Jim McGee – construction worker, civic activist, American patriot

 

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Jimmy McGee, July 26 1937-January 12, 2017

My long time friend, business partner, fellow prairie builder, community leader, humanitarian, friend to all men – a man who I considered my spiritual brother, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from this Earth a week ago Thursday. Jim and I worked together nearly every day for almost fifteen years.

Jim was a construction master, skilled in so many fields of construction – different types of hands-on, lobor-focused work. But he had a brilliant mind and a work ethic like no other person I’ve known – together Jim and I built a business. We built many different gardens and prairies all over the central Gulf south – in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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new digging shovels, 2011, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

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At Mark Y Jenkins Nursery, Amite, Louisiana

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November 2010, bagging and weighing prairie seed at Ashe Seed Extractory facility, U.S. Forest Service, De Soto National Forest, Wiggins, Mississippi

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Jim at Buttercup Flats, U.S. Forest Service, De Stoto National Forest, Wiggins, Mississippi

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Jim was one of eleven children, three brothers and seven sisters, born in Williamsburg/Collins, Covington County, Mississippi, in the grips of the Great Depression, to the late D.C and Dora McGee, cotton-subsistence share-cropper farmers – a very hard working family – salt of the Earth people. Jim, as soon as he could, as soon as he was old enough, left home, to get away from cotton farming, work he said was difficult and often, not very prosperous –  a type of work he didn’t particularly like.

Jim worked in heavy construction work as a supervisor for 30 plus years before he and I met.

I was honored to be asked by Jim’s wife of 57 years, Mrs. Annie Lee McGee, to be one of three, to speak about Jim at his funeral ceremony at the church he worked so hard for –  for so many years, a church community he loved so much.

Never have I seen such a beautiful ceremony that included four ministers who delivered very emotional, moving sermons, two musical solos by two extraordinarily talented soloists, and the most uplifting music from the church’s full Gospel choir that nearly lifted  the church house off its foundation – very touching indeed – it was.

Saturday, hundreds of friends and relatives filled to capacity, the huge Hart’s Chapel Baptist Church, in the old railroad town of Derby, Mississippi to pay homage to Jim.

 

This, below, is my attempt at a eulogy for Jim. An ode to Jimmy McGee.

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Jim McGee was my buddy. He was my best friend. I loved him like a brother.

Jim was one of the hardest working people I have known. Jim had what is called a strong work ethic. When there was a job to do, you could could bet the farm that Jim was going to figure out a way get it done. Give him the toughest challenge and he would accept it with joy.

But although his and our relationship was often based on getting together to work, it was much more than that. We took care of one another like brothers do.

Jim had a kind and caring, sweet soul. He had a heart of gold and wasn’t afraid to show it. He had great compassion for his fellow man.

In fifteen years that I knew him, I never saw Jim mad or upset.

Jim loved his church. He loved his God. And he loved Mrs. Annie and their sweet family so much.

Jim loved his country. He loved his farm. He loved living in America and being an American. He was a true American in every sense of the word. Jimmy McGee was one of my American heroes.

Jim was from a time, an era, that for me, was a connection to the past. Some of the stories he told me through the years were so important – ones that shed light on who he was and what used to be, what life used to be like back in the day, from his unique and optimistic perspective.

When Jim and I worked, or if we were just talking on the phone, we would laugh and carry on. We had a good time together.

When I went through a tough time, a great loss in my life several years ago, Jim was there to be my friend. He was there to assure me that things would get better. He helped me through that rough patch in the road, just like good friends do.

Mrs. Annie told me not long ago that Jim and I were like two peas in a pod. I would agree. And am proud to say that that was true.

I am certain where Jimmy is today. He is no doubt, in a heavenly, peaceful world – reunited with his family – those that have gone on, before him. He has slipped the surly bonds of Earth – he has put out his hand to touch the face of God.

I will miss him so much but I know we will meet again, in due time.

I am certain of that.
God bless Jim. And God Bless Mrs Annie, and all of the McGee Family.

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On a lighter note…….

Make America a Bee Meadow Again!!!

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check out a just burned Meridian bee meadow, above

Bee hives are the perfect pairing for a prairie. The two benefit from being in close proximity with one another. Just ask my friend Gail, in Meridian, Mississippi. She and her super fly husband Richard will testify about how good their homemade honey tastes on her homemade granola, combined with a little bit of Greek yogurt. mmmmm….That there’s livin’, folks!

