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 2014
Photo by Marsha Miller.
During the first EARTH DAY celebration in 1970, I learned from my eighth-grade teacher that 40 percent of the country’s water was contaminated. I remember this as the moment my interest in the environment began – the single defining event that led to the path I’ve pursued now for most of my life. That seed, however, was planted in fertile ground.
I grew up a typical small-town kid on a small farm in northwest Arkansas, where being forced to go inside was used as punishment. I loved being outdoors and was lucky to be among a generation of kids who had a lot of freedom. My friends and I would get on our bikes and explore nearby creeks, parks, lakes, woods and the local trout farm.
This May, the Wildflower Center opened its Luci and Ian Family Garden – the most ambitious project in the Center’s 2005 Garden Master Plan – created by landscape architect and artist W. Gary Smith. The garden is our gift to today’s parents – a place where kids can run free and learn about nature on their own time.
Luci Baines Johnson, who with her husband, Ian Turpin, served as our lead donors for the garden, has said that her mother wanted a dedicated space for children at the Wildflower Center for as long as she can remember.
Lady Bird Johnson herself had earned a deep affection for nature as a young girl in northeast Texas, where Caddo Lake offered solace to a 5-year-old whose mother had died, much older brothers had gone, and whose father was busy running the local general store. She paddled the bayous there, taking comfort beneath the ancient cypress trees.
Granted, the Family Garden is not a wild woodland, bayou or natural creek, but it is an outdoor space where children can play with sticks, look through magnifying lenses at creek water, spy painted buntings sipping water from the wildlife pond, or just hang around in a cave and play makebelieve.
It’s fertile ground that we hope will grow our leaders of tomorrow as they gain important experiences exploring nature, asking questions and making discoveries. It’s happening already: Kids are getting dirty here, touching trees, hopping on logs, learning the names of native plants and otherwise just being kids.
Our mission to conserve and sustain native plants and landscapes doesn’t have an endpoint. We will pass that baton to the generations to come, and I’m confident that our Family Garden will help prepare them to take it and run.