Wild Ideas for You + Luci & Ian Family Garden

We’re not all so lucky to have a wildflower front yard scented with acres of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush!

Bluebonnets Indian paintbrush prairie restoration central texas

At least I get a wildflower pop driving home every day past the Mueller prairie strip along I-35.

Wildflower Thelesperma I-35 Mueller strip Wildflower Thelesperma I-35 Mueller strip

Most of us can’t have our very own prairie, but we can go a little wild in our gardens.

Wildflower Indian blanket and Thelesperma Austin Texas
At Mueller, I spied spikes of lavender Texas vervain (Verbena halei) among Indian blanket and Thelesperma.

Wildflower Texas vervain Thelesperma Indian blanket austin texas
I used to have some vervain until things got too shady. Now I have a sunny spot where I’ll seed next fall.

I’m tempted to try Erodium texanum, since it’s growing only a mile from my house.

Wildflowert Erodium texanum central texas mueller wildflowers
Then, garden artist Bob Pool told me, “It’s also called fillaree by almost all Texas ranchers. It is already growing by fall in a low, ground hugging manner and is the most important plant in the Hill Country for a lot of wildlife. It is the highest in protein, about 17%, of any plant in the Hill Country.”

That sounds great, but I’m on flat Blackland Prairie, not on a scruffy soil slope. But I do qualify for purple prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida).

glandularia purple prairie verbena Mueller Austin Texas
I’m not the only gardener on the block who’s made a fatal mistake in assuming that “native” translates to “my garden.” So, this week, Daphne answers, “What is a native plant?

Indeed, what’s native to rocks or sand is not native to my soil. Many are adaptable, like Engelmann’s daisy.

Engelmann's daisy native plant for wildlife
Calylophus berlandieri isn’t the best choice for me, but it works where I’ve given it extra grit in the looser spots.

Black-eyed Calylophus berlandieri Austin Texas
After a few misses, I found a perfect spot for spring-blooming Salvia roemeriana.

salvia roemeriana austin texas
I finally figured out where columbine is happiest for me, here joined by really really happy Widow’s tears (Commelina erecta).

columbine and widow's tears shade garden austin texas
I rely on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s native plant database to keep me on track. Also, the City of Austin’s Grow Green program now has a fabulous searchable database by soil type.

We’ve all learned that some plants simply move themselves to the right spots. That’s the case with my Gulf penstemon, a busy bee right now. Aside from conserving water, wildlife is tops on my list to choose natives when I can.

gulf penstemon bees

Bees love wildflowers, even the seed heads on Indian blanket!

bee on Indian blanket Mueller prairie bee on Indian blanket seed head Mueller prairie

I’m totally impressed that Matt Jackson snagged this shot of a bee heading to Mexican buckeye on an energetic park romp with his young children!

bee on Mexican buckeye photo by Matt Jackson

In the right spots, native plants will increase their population without our help. To up the ante, this week John Dromgoole shows how to take cuttings.

cuttings from native plants with John Dromgoole

10 years ago, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center launched its Mother’s Day weekend Gardens on Tour to help us visualize native plant designs in our gardens.

Chris Levack sculpture Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gardens on Tour

This week, Director of Horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya joins Tom for a preview of this year’s May 10 tour.

Tom Spencer and Andrea DeLong-Amaya Central Texas Gardener

Put on your walking shoes, grab your camera and get the details!

The Wildflower Center is on the tour, of course, and you don’t want to miss the new Luci & Ian Family Garden that opens May 4.

Luci & Ian Family Garden Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

15 years in conception with lead designer W. Gary Smith, it’s an adventure in imagination and fun with “secret” messages on watershed care, water management, and native plant wildlife connections.

Here’s director Ed Fuentes taping Gary as he installs intricate tiles in the spiral based on plants with spiral flowers or forms. Plants like Turk’s cap and ferns with furling fronds complete the theme.

W. Gary Smith landscape architect installing tiles in the Luci & Ian Family Garden spiral at Luci & Ian Family Garden LBJWC

The garden extends Lady Bird’s mission in a garden where kids can run, explore, and play.

Cave at Luci & Ian Family Garden Grotto at Luci & Ian Family Garden

Instead of instructional signs, Gary’s designed interactive elements to inspire the powerful childhood transformation that sticks with us as we grow up and buy our first house and make our first garden.

Watershed lessons at the Luci & Ian Family Garden LBJWC

Gardeners can frolic and wander, too, while getting plant ideas for sun, shade, and rain gardens. Lots of volunteers recently finished planting, so it’s a great way to connect to complementary textures and spacing for brand new plants.

native plant designs Luci & Ian Family Garden

Take the tour now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week for garden art. Linda