Life s good when you can burn a prairie patch in your back forty and enjoy the flars’ and stuff and the bees and butterflies that are a-flutterin’ whilst your eatin’ your granola yogurt. Wonder what’s better’n that?

Can I get an AMEN?!!!

Only in a Merca, ya’ll!

Actually, I understand that the word meadow comes from the root word mead, which is a beer made from honey – honey from wildflower pollen and stuff. Gotta taste me some of that mead beer one day.

Gail’s garden is a collection of really cool native wildflowers and grasses.

It ain’t gotta be big to be a bee meadow, ya’ll. But isn’t bigger always better?

I ‘been trying to convince my middle sister, Niki, who lives in one of those fancy gated communities (with cool codes at the front gate), that she and her hubby need to git’ her one of these here prairie meadows. I tell her the neighbors won’t mind a bit – probably – when she and hubby burn the “back forty”.

My Meridian bud’s garden is only 20 by 50 feet in size. She collected seed in paper bags and since she’s an s’pert horticulturist type person, she grew a bunch of plugs, too and low and behold — voila!!! – five years later she gets a cool full-burn like you see in the pic.

Nice.

Gail tells me it was the best burn she’s had yet. It takes some time to get a prairie up to speed by way of seed.

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More far’

Speaking of burnt prairie meadows, I got a chance between storms to do a burn here at the Ponderosa yesterday.

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click to enlarge the pano pic of the toasty Ponderosa pyre yesterday.

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Pineville prairie project’s initial prescribed fire

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The Grant residence, situated on a large imposing hilltop, near Pineville, Louisiana, in Rapides Parish is graced with a juvenile-stage three acre prairie garden.  Local landscape architect Tony Tradewell coordinated and helped design it. Tony and the Grants worked on the ideas of placement and scale of the design while utilizing my services as advisor for construction and as the seed source, for planting, etc.

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Jim Foret seeds Cade Farm 3-acre Cajun Prairie and Allen Parish Welcome Center with cool local-ecotype seed

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Professor Jim (also known as Possum) Foret of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, with magical seed, above, at the Allen Parish Visitor’s Welcome Center prairie planting “event”

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native saline prairies, part of our Loosiana’ natural area landscape

dug up some old photos of a Charles Allen field trip from summer of 1999 a while back, of a cool Saline prairie in Kisatchie National forest.

amazing flora “grazed” by good people, in photos, below

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these saline prairie areas are where the native Americans and the early settlers got their salt.

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Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail Park, Covington — Patterns, Pools, and Textures

winter landscapes of grasses

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feets don’t fail me now….

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hydrology changes patterns and textural effects in the winter landscape of BSC Nature Trail, a project initiated by the concerned citizens of the non-profit Keep Covington Beautiful, City of Covington, St. Tammany Parish, La. Bluestem and Beaked Panicum in foreground, contrast with the course textured, darker colored Dicanthelium scabrusculum.

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pools, left from logging many years ago, hold water and nurture nice stands of the carnivorous Yellow Bladder Wort colonies and Dicanthelium scabrusculum

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in the wetland storm water retention area, wet tolerant grasses thrive, above

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the wetland retention area in panorama

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the carnivorous Pitcher Plant area, above and below, all photos of BSC Nature Trail taken last week

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two discovery links, below

http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/15/digging-deep-reveals-the-intricate-world-of-roots/

http://www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/prairie-roots-project

Make America prairie again!

Yogi Berra said “it ain’t the heat its the humility”

Dizzy Dean said ” it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”

Thanks to Jeff Carbo’s office staff for being so helpful during our collaboration process and thanks to Mr. Carbo himself for including us as horticultural and ecological consultants and in the submittal for this, our third national ASLA landscape design award. We did it!!!!!

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Switch grasses, nothing to panic about

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a Wikipedia image above, of bare lanky-long Switch grass roots

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above, in Heidi Natura’s prairie plant image above, Switch grass is eighth from the right. click photo to enlarge

Panicums and Dicantheliums are two closely related genus of grasses, common in Louisiana. You’ll find different species in different habitats across the state, in a wide range of plant communities, conditions, and soil types.

Many are particularly useful in ornamental horticulture and of course eco-restoration. Have you planted a Panicum today?

Distinguishable by their leaves and panical form inflorescences, making good cover and food plants for wildlife, they hold and build soil.

There are well over 100 species of Panicum listed in the Atlas of the Vascular Flora of Louisiana, with over forty species of Dicanthelium.

