The Colors of Spring
Warm breezes and spring showers bring us the gift of Texas wildflowers. We know that winter is past and spring has arrived when Hill Country roadways blossom in blue, red, orange and purple — the gifts of a forward-thinking Lady, long revered in these parts.
Central Texas is the center of the wildflower world, and during this time of year the reasons become increasingly obvious. As the bluebonnets make their annual show, folks take to the roads, cameras in hand, to find the perfect spot for an iconic family photo. If you’d like to witness this wonder for yourself, we’ve got some ideas that will help you make the most of this brief season.
Bustin’ Out All Over
During the spring, the roads around Central Texas come alive with color. Millions of wildflowers begin to bloom, painting the roadsides with rich jewel tones. It’s as if an artist has made our landscape into a canvas, and we are living inside a great work.
Of course, there was an artist who chose nature as her medium — Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson. She began to focus on conservation and beautification soon after becoming First Lady, and part of her legacy includes the annual sowing of 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds along Texas roadsides. Her work has led to an annual photography pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of people who come to capture special moments among the blooms.
The Center of Wildflower Gravity
Lady Bird’s magnum opus was the establishment of the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 — known today as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This 279-acre site is both a cultural destination as well as a nationally recognized research institute and advocate for native plants.
As you enter the park, you’ll notice the aqueduct that bridges the entrance. Rainwater collection and use is an integral part of the center’s operation, and each inch of rain allows for more than 10,000 gallons of collected water. But these structures are also exceedingly beautiful examples of masonry-based architecture, culminating in the San Antonio Observation Tower, a 10,000 gallon cistern.
Throughout the Center you’ll find gardens of every variety — meadows filled with wildflowers, ponds of native aquatic plants, formal gardens (weddings are a common sight), butterfly gardens, and others that reflect the diversity of natural vegetation found in the landscapes of Texas. It’s easy to pass a full day shopping, eating and learning more about the flowers and plants that make Central Texas a great place to call home. The Center hosts events of all kinds throughout the year, but the spring calendar features some of the best. Make sure to take time for a visit.
The Bluebonnet Trail and Festival
If you want to get out on the highways and byways, one of the best opportunities for wildflower watching is northwest of Austin on FM 1431 West. This road hugs the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge on its way to Marble Falls and Buchanan Lake. These roads are filled with bluebonnets at the height of the season, and you’ll spot camera-wielding folks searching for just the right angle to capture that perfect Texas picture. (Photography is encouraged, but be careful to do as little damage to the flowers as possible. And don't try to take them home! Picking Texas bluebonnets is strictly prohibited.)
A little further down the road you'll find the town of Burnet, the “Bluebonnet Capitol of Texas.” Burnet hosts the Annual Bluebonnet Festival which will take place April 8-10. This annual wildflower homage boasts more events than you can shake a bluebonnet at, including a golf tournament, beauty pageant, pet parade, people parade, dances, a carnival, live music, cloggers — even a gunfighter’s shoot out. Plan to spend a weekend; there’s simply too much to do in a day.
Texas wildflowers are the hallmark of the spring season. Take some time to explore the hills of the Hill Country, and you’re sure to see why.
Sidebar of Related Information
Wildflower Center Events
There’s always something to do at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and this is one of the best times of the year to visit. Here are a few upcoming events:
- March 14 - May 31 — Wildflower Days Begin — Open every day 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This annual festival features the work of local artists and artisans who create watercolors, metalwork, pottery, jewelry, photography, woodwork and more based on themes found in the natural world.
- April 1 — Nature Nights: Wildflowers & Pollinators — The vast majority of plants rely on animals as part of their reproductive cycle. Learn more about the unique relationships that have developed between animals and plants — relationships that make survival possible.
- April 8 - 10 — Spring Plant & Garden Festival — Talk to experts and learn about the more than 270 varieties of plants that will be available.
- Saturday, April 30 — Texas Arboretum Groundbreaking — Be there for the groundbreaking ceremony as work begins on the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, the result of a $1.4 million gift to the Center. A tree planting ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. followed by tours.
- Friday, May 13 — Wildflower Center Gala and Silent Art Auction — This annual event will honor Mrs. Laura W. Bush for her many contributions to conservation.