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.
WHEN THE WILDFLOWER CENTERíS Garden Master Plan was completed in 2005, it seemed like an impossible dream. The Wildflower Center had just gone through a bad patch, the victim of a Texas economic downturn. Expanding the grounds and constructing events and visitor centers, moving the parking lot at a cost of $10.3 million Ė that seemed far out of reach when it was a challenge to end the year in the black.
But here we are now, beginning construction on the Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin Family Garden, perhaps the most ambitious project in the plan. It will open in 2014. When combined with the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, which we opened last year, we have constructed the most significant features in landscape architect W. Gary Smithís exciting master plan. In this issue (ďThe Family Garden: Nature as Teacher,Ē beginning on page 20), you can learn how important it is that children have an outdoor play space that excites their imagination and frees them from their highly scheduled indoor routine. You also will find a partial list of the generous donors who made our May 1 groundbreaking possible on page 8.
Let me tell you the story behind the story. Early on, we heard from moms that the Wildflower Center needed to be more kidfriendly. A family visit to the Center could involve too many doníts Ė donít pick the flowers, donít step in the gardens, donít leave the trails. Children immersed in video games, IMAX and Disneyland could find the Wildflower Center interesting for a visit or two but not a place they clamored to see again and again. In response, we expanded our family programming Ė our free summer Nature Nights program has become a must-attend for thousands of children. We provided weekend staffing, and springtime story time in the Little House is wildly popular. But what we really needed was a family garden Ė a big, fanciful place for kids to have fun, a place they would want to visit often, a place to bring friends and celebrate birthdays, a place that draws wows from kids and their parents. The Family Gardenís 4.5 acres will be that place. We estimate that the garden will more than double the number of children we serve, increase our total visitation by about 30 percent a year and boost our membership, providing the revenue we need to advance our conservation mission and provide educational programming. It will also be a platform for structured nature education and a model of sustainable landscape design. We are deeply indebted to the early believers in the vision of a family garden: the Houston Endowment, which financed the Garden Master Plan, and the Brown Foundation, the RFK Foundation, and the Tom and Edwina Johnson Family Foundation, which together funded the Family Gardenís design several years ago.
Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin really got things moving last year when they announced their $1 million lead gift to name the project. Since then, we have raised $4.3 million of the $5 million goal from more than 100 donors. More contributions are needed, not only to construct more features but to provide educational programs and to maintain and staff our expanded site and programs. We welcome donations at www.wildflower.org/ familygarden. But we have passed a critical milestone. We are making dirt fly, and we will soon have one of the most beautiful, sustainable and fun family gardens in the nation.
I wish I could thank each of our generous supporters individually; please take a look at the donors on our website at www.wildflower.org/familygarden. My deep gratitude to these friends and others who have contributed to this project in so many ways.— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director