BRIT’s parking lot gardens are sporting a natural look these days. Photos by Karl Thibodeaux.

June 21, 2013

Upon pulling into the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth, you might think they’ve laid off their lawn care workers.

But don’t let the shaggy appearance fool you. According to Bob O’Kennon, vice chairman and research scientist at BRIT, the long-haired look of the beds that line the parking lot belie a plan. (Photo: BRIT visitors eye-view)

“It’s all native,” said O’Kennon. “It shows people, if you know what you're doing, you can have a wonderful landscape and it’s maintenance free.” 

They installed the wildscape two years ago, drawing from a list of nearly 400 wildflowers, grasses and shrubs that once grew all over the region. They’ve moved some plants and added a few things. But it’s survived the dry summers, and this year the gardens are thriving. 

“Some plants have done almost too well,” he joked.

In addition to curious onlookers, the tall thick grasses and shrubs attract local wildlife, including a variety of butterflies, insects and birds. Even raccoons and foxes have been spotted on the property that borders the Cultural District.

Native wildflowers greet visitors to BRIT.

O’Kennon said BRIT hopes to inspire the community to go native once they see the benefits. 

In BRIT’s gardens, only occasional watering from a rain water collection pond is needed to keep it from looking too dry. It’s mowed and pruned only twice a year. 

Plus the beds serve as rain gardens, reducing rainwater runoff.

BRIT parking lot sign.

O’Kennon reports more people are warming to natural landscaping and are asking them how they did it.

“It’s the wave of the future,” he said. “It has to be.”  

Sign points out Indigenous plant material growing amoung the parking spaces in BRIT's parking lot. 

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