Panicum anceps –  a good short grass with a tendency to occur in bogs, flatwoods and a variety of other sites

Panicum hemotomon – if you need an invasive very aggressive short grass for really wet sites, this may be it – perfect for constructed retention basins, as it is a plant that will cover wet ground in a way no other plant will  – ideal for this use. Also, the fact that it is a grass and is so aggressive in wet conditions lends this plant to use as a fuel source for fires – fires are hard to produce sometimes when wet conditions prevail. In these circumstances – wetlands – fires often stop where the moisture begins unless the environment is experiencing a drought. Panicum hemotomon is your anwswer especially since it is short in stature and quite appropriate for the urban, designed condition.

Panicum scoparium – the large textured leaves of Velvet Panic grass feel so good to the touch. Nummy. A big, gangly early succession thing.

Panicum verrucosum –  Warty Panicum and early succession weed but a really good fine textured tall grower about four feet

Panicum virgatum – Switch grass, also known as Thatch grass and Panic grass is the most common species. When your hear the term Switch grass, its usually P. virgatum being discussed. Its a tightly running grass generally expanding a few inches each year once established. A single plant planted in my seed field fifteen years ago is now 14 feet across. P. vergatum is a generalist in that it has a wide range, occuring from Canada to the Gulf coast and from say the western rockies to the East coast. has roots that reach 8-10 feet deep. Native American built thatch roofed huts with Switch grass. Use local genetic plant material in order to assure longevity, persistence in a stand. Some genetic strains have been found to die off over time.

Like all prairie plants, Switch grass has a place in the landscape – most are wet tolerant and show up in low areas but some are dry, upland genetics, requiring soil drainage, drier soils. Both are highly adaptable to upland conditions – typical garden conditions, and are highly adaptable to most existing soils found in Louisiana and the central Gulf coastal region. I have seen a couple of instances in natural areas where Switch grass covered acres of land – huge masses – quite exceptional to see.

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Panicum virgatum was adaptable as a bio-fuel plant because it is found in so many states in the union.

I’ve used these ornamental varieties for gardens for many years and all hold up well for us – Dallas Blue, Heavy Metal, Northwind, Cloud Nine, and Brooksville Blue. But use native genetic seed for ecological restoration work.

Dicanthelium laxiflorum – a three inch tall, maximum height – one foot diamete grass – a very fine textured ground cover clumping plant, very delicate somewhat ornamental in charater

Dicanthelium scabriusculum – the big Pitcher plant Panic grass with medium textured leaves

Dicanthelium aciculare – fine textured one foot tall plant

Dicanthelium commutatum – Variable Panic grass, present in every Parish but one, commonly found

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Photographs from Charlotte and Jean’s St Tammany Parish prairie garden

My friends Charlotte and Jean developed this front yard prairie garden with seed bought from us. Charlotte says she like the garden a bit wholly. She was kind enough to send me these photos and when I asked, gave permission to publish them. We will be using them for our new website, currently in construction.

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April, Baptisia

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Beard tongues and Poc-poc plants

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August Bushmints and Bushy Bluestems

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September Goldenrods and Asters

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October

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December is for masses of grasses

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Seidenberg Home Garden, St Tammany Parish, La

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a dirty dozen Abstract Prairie Facts

  • About 2.5 million acres of Tall grass coastal prairie once existed in southwestern Louisiana, with possibly 5 million acres of Long Leaf Pine herbaceous understory vegetation (pine prairie)
  • Prairie is one of the rarest ecosystems in Louisiana
  • as much as 80% of the biomass of vegetation in a prairie consists of grasses; however only 20% of the plant species are grasses
  • 142 million acres of Tall grass prairie once existed in North America.
  • approximately .01% —– one hundredth of one percent of the original ancient prairie exists today – with more lost each consecutive year.
  • Tall grass prairie forbs are found nowhere else but in prairies
  • The climate for Louisiana was suited for trees as well as it was for grasses. Fires that periodically burned across the landscape helped to keep the balance in favor of prairies. Most species, except for certain Oaks, Hickories and Pines, do not tolerate fire and are killed back or killed off
  • Prairie produce most of their growth during the hot months of summer and are mostly dormant in winter
  • Much of the prairie in the Midwest originated from prairies in the Southeastern U.S. when the glacial period ended and ocean levels receded during the Cretaceous period
  • commonly, over 300 species of plants have been found in Tall grass prairies, with Gulf coastal prairies exhibiting more species than those in the mid-western and more northern parts of the Tall grass system
  •  60-70% of the biomass of prairies us found below the surface of the soil – only 30 – 40% is above ground biomass
  • as much as fifty percent of all prairie plant roots die in winter, to regrow new ones in summer. This is one way prairie plants create rich organic matter

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Quick trip to the Crosby –  a brisk walk to photograph interpretive signs

If you haven’t yet visited Crosby Arboretum, stop in one day, winter time is as good as any. See the premiere native plant public garden of the region. Bring a sack lunch and a thermos and chill to the grass landscape. I captured over 80 signs digitally and didn’t get many. here’s a few.

