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 the Director - Summer 2009
This Wildflower Thing is Catching On
In April, when we opened the gate to our spring native plant sale, there were 189 people already lined up with shopping lists and wagons. Over the next five hours, we sold $40,000 worth of plants.
Our local newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, launched a five-year campaign last fall to plant more wildflowers along roadsides and in public places. We are a full partner in their effort and designed the Lady Bird Legacy seed packet that is sold by Native American Seed as part of the Statesman’s campaign. We get a small royalty on each of the seed packets sold and use that money to make small grants to Texas elementary schools that want to plant wildflower gardens. So far, we’ve been able to give grants to 35 schools.
I think this wildflower thing is catching on.
Since everything we do here at the Wildflower Center is aimed at increasing the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes, I’d like to think that we have something to do with the growing interest in sustainable gardening. In fact, I’m sure we do, given the number of people who access the Native Plant Information Network on our website, www.wildflower.org. In one month this spring, more than 312,000 people visited the website and viewed 3.5 million pages, accessing 495,036 plant images and 408,188 plant records.
For many homeowners, the state of the economy is prompting them to wonder whether they really want to spend unnecessary time, effort and money maintaining a non-native lawn and exotic plants – landscaping that can demand pounds of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, tons of water, and hours of work. Wildflowers and native plants reward you with beauty for much less effort. They conserve our scarce resources, like water. They don’t need chemicals that pollute the water or machine maintenance that pollutes the air. And they provide habitat for birds, butterflies and wildlife.
On a larger scale, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently jackhammered 1,250 square feet of unnecessary pavement in downtown Washington, D.C., to make room for a community garden. He announced a goal of creating community gardens at every USDA facility worldwide to promote such “green” concepts as capturing rainfall and reducing runoff, using native plantings, and installing roof gardens for energy efficiency – ideas that sound like they came right out of the Sustainable Sites Initiative guidelines. Sustainable Sites is our partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the United States Botanic Garden to create a rating system for sustainable landscapes.
We keep working to spread the word and make it easier to landscape with native plants. With a grant from Wal-Mart, we are developing a mix of native turf grasses that will not only perform as well as traditional non-native turf grasses but require much less water and maintenance. Our landscape restoration projects, like the tallgrass prairie meadow at the Mueller development in central Austin, are already inspiring homeowners to use native plants in their own landscapes.
At Westlake High School here in Austin, senior “pranks” – like setting off firecrackers in the halls or placing furniture on the school roof – are an annual tradition. As their prank this past spring, the boys at Westlake planted a tree and flowers and set a new bench in their carefully mulched bed by the football stadium. It turns out that one of the student leaders is a gardener. The plants weren’t all native, but still, teenage guys gardening – how cool is that?
— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director