Quotes from Lady Bird Johnson.
Lady Bird Johnson at the 1966 dedication of the new Watts Branch Park in Northeast Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy LBJ Library.
Though the word beautification makes the concept sound merely cosmetic, it involves much more: clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas. To me…beautification means our total concern for the physical and human quality we pass on to our children and the future.
Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.
The environment after all is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.
My hope for what lies ahead in the field of landscape design—our own and that of the professionals—isn’t a revolution against the use of non-natives, but a resolution to educate ourselves about what has worked for Mother Nature through the ebb and flow of time and to put that knowledge to work in the planned landscapes that are everywhere a part of our lives.
When I go into the poorest neighborhoods, I look for the flash of color - a geranium in a coffee can, a window box set against the scaling side of a tenement, a border of roses struggling in a tiny patch of open ground. Where flowers bloom, so does hope - and hope is the precious, indispensable ingredient without which the war on poverty can never be won.
My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.
My special cause, the one that alerts my interest and quickens the pace of my life, is to preserve the wildflowers and native plants that define the regions of our land-to encourage and promote their use in appropriate areas and thus help pass on to generations in waiting the quiet joys and satisfactions I have known since my childhood.
Wherever I go in America, I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent.
I know that the nature we are concerned with ultimately is human nature. That is the point of the beautification movement, and that finally is the point of architecture. Winston Churchill said, ‘First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us.’ The same is true of our highways, our parks, our public buildings, the environment we create. They shape us.
The biggest decision of all concerns our highways, the greatest public works program of any civilization ... our challenge is to see that these highways are not only superbly functional, but also in harmony with our landscape and a pleasant asset to our lives. After all, this is a civilization where our favorite recreation is driving for pleasure.
Too often we have bartered away not only the land, but the very air and water. Too often we have sacrificed human values to commercial values under the bright guise of progress. And in our unconcern, we have let a crisis gather which threatens health and even life itself ... Today, environmental questions are matters for architects and laymans alike. They are questions, literally, of life and death. Can we have a building boom and beauty too? Must progress inevitably mean a shabbier environment? Must success spoil nature’s bounty? Insistently and with growing volume, citizens demand that we turn our building to a sensible, human purpose. They are asking, literally, for a breath of fresh air.
For me, wildflowers are joy-giving. They have enriched my life and fed my soul and given beautiful memories to sustain me. Beyond their aesthetic value, there are other valid reasons for their increased use. As we experience problems with lowering water tables and increasing maintenance costs, incorporating nature’s bounty into our landscapes may provide a viable alternative in suitable areas to our concept of manicured clipped grass.