Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Letter From Lady Bird Johnson - Fall 2002
Twenty years - can it have been so long since the Wildflower Center took flight?! I am thrilled the Center has reached the two-decade mark - that it has not only survived, but thrived.
As I look back on our meager beginnings, I am amazed. The number of staff could be counted on one hand. A small house - about to become an office - and donated furnishings and equipment lent a temporary appearance. On the windy December day the Center was dedicated the landscape was bereft of color, but hope abounded.
Buses adorned with bright decorations transported our "inaugural" guests. Delivered by friends, a grand piano topped Oriental carpets laid out beneath a tent. Music and song cheered us on. The news camera flashed as the ribbon was cut and remarks were made by a rather nervous person, who wasn't at all certain that this enterprise would succeed. I wonder still how I had summoned up the courage to start such an undertaking in a world beset by problems crying for solutions. To me, this was a daring adventure ... but full of purpose. I believed then, as I do now, that contact with nature is essential to man's well-being and that if we are to survive we must become caretakers of the planet's health. My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order, and disorder of the flowering earth. It intrigued, lured, and nourished me. I wanted future generations to be able to savor what I had all my life.
A sense of urgency spurred me as I saw more and more the results of man's footprints - stretches of concrete, subdivisions, and shopping malls - replacing the open meadows and pastures I remembered. I could see little or no indigenous plant materials being used in our planned landscapes - along the roadsides, parklands, our homes and businesses and industrial parks. With their disappearing habitats, were these plants and scenic vistas destined to disappear?
The idea took hold of establishing a center for their preservation, gaining knowledge of how to cultivate them, and spreading the word about their joyful use. Working with an army of supporters, volunteers, and friends, we went into action. I am deeply grateful to each marvelous person and member of our organization who has helped to put the Center "on the map." We have learned about the art and science of growing wildflowers and have introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the rich diversity of native plant life in North America. We have shown how to bring wildflowers and native plants into planned landscapes, fostering appreciation for their beauty and utility in our cities, towns and countryside.
At our handsome permanent headquarters in Austin, we have pioneered techniques for restoring degraded land, demonstrating how people can build, live, and work in ways that preserve sensitive landscapes. And we have joined with other organizations across the nation and around the world in the vital effort to conserve the species that we may lose forever if we do not take determined action. As I look forward to the next 20 years, it is my deepest hope that more citizens will join our cause in the conservation, restoration, and use of our indigenous wildflowers and native plants.
Never has the energy of the public been so needed. Though we have made wonderful advances, we continue to lose far too much of our natural landscape to the relentless march of "progress." Education is key to the Center's cause. Only by learning to live in harmony with the land - to keep it healthy and beautiful - can we hope to save this precious legacy for those who come after us. Only then can we fulfill our unspoken obligation to all the creatures of every species with whom we share this wondrous home. What satisfaction and fun I've had working with like-minded people on my "heart's project," and what a bonus to make so many new friends. Thank you all for your extraordinary support.