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The Show Isnít Over

Hill Country Garden Ranch Sign welcoming the trailhead garden
ABOVE: A traditional Texas-style ranch sign marks the entryway into the Trailhead Garden that DeLong-Amaya designed. The garden showcasing native plants found in meadows leads to the Texas Arboretum trail and John Barr and Restoration Research trails.

Wildflower Show Held Over in Center Gardens

As summer comes to Central Texas, it's tempting to think nature's best offerings have come and gone. But this year's cool, wet spring means the meadows at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are still putting on a great show, plus there's a new arboretum — and a new wildflower garden bursting with blooms.

In mid-May, the Center opened 16 new park-like acres of arboretum that feature shaded spots under ancient oaks for picnicking, gliding on swings and hanging out. The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum highlights collections of oak and other trees as well as exhibits on historic trees and oak wilt. Its native meadow and 100-plus-year-old oaks, cedar elms and other woody species complement the Center's main gardens and meadows, which still have plenty of color of their own.

A show-stopper right now is the Trailhead Garden unveiled in May. Developed with a $17,600 grant from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, it serves as an as an entryway into the Hill Country Trails and the Texas Arboretum. The garden just past a Texas-style ranch sign is bursting with clusters of bright yellow, crimson red and purple wildflowers fanned out in front of a low, curving wall of site-collected limestone.

"We incorporated big patches of single species to add to the garden's visual appeal and to take advantage of the larger scale of this garden space," says Horticulture Director Andrea DeLong-Amaya, who designed and oversaw installation of the garden.

The garden provides a supersaturated snapshot of traditional Texas meadows. Among its offerings are flowering patches of mealy blue sage, Engelmann daisy and scarlet sage. "The scarlet sage has been blooming since February when we first planted it," DeLong-Amaya notes.

LEFT: Twisted-leaf yucca provides a structural contrast to orange zexmania (front) and red tropical sage (center) in part of the Trailhead Garden. RIGHT: Mealy blue sage (front) and brown-eyed Susan bloom profusely near the path in the Trailhead Garden leading to the John Barr and Restoration Research trails.

The Trailhead Garden has some xeric species that haven't been displayed in the gardens previously. They include rattlesnake master, false gaura, buffalo gourd, and Texas milkweed, which Monarch caterpillars favor. Many plantings have signs so visitors can learn to recognize their counterparts out on the meadow trails.

Mother Nature added to the offerings. "All the brown-eyed Susans came in on their own, and so did the giant sunflowers," DeLong-Amaya says, noting that she left those at the back edges to enhance their effect during the design process. Patches of twist-leaf yucca and nimblewill, as well as Texas bluegrass and other grasses contrast with the blooming wildflowers.

Meanwhile, the Center's central gardens will continue blooming in upcoming months. DeLong-Amaya notes that it is a great time to get ideas about adding color and texture to your garden, using drought- and heat-tolerant options.

Scarlet sage along the the trailhead garden path
ABOVE: To tie the garden design together, DeLong-Amaya repeated wildflowers such as red tropical sage shown here near an Escarpment live oak. The edging along pathways and a low wall in the Trailhead Garden are white limestone salvaged on site by John Davis, Garden-Design-Build.

Tight red pinwheels of Turk's cap grace the shaded front courtyard and the Woodland Gardens; butterfly gaura and Gregg's mistflowers decorate the theme gardens; chocolate daisy is blooming near the entry to the Administration building; and Texas lantana adds yellow-orange splashes to many gardens.

Complementing the summer greenery are giant sculptures of a bluebell and other wildflowers by Logan Stollenwerck, developed as a Lady Bird Johnson Centennial exhibit. Stollenwerck's exhibit is held over from spring and will run through Labor Day. In addition, a new art exhibit by a world-renowned master of origami, Robert J. Lang, has opened inside the McDermott Learning Center with support from the Mays Family Foundation.

The Little House will also be open all summer, providing an indoor art and learning space for children and chaperones. Families can stop by the Visitors Gallery as well to borrow a Discovery Pack of simple activities for the garden that teach about wildflowers and nature. And starting on Thursday evenings in late June, the Center will offer free, nature-focused interactive events for families called Nature Nights.

"There are all kinds of opportunities for families to explore the Wildflower Center this summer and spend downtime together in nature," says Alice Nance, the Center's education manager. "Besides being fun, we hope these options and the Central Texas Nature Challenge offer a chance for children to learn something new about the natural world they will inherit."

To see the 650-plus native plants at the Wildflower Center, visit: http://www.wildflower.org/collections/collection.php?collection=twc

By Barbra A. Rodriguez

© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center