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saw these at the edge of the path

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“courage is a muscle”

“Courage is a muscle”   Sara Blakely, youngest female self-made billionaire

Sara is a hero of mine, not because she’s made a lot of money but because her story of steadfast determination and never giving up is one that is close to mine.

Sara Blakely’s top three rules of entrepreneurial spirit/ being in business. It worked for me.

  1. Don’t let the word “no” stop you.
  2. Don’t quit your day job just yet.
  3. Never stop evolving

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Sara says you have to practice your courage. You have to try and try to get your idea honed just right. You have to fail. Don’t be afraid to try on a new set of dancing shoes, folks.

Entrepreneurship is not for chickens. Don’t be a chicken, be a lion or a lioness.

About twenty years ago, at a plant conference in western North Carolina, a friend, Plato Touliatos asked me what I had been up to lately. I told him I was busy developing a landscape business model, an idea based on prairie landscapes. “I didn’t realize the was a market for that in Mississippi?”, He said.

I responded, “There isn’t, I intend to build one.”

Sometimes it takes a while.

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Rockin’ around the Christmas Prairies!

Don’t be afraid to try the unknown, the curious, the exciting.

Leap into life with two feet, like my friend Jim.

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Professor Jim Foret (St. Nick?), with his sleigh loaded with bags of goodies (choice seed) for the new 3 acre prairie garden that will be seeded today, Thursday, at the Cade Farm, the experimental farm operated by the School of Geosciences, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, the “living laboratory”. Jim Picked up the seed last week. We met at the City of Mandeville’s prairie garden to make the transaction. He hadn’t had the chance to see the City’s prairie garden yet so we walked it a little while. He wanted to check that off of his bucket list, I guess. 🙂

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My Christmas advice? I say yield to nothing, ya’ll!!!! above, one of Mandeville’s established prairie gardens.  click to enlarge the photos…

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New Prairie Gardens in Madisonville, Louisiana

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One of the latest designs Pastorek Habitats is consulting for, drawn by Landscape Architect Joe Furr for a public park in Madisonville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. These wetland prairies-to-be will be constructed as authentic Long Leaf Pine herbaceous understory vegetation, based on a Pine Flat plant community, produced from seed collected in nearby privately owned natural areas. Public spaces such as Joe’s recreation Park project are perfect demonstration sites for exhibiting the ecological value and fine aesthetic beauty of the prairie landscape.

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Eastern Gamma grass, a candidate for the occasionally mowed, grass landscape

For many years I have studied this natural area, below, near my farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi.

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Eastern Gamma grass, Tripsicum dactyloides, is a really substantially adaptable plant, worthy of more use in agriculture, horticulture, landscape design, and ecological restoration. The above photo is a site along the Pearl River, occasionally mowed by the Mississippi State Department of Transportation (Highway Dept). Its occasionally flooded, too, for a week or three each year, when the river – up and rises.

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Growing in small scattered populations along with the Gamma grass is another wetland indicator species, Erianthus strictus (Saccharun baldwinii? (dang botanists can’t make up their mind), commonly known as Narrow Plume grass, a fairly commonly occurring plant in high moisture soils.

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Gamma grass, the predominant plant here, takes mowing or grazing pretty well, and makes a nice meadow for those inclined to use a bush hog on their tractor. We’ve had some temperatures in the upper twenties in the last couple of weeks so this landscape is recently frosted, turning a beautiful tan brown color.

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above, after two mowings, one in May and one in August, Gamma grass has rebounded – twice during the growing season. Its back and it’ll stay thigh high through the long winter season (photo taken last week), making a delightful sight for appreciative eyes. A grassland landscape like this also provides important protective cover for wildlife.

A single Eastern Gamma plant can act as a solitary accent plant in a home. Three plants grouped together are three times as much fun!

