Monday, March 2, 2009

Thank You, Lady Bird!

Claudia Alta Taylor was born in the East Texas town of Karnack on December 22, 1912. You may know her as Lady Bird Johnson, but you perhaps may not know of her contribution to this country's conservation efforts. As First Lady, she urged her husband to do something about the junkyards that could be seen along the nation's highways. In 1964, she formed the "Committee for a More Beautiful Capitol", it's aim being to develop Washington DC into a 'garden city' that would be a model for the rest of the country. With her friend the actress Helen Hayes, Lady Bird Johnson established the Wildflower Center in 1982 to educate people about all aspects of our native plants.

After her husband left office, Mrs. Johnson focused her effort on Texas, specifically Austin, and was instrumental in bringing together 10 miles of trails along the Colorado River, planted with native trees and plants.

On her 70th birthday in 1982, she created the National Wildflower Research Center, encouraging the beautification of Texas highways and focusing on the ecological advantages and beauty of native plants.

Eventually, Mrs. Johnson saw the need for a larger site, and in 1995 the new center was opened on a 43 acre plot of land in Southwest Austin. It was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1998. and now comprises 279 acres with more than 700 plants species on display.

Why was she called "Ladybird"? When she was a child, her nurse exclaimed that she was "purdy as a ladybird" (we know it as a ladybug), and the name stuck.

If you appreciate those great swaths of wildflowers planted in the highway medians, you can thank her forward vision. Lady Bird Johnson died July 11, 2007 at her home in Texas.

My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth."
~Ladybird Johnson

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