After a Fashion

There should probably be some sort of 'A Lady Bird in the hand is worth two Laura Bushes' joke in here somewhere ...

A photo montage of Laura Bush speaking at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gala
A photo montage of Laura Bush speaking at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gala (Photos by Seabrook Jones/

WILDFLOWERS AND BUSHES I have a confession to make. I really like Laura Bush. While it's true that I do not agree with her husband on many matters, Laura is a woman of her own opinions. I've always liked her for her literacy campaign and for founding the Texas Book Festival. I admired her for publicly expressing her support of Roe v. Wade both in 2001 and again in 2010, when she said, "I think it's important that [abortion] remain legal. Because I think it's important for people – for medical reasons and other reasons." And I love her for her outspoken stance on marriage equality, saying she views it as a generational issue and believes it will be made legal in the future. She went on to say, "[W]hen couples are committed to each other and love each other, they ought to have the same sort of rights that everyone has." Yeah, Laura! She spoke at last Friday's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gala, and the subjects were far from political. Mingling with the well-heeled crowd, she was gracious and composed, personally greeting as many as I suspect her security team would allow her. When she spoke, she spoke from her heart about her involvement with the Wildflower Center, and her lengthy friendship with Lady Bird, one rooted in mutual respect and understanding. She amusingly told how she heard from Lady Bird when the underage Jenna and Barbara made headlines with their alcohol-fueled hijinks. Lady Bird passed on some wisdom that she had shared with her own daughters: "Never do anything that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of The New York Times, because if you do get in trouble, it will be on the front page of The New York Times." Mrs. Bush also spoke about cultivating and maintaining native grasses and the massive undertaking of reclaiming the prairie at the Bush's Crawford ranch, as well as the native plants and wildflowers at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas. Sitting at the table of Lynn and Tommie Meredith (Lynn seemed to be on almost every committee for this outdoor gala), the weather was flawlessly beautiful as was the Wildflower Center itself – one of the loveliest and most peaceful settings in the city. We saw the debut of the center's new commemorative benches and the plans for the new Children's Garden. Luci Johnson and Lynda Robb were there, and we mingled with Becky Beaver, Nancy Scanlon, and Melissa Jones, among others. This is always one of the most meticulously planned events every year, and the incredibly gracious Wildflower Center staff make it run like clockwork. And remember, just because we lose our fabulous wildflowers during a drought doesn't mean that the Wildflower Center does.

5X7 HEAVEN Another must-attend entry on my annual social calendar is the Arthouse 5x7 Art Splurge. Seeing this exhibition in its new permanent home is a sight indeed. The array of hundreds of small (5-inch-by-7-inch, natch) pieces of art lining the pristine space was jaw-dropping. We've raved about the Arthouse renovation before, but it is almost like seeing it new every time. And I love the rooftop space and its views of Downtown. But viewing the art is the key thing there, and the renovation has made that very easy. There was every kind of art imaginable, from traditional fine art to electronic art, something for everyone. Guests milled about, guarding their selections until Andy Langer gave the signal and they began snapping up the tags like feeding time at SeaWorld. Interestingly, some of the usual Arthouse supporters were absent ("The Big Girls" as Kevin Smothers and I call them), but the place was overflowing with new faces, most of which I'd never seen before. What the reason for that is I do not know, but Arthouse continues its evolution into the reigning Downtown art space.

DWELLINGS I invited my friend Rusty Irons to accompany me to the Arthouse party, so she came and picked me up, insisting we stop by her place before the party. I'd never been there, so I was game. Omigod, I had no idea that Rusty is the proprietress of a private luxury hotel right in the middle of South Austin. Called the Irons (, this ultrachic two-home enclave is like an enchanted cottage in a verdant panorama on the banks of Bouldin Creek. Rusty herself lives in one house and rents out the other; a portico connects the two. Featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNNMoney, the Irons will attract guests who prefer privacy and discretion while remaining close to the action.

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Austin style, Rusty Irons, The Irons, Arthouse 5x7 Art Splurge, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gala, Laura Bush

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