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Let Lady Bird help you pick natives for your garden this spring

From Green Right Now Reports Lady Bird and LBJ in the wildflowers (Photo: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.) Lady Bird Johnson, remembered for her love of Texas’ native flowers...

From Green Right Now Reports

Lady Bird and LBJ in the wildflowers (Photo: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.)

Lady Bird and LBJ in the wildflowers (Photo: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.)

Lady Bird Johnson, remembered for her love of Texas’ native flowers and for saving the state’s naturally blooming ditches and byways, left a legacy that continues to flower.

Texans enjoy it every spring when the wild bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush burst into a display of brilliant blues and reds alongside the highways.

Another, less well-know monument to the former first lady is The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, which has become a hub for the movement to restore native plants to the landscape. The center’s vast demonstration gardens explore the beauty of nature’s flora, showcasing wet and arid garden environments; its online database is equally robust, featuring a directory of thousands of North America’s native plants.

Whether you live in Texas or Delaware or California, and favor agave plants or apple trees, the center’s database can help you find plants that will thrive and support wildlife in your area.

So if you want to go native with your flower beds, you don’t have to wing it. Find flowers, vines and shrubs that will feed the local birds and butterflies and caterpillar’s at the LBJ Wildflower Center’s online directory.

Start here, at the Recommended Species page.

The Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Photo: Mrs. W.D. Bransford, LBJ Wildflower Center)

The Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, a sun-tolerant option for a native bed in the Southwest. (Photo: Mrs. W.D. Bransford, LBJ Wildflower Center)

Select your state and the group of plants you’d like to preview. The center’s horticulturalists have grouped plants into Special Collections, such as the “Butterflies and Moths of North America” and the “Special Value to Native Bees.” Click through and you’ll see additional filter tools that allow you to winnow the selections to your specific needs. For example, you may want to confine the list to sun-tolerant or shade plants that grow to a specific size or bloom at a certain time.

Our search of the Butterflies and Moths collection, narrowed to sun-tolerant plants for a Texas garden, produced a list of 122 flowering ferns, vines, shrubs and trees.  We were encouraged to see many familiar plants with beautiful blooms on the list — flame acanthus, butterfly weed, Indian paintbrush and winecup — as well as several that we didn’t know about, like the elegant Rocky Mountain Bee Plant. This gave us some exciting ideas for our native rock and shrub garden.

Flame Acanthus (Photo Joseph A. Marcus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

Flame Acanthus’ gorgeous color and trumpet shape is a tip off that it will feed butterflies. (Photo: Joseph A. Marcus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

Now,  Texas is a big state and we will have to consider the suitability of each plant for the west-facing, native bed we’re looking to enhance. We might further narrow the list based on when we want blooms and whether we’re looking for evergreen or deciduous plants.  That’s all possible on the center’s website.

The biggest hurdle you’ll likely to encounter is not coming up empty on the database, but at the local nursery. Many commercial nurseries simply don’t stock many native plants. Instead, they showcase plants that may do well in the landscape, but are not necessarily big contributors to the ecosystem. You know the ones, the same, popular plants that turn up year after year. These may be suitable for a potted display or two, but they may not feed birds and butterflies nor will they flourish on natural rainfall the way many native plants can.

Some nurseries will have a table or two of local plants, perhaps perennials and annuals. Armed with your list from the Lady Bird Center, you can shop there, or ask your nursery provider about seeds or ways to order natives.


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