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Bluebonnets in Texas: A Springtime Delight!

Enjoy the beautiful Texas wildflowers this spring!

If you have never had the pleasure of seeing the wildflowers in Texas in the springtime, you haven't lived!

The Texas highway medians and hillsides are full of color - bright red, yellow and blue, pink and cream - but you had better look out because cars are constantly pulling off the side of the highway to ogle and take photographs.

It's a Texas tradition to get in the family car in the spring and go look at the wildflowers. Virtually everyone in Texas has a photo of their kids in the bluebonnets.

Typically, in my photo album there's a picture of me in the bluebonnets that was taken by my grandmother, a photo of my sons in the bluebonnets, taken by me, and a photo of my granddaughter in the bluebonnets taken by my daughter-in-law.

Isn't it time you had a photograph of your family in the Texas bluebonnets? Why not make plans this year to enjoy a drive through Central Texas and start a new family tradition?

Bluebonnets, Texas' beautiful state flower, grow all over the Texas Hill Country, from San Antonio up to Dallas, and for two weekends each April people come from all around for what has become one of central Texas' major tourist events.

"Don't be surprised," says an article in the Austin Statesman "to see 30 - 40 cars pulled off the side of the road at some spots, with children squatting in neck-high fields of lupinus, better known as bluebonnets, smiling for the family camera."

In fact, it's such a popular event, there are some hotlines you can call that track sightings of Texas wildflowers that will tell you the best places to visit.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (512-832-4037) is one. Another one is the Texas Department of Transportation (800-452-9292) which provides Texas tourism information and also the option to hear reports on wildflower sightings throughout the state.

When you visit, plan your trip to include Wildseed Farms, the largest working wildflower seed farm in the entire U.S.

I discovered the farm while on my way to visit Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, which is located between Fredericksburg and Johnson City.

I was driving along the highway, and all of a sudden cars were swerving, stopping, pulling over, and heading back. There on my left I saw the beautiful gardens full of brilliant color, and I joined in, pulling over and heading back as well.

Equidistant from Junction, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas, and seven miles east of Fredericksburg, WildSeed Farm is located on highway 290, and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (CST). Admission is free!

At the Farm, you'll discover 200 breathtaking acres of wildflowers at various stages of growth. In the springtime there will be Texas bluebonnets, red corn poppies, phlox, and a beautiful array of other spring flowers. In the summer there are sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, and more.

During your trip to Wildseed Farms, you can stroll along the walking trails, experience a real working farm, and then visit the Market Center building complex with a retail center, including their own seed.

There's plenty of room for the kids to run around, and where else will they have the opportunity to see a working wildflower seed farm?

Later, you can visit the Garten Haus, where you can purchase house plants, and in the Blumen Haus, fragrant fresh cut flowers are available.

One of the special events at Wildseed, "Pedernales Valley Wildflower Festival" will be held April 5-18th this year with a new feature - a Butterfly House with butterflies native to Texas and the Southwestern U.S.

For more information, call 800-848-0078 or visit them on the Internet. Do be aware that their photographs do not do justice to what you will see in person if you hit the Texas highways in April.

This part of Texas is filled with quaint shops and historical places, tasty food, and a welcome attitude toward tourists.

There are innumerable attractions to visit in the area, but I'll mention one if you're especially interested in flowers. Be sure to visit the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio, at 7561 Evers Road (210-651-4565), open daily.

Tour the grounds and the lovely displays garden and pick up some hardy antique roses to accent your own garden.

Visit on rose pruning day (February 14th) for a Rose Pruning & Training Seminar. The owner and head gardener will show you how to prune and train roses. The seminar starts at 10 a.m. and is free of charge. Click here for more information.

While in Texas, in San Antonio you'll find the Alamo, Seaworld, Fiesta Texas, Mission Trail, and the RiverWalk.

Over in Austin (the state capital), you'll find another 43 acres of wildflowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Ranch, and the beautiful Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, outdoors and user-friendly.

Umlauf was an art instructor at the University of Texas for 40 years. He donated his home, studio, and over 250 pieces of artwork to the city of Austin, Texas, which maintains the lovely garden where his works are displayed.

He worked in many mediums and styles, and you'll find his works displayed in the Smithsonian Institution and New York's Metropolitan Museum. You'll likely recognize the face of his most famous UT student, Farah Fawcett, who often served as his model. An exceptionally peaceful and beautiful sculpture garden!

Also located in Austin is Barton Springs, a one thousand foot long natural limestone pool fed by several underground springs. It is located in Zilker Metropolitan Park, which also has the Zilker Eagle, a large playscape, and 400 acres of sports fields and woodlands.

Then, for even more breathtaking scenery, take the Hill Country Flyer, a steam locomotive SP 786 manned by volunteers. There are 1-hour trips through Austin, a 33-mile ride from Cedar Park (north of Austin) to Burnet through the Hill Country, and special event rides. Call 512-477-8468 for more information.

Also for the kids, there are fantastic zoos in both San Antonio and Austin.

If you choose the Dallas area, give Kelly Dunn a call. An accomplished photographer, she'll be booking bluebonnet dates. Visit her at www.justimagineinc.com.

And last but not least, to make this a memorable excursion for the kids, every evening from March until early November, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin.

There's plenty of parking, restaurants close by, a souvenir stand (yes, they have t-shirts!), but no public restrooms or concessions.

The bats usually emerge at dusk, but they "may fly late if conditions aren't favorable." In early August you can see the new born pups on their first forages with their moms.

There's a hotline for updates and approximate emergence time. Call the Austin American-Statesman/Bat Conservation hotline at 512-416-5700 (category 3636) for the latest flight times.

Trust me, you have never seen anything like it, and it's guaranteed to wow all age groups. It is also very creepy. And remember, you can look, but you better not touch.

Y'all come on down, y'hear?

Article courtesy of Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ CoachT. Visit Susan at www.susandunn.cc.

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