My wife is an avid and expert gardener, so I always feel bad when I visit a lovely garden without her.

But not too bad.

The beauty of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, assuaged my guilt when I dropped in, alone, early this spring.

The Wildflower Center was founded by two other avid gardeners, Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes. Since the former first lady and the famous actress established the site in 1982, it has become a leading native-plant garden and research center.

The center has a variety of specialized areas. In the Central Gardens, visitors will find a “color garden,” “nectar garden,” “pollinator habitat garden” and a variety of smaller themed beds including edible plants, grasses and plants named for famous botanists.

The beautiful and fun Family Garden is 4.5 acres of interactive and educational exhibits including a maze, stumpery, “dinosaur” creek (look for the footprints!) and waterfall, all made of natural materials.

At the 70-acre restoration research area, visitors can learn how mowing, prescribed fires and other large-scale land-management techniques affect the growth of native grasses and wildflowers on 54 experimental plots.

Although the colors at the center really pop in late spring and early summer, there’s plenty to see throughout the year.

My visit was too early in the season to experience many blooming wildflowers; I caught only a first, tantalizing taste of spring lovelies such as bluebonnets and Texas mountain laurels.

However, I’m in charge of the “hardscapes” in our home gardens — building raised beds, constructing walls, erecting trellises — so I enjoy inspiring landscape architecture almost as much as the plants themselves. And the Wildflower Center has wonderful structures, such as the visitors’ gallery, observation tower, seed silo and courtyard. They were built with construction materials hearkening to various eras of Texas history: Sandstone used in the Spanish mission period, limestone employed by German immigrants, and corrugated metals like those used on more recent ranches and farms.

The center also features the 16-acre Texas Arboretum, which harbors a wide variety of native trees. The arboretum’s new Hall of Texas Heroes is an interesting project, featuring scions of historic live-oak trees such as the Treaty Oak, where Stephen F. Austin met with local Indians to settle boundary lines. The tiny offshoots of famous Lone Star State trees are sprouting in a large meadow and should be quite impressive — in 50 years or so.

Maybe I’ll bring my wife on our 75th anniversary.

For more information about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, call 512-232-0100 or visit wildflower.org.

— Steve Stephens can be reached at sstephens@dispatch.com or on Twitter @SteveStephens.