going to be a true gem of sustainability that helps remind visitors of the conservation possibilities available to them, and the strong emphasis we place on this at the Center," Waitt added.
Note: The admission kiosk will open March 1. It was designed pro bono by architect Chris Sanders, a member of the Wildflower Center Advisory Council, and built offsite by Jason Miars of Miars Construction. The builder and numerous vendors donated some time and materials for the kiosk. It was also sponsored by Wildflower Donors Inc., Ellen and Buddy Temple and others.
Story by Barbra A. Rodriguez