Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin have donated $1 million to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin to develop a Family Garden that will bear their name.
"Lady Bird Johnson's legacy to America's natural heritage can't be overstated," said university President Bill Powers, who joined Johnson and Wildflower Center Executive Director Susan Rieff in announcing the gift this morning. "So it's fitting that Luci and Ian's generous gift of $1 million will strengthen and extend into the future this family's extraordinary commitment to education about and appreciation of our natural world. They have my deepest thanks."
The Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin Family Garden will be designed to foster hands-on, creative play and learning as children explore nature on 4.5 acres of native plant gardens.
"Mother's dream was that the Wildflower Center would inspire future generations to care for and take care of the environment," said Luci Baines Johnson, the younger daughter of Lady Bird and President Lyndon Baines Johnson. "By providing this gift, Ian and I have the chance of a lifetime to help Mother's dream come true, just as she did so many of ours."
The Family Garden, which was designed by landscape architect W. Gary Smith, will also be a model of green landscaping as a pilot project of the Sustainable Sites Initiative. The effort, a Wildflower Center partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the United States Botanic Garden, has developed the most comprehensive national system for rating the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes.
"The Wildflower Center is deeply grateful to Luci and Ian for helping us create a magical garden world for children and families as well as a showcase for sustainable landscapes," Rieff said.
Among the Family Garden features will be:
- A Metamorphosis Maze of 3-foot-tall native hedges that children can wander through while learning about animal life cycles
- A Giant Bird Nests woven from native vines that allow children to climb inside and experience a bird's eye view
- Water features such as a wading creek with replicas of dinosaur tracks nearby and a walk-in grotto that contains copies of petroglyphs and is cooled by a waterfall running across its roof
- An elevated boardwalk for viewing trees, and an open-air pavilion topped by solar panels next to a 1-acre play lawn covered with Habiturf, a mixture of native grasses that the center has developed
The Wildflower Center has envisioned a children's garden on its site since it unveiled its master plan by Smith in 2005. Horticulture Director Andrea DeLong-Amaya and other staffers will install native plants used with garden features. The garden's construction will feature locally sourced stone, sustainably harvested wood and other environmentally friendly options.
The Wildflower Center is a self-sustaining organized research unit of the university. The Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin gift is the largest of $2.52 million received so far from individuals and private foundations to build the Family Garden. Construction is expected to cost $3.7 million, with $1.3 million more sought to maintain the Family Garden.
A groundbreaking for the garden will occur in the next year as part of celebrating the centennial of Lady Bird Johnson's birth. The Texas Legislature has declared 2012 Lady Bird Johnson Centennial Year, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center also commemorates its 30th anniversary this year.