Eastern Gamma is a plant that’s rounded in form, making a globular, course textured  effect in the garden. It has an ancient connection to the corn plant and in fact if you look at a corn seed and a Gamma seed, you’ll see they look somewhat similar and if you pop a Gamma seed in your mouth and suck on it a while, it will taste just like corn.

Grown by the acre, it carpets the grown and fills the soil with deep roots. Gamma filters storm water. It captures and stores carbon. Grazers happen to love the stuff, so make a bovine or a bison happy today and plant a sustainable, low input forage crop – its highly palatable. As Ralph Cramden used to say, How sweet it is!!

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wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and happy Holiday season. Peace on Earth and good will to all men, women, and plants.

 

 

 

 

“Science is not everything, but science is very beautiful.”

“Science is not everything, but science is very beautiful.” J. Robert Oppenhiemer, Physicist

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Have I mentioned lately that the Long Leaf Pine-Bluestem plant community is very beautiful, too? Check out this on-line booklet, published back in the sixties, below.

http://www.americaslongleaf.org/media/2541/common-plants-of-llp-bluestem-range-_usfs_.pdf


Elizabeth’s Mississippi natural meadow – its an unabashed show-off

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above, panoramic views of my one-year-old-from-seed Muhleisen home prairie garden planting in Carriere, Mississippi. October 2016 – click on the photos to enlarge

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Three Awn Grass. Dude, just sayin’.

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Sweet Goldenrod, smells some-good’, yeah!

That there’s very beautiful, folks.

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Split Beard Bluestem – a contender!!!!

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Got Splitbeard?

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Split Beard Blue, aka Paintbrush Bluestem, Andropogon ternarius, is one of our showiest native grasses for landscaping with cool native grasses, with white fluffy-cottony puffs of seed that show up about October, its easily identified at fifty feet. The little grass clumps are quite small, little tufts (six inches or a foot tall). You can’t see it really, ’til its in flower or fruit – kinda blends in if’n ya know what I mean.

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Saaaaweeeet!!! Puffa-puffa, nice!

Git’ you some!

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Charlotte’s Front Yard natural meadow

Mother, wildlife lover, registered nurse, author, Charlotte Siedenberg enjoys her Covington, Louisiana Bluestem natural meadow garden

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Charlotte’s husband Jean’s scultpures are the highlight of the garden plantings, now three years old. Get Charlotte’s book, The Wildlife Garden; Planning Backyard Habitats, its a cure for ecological blindness, a nearly fatal condition.

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Non-natives are plants, too!

Pollinator Pant of the Year 2016!!!!!!!  ….drumroll…..

……Plant of the Year for me is African Blue Basil, a sterile hybrid of two plants. Its one of the best Pollinator species for the garden that I’ve seen, ever. Nothing and I mean nothing comes close. Amazing numbers of Bumble Bees and Butterflies and cool green Skippers were on this all summer, like gravy on rice.

The really great additional attributes are its impressive size, for an annual, and its floral longevity. One plant can get three or four feet in diameter. Mine flowered profusely from the time I put them in the ground in late April until first hard frost which was two days ago – December 9th. That’s nine months of floriferousness!!!!

individual flowers make wonderful additions to flowery arrangements for the kitchen, too! ya-hoo!

Never have I so enjoyed an annual plant. Really, really easy, and really fun. The grandkids were enthralled with the bee activity, their smiles showed it.

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Blue Basil last week at the hacienda

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This was two weeks ago – before the light frosts we’ve had since took place.

 

Runner up for top plant is Zahara Zinnia, I tried the white form. Its a Park Seed exclusive. Got mine from Stelz Nursery in Folsom, a wholesale nursery, an annual and herb farm. Zahara flowered and attracted daily assortments of Butterflies and Skippers. A short statured, persistent, floriferous plant. I say persistent because we had record breaking rainfall this year during the summer and it held up just fine. Zinnias don’t like a lot of rain. They like it dry.This one didn’t mind the rain at all.

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This is July, above

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…and last week, some flowers still hanging on, in foreground – Lomandra just behind – Crinum Eleen Bosenquet behind that.

Third and lastly is a perennial, a Crinum. Not just any old Crinum but Crinum moorei. C. Moorei is the queen of all Crinum, as far as my judgement goes. Its a great plant for any Gulf coastal garden. Big three foot strappy leaves that always look good in the growing season. It grows for me for the last fifteen years in sun or shade, wet or dry. Its a beast. But a very delicate beast.

