Centered: Fall/Winter 2021
The Wildflower Center will unveil a new batch of custom-designed and -built forts at this year’s Fortlandia, the fourth since the exhibition’s debut in 2018. In an exciting expansion, two forts will appear along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake thanks to a new partnership with The Trail Foundation. One fort from the 2020-21 collection, named territories. and designed by Mark Odom Studio, opened along the trail in June 2021. A new fort, to be created by designer Chris Levack, will also find its home along the shore in downtown Austin as part of the upcoming exhibition.
In more fort relocation news, another creation from a previous Fortlandia, James Edward Talbot’s much-loved Fairy Pavilion, is among the playtime options at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park in North Austin. The artist donated his whimsical Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) structure, which won the 2019-20 People’s Choice Award and sparked imaginations with its colorful, flattened- can roof tiles. It received some upgrades from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and is now part of an accessible playground for children of all ages and abilities.
Dig This — and Climb It Too!
It’s a common sight to find children exploring and splashing in the Luci and Ian Family Garden. Now they can add digging, climbing and balancing to their available nature play activities. Two new features, the Dirt Dig and a special addition to the Stumpery, help kids exercise their bodies and minds.
The Dirt Dig, which is filled with 40% sand and 60% chocolate loam, is essentially a giant sand box under a substantial shade structure. Karen Beaty, a former horticulturist in the Family Garden, said upon installation, “It’s nice and fluffy, and I think the kids will love it.”
The Stumpery’s new play equipment, partially donated by KOMPAN, is situated near the area’s popular inverted juniper trees. The play equipment includes an upright rope spiderweb that Amy Galloway, horticulturist in the Family Garden, says has easily become a guest favorite. “Kids of all ages are drawn to climb it,” she says, “and I’m so impressed by the toddlers that manage to work their way up! It is an effective example of constructed nature play that safely encourages even the littlest ones to test their own abilities.”
It’s a story that Joe Marcus, coordinator of the Center’s Native Plants of North America database, describes as “apocryphal.” Indeed, no one knows the whole truth or where the rumors started. But as Wildflower Center legend has it, the prominent huisache (Vachellia farnesiana) tree in the Courtyard planted itself.
When Marcus joined the Center’s horticulture staff in 2000, five years after the garden opened in its current location, he says the tree was already quite large. But it wasn’t planted intentionally, nor was it on site before the Center opened; it was just there. His best guess is that it came in with another planting and grew exuberantly due to steady irrigation in the Central Gardens. “Huisaches love water,” he attests.
Sadly, this tree — which was a frequent perch for owlets that had recently fledged from their nearby nest across from the Wetland Pond — is one of the plants that did not survive February’s historic winter storm. When it didn’t leaf out or bloom this spring, the reality dawned on Center staff that it was, indeed, dead. The tree was removed in July. Its plant successor is yet to be determined.
A Garden for Everyone
This year’s Lady Bird Day, which celebrates our founder every fourth Saturday in July, marked the launch of our new Access membership level. Access memberships provide access to the Center for children, families and individuals who may not otherwise be able to visit due to financial constraints. Memberships are offered at three tiered, pay-what-you-can prices and include garden admission for up to six family members. We are pleased to implement this new opportunity to bring our gardens and our mission to more people.
Plant Sale Success
Our Fall Native Plant Sale will continue the trend started in response to the pandemic, when we revamped its structure in order to serve guests safely. Due to positive feedback and successful sales, we will keep the new format and continue to host the next plant sale in our nursery. The Fall Native Plant Sale will remain spread over several weekends, allowing shoppers more flexibility and a mellow, spacious sales area with stock that can be replenished each week. As usual, members will enjoy exclusive benefits.
The life and legacy of Lady Bird Johnson will be highlighted by a temporary exhibition at the LBJ Presidential Library, on display now through August 2023. “Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers” will include letters, clothing, photographs and other memorabilia meant to illuminate aspects of Mrs. Johnson’s life — such as her education, family, campaign and business efforts, and role as a philanthropist — that are less familiar to many than her environmental work.