View of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Admin building with yellow flowers in forground

Beautiful natives adorn the Administration building

This week’s episode focuses on native plants and their role in helping to sustain our environment. Joe and Patti first visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX.

Founded in 1982 by our former First Lady, along with actress Helen Hayes, the organization, originally named the National Wildflower Research Center, is now an Organized Research Unit for the University of Texas at Austin. Demonstration gardens and sample landscapes join woodlands and meadows of wildflowers providing excellent examples of diverse usability. As a source of knowledge, contains a searchable database giving lists and information about suitable plants for every state. Sources for obtaining plants or seeds is also available.

Joe has a conversation with Damon Waitt, Senior Botanist for the Center. It is estimated that 30% of all our native plants are at risk for extinction; not the least of which is accelerated by invasive species and habitat destruction. The Center’s mission is to raise awareness of the importance of natives and how their function lessens our dependency on pesticides, fertilizers and water thus helping to reduce our carbon footprint in the world.

Formal gardens can be created with native species

Steve Windhager, Director of Landscape Restoration, offers suggestions and examples of how effective native plants can be in both casual and formal garden scapes, and hopefully dispels the myth that they are unkempt and unattractive. We, on the other hand, must be more cognizant of the choices available to us instead of reaching only for the options to which we have become accustomed.

Even one garden has the ability to make a difference. Patti visits the Certified Wildlife Habitat of Dale and Pat Bulla, retired school teachers and avid advocates of reducing their own carbon footprint. In 1998 they built their new home with the awareness that they wanted to make as little an impact on the environment as possible.

Image shows how very little vegetation was disturbed in building the house

Little vegetation was sacrificed building this house

Clearing only the land for the footprint of the structure, special care was given to preserving as much of the native flora as possible, and they set about creating an inviting natural habitat for creatures of all kinds. Key elements of a Certified Wildlife Habitat are providing food, water, shelter and a place to raise young. The Bullas have done all of that and more to become a credible example of one family’s goal of sustainability.

One popular food source that is a favorite of both humans and many other creatures is blueberries. Come cook along with Chef Nathan as he uses blueberries in a luscious breakfast treat.

For more information:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Learn about invasive species

Pat and Dale Bulla

National Wildlife Federation

Special thanks, Laura Brandt


Growing A Greener World is a national gardening series on Public Television that features organic gardening, green living and farm to table cooking. Each episode focuses on compelling and inspirational people making a difference through gardening. This gardening series covers everything from edible gardening and sustainable agriculture to seasonal cooking and preserving the harvest.

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  1. Janet says

    Re buffalo grass in California…UC Davis came out with their own hybrid grass called UC Verde buffalo grass. You can buy plugs of it, and fall is by far the best time to plant. It’s water wise and doesn’t need mowing more than once a summer or so. You can also check with Peaceful Valley Garden Supply in Grass Valley. They carry many native grass seeds. Good luck!

  2. says

    Try the Wild Ones website. There are Wild Ones chapters across the US, and each should be able to tell you what will grow well in your area and where you can find seed / plants.
    EXTREMELY helpful people and website.

    • Joe says

      Hi Katherine. I don’t know about Redding, CA for the Buffalo grass seed but perhaps we could narrow down the search by starting with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since they plant it and it seems to be very popular there (also used in the Certified Wildlife Habitat yard in same episode), they could help steer you to the source of their supplier. Here’s their website link to get you started: I’ll put out a few other feelers as well and see if we can find a more local source for you.

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