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Dug a bunch for my water garden

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Moore’s Crinum blooms in June, July

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Awesome Weed of the Year

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Hemp Vine – flowers, in white – make great garden addition. Its a Butterfly host plant. Its a weed but when it flowers, if you have a large plant, it can be heavenly scented, is attractive to Monarch Butterflies and the flower timing is perfect as the Monarchs are coming through for their southern trip, October, etc. The blue here is Eupatorium coelestinum, Mist Flower.

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Some non natives totally suck – so, careful what you wish for……

I cut this out of my seed fields. Birds eat the apparently delicious fruit and distribute it near and far……

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Musta been 300 pounds of fruit on that sucker- Ewwwwwww!!!!!!! Gross!!!!

Bradford Pear makes a great bon fire.

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old Chinese proverb – ha

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Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now. so get busy w that.

old Chinese proverb ha

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My Long Leaf pines at 15 years

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nice cones!

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this above is what I am shooting for….

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ha and maybe, one day, this….

Now. Go plant something, ya’ll! 🙂

for Piet’s sake!

The Prairie Inspired Garden

In 2010, I was able to make a much anticipated trip to New York, New York, for a family wedding event. Tops on my list of places to see while I was there of course was the High Line, the internationally famous public garden, said to be “the most Instagrammed place on Earth”.

The High Line is exactly that, an old abandoned elevated industrial rail line on Manhattan’s west side that runs along the Hudson piers. As the rail sat unused for about 30 years, a self-seeded prairie-like landscape developed and became the subject of a photographer Joel Sternfeld’s creative interests. He spent a year photographing the many parts of the line, capturing a collection of images that would later be used to sell the idea of transitioning the rail to a linear public park.

A cracker jack team of designers and horticulturists was assembled to further develop the idea, including the very capable Netherlands based planting designer Piet Oudolf – he was most instrumental in choosing plant approaches and plant lists. The result is a garden that’s a hybrid between a natural prairie garden the English border garden. Oudolf used native prairie grasses and perennial wildflowers but he included many many horticultural selections of native species, and also some species that are not native to the Americas. Even the non native species look at home amongst the prairie plant drifts. The planting lists for the gardens are long, and made up mostly of herbs and grasses, with some plantings of small trees and shrubs, and vines and bulbs.

The design emphasis of the High Line is on low input, drought tolerant species that save on resources, something to consider when your garden is a mile and a half long.

The design approach is rather simple, using mass plantings of species that contrast in color, texture, and form  – species that are tough and hold their own in the landscape. By using so many different species, the designers planned for an unfolding landscape, month to month, much like the continuous interest a natural area relict prairie would provide. The result is simplistic, but rather beautiful, any time of the year. The substance of the garden design and its overall horticultural appeal is significant. It is said that 5 million people visit the High Line each year.

I visited during the month of January so I saw the gardens at their weakest. I was still very much impressed with them. I could still identify most of the plants.

Mr. Oudolf is a much sought after garden designer famous for his work with grasses and perennials. He promotes the perennial plant garden and points out that winter-frosted perennials and grasses have character, too.

He has designed the High Line gardens to mimic the American prairie, with grasses as bones of the garden, the cloth that the garden color is woven into. The gardens are perfectly attractive to pollinator species including butterflies, skippers, dragonflies, native bees and wasps, honeybees, and so forth.

Speaking from my perspective, grasses are used much like the evergreen shrub is in an English border garden; as a back drop for color, as a contrasting element – a whispy feature that highlights and refracts light, enhances and contrasts colors and textures. Grasses come in many shapes, sizes, and textures, but grasses are colorful, too. Switch grass may not be just right for every garden but there is no denying this plant has a bold presence. It starts off as a medium textured foliage emerging in late spring, subtle and unassuming. By mid-summer, its knee high – dense and robust. By fall, it is chest high, mostly rounded in form, and starting to produce its fine textured seed panicles, which crown the tops of the foliage mass with a smokey-mist effect. When first frost comes, the green linear leaves turn a clear crisp tan color, a very dramatic change that carries through the winter. Four different cultivars of Switch grass are used in the High Line gardens. Little Bluestem grass, a shorter, more vertically inclined plant is used extensively through the plantings. It has a contrasting blue foliage in summer and turns a reddish-ochre color in winter. The very popular and extraordinarily stylish Calamagrostus X Karl Foerster is another among the 30 different grasses that are used in the project altogether. Over 150 species of perennials accompany the grasses.

The practicality in using grasses is their sheer ability to sustain themselves with little or no care. Plant them and pretty much forget about them, though they generally need cutting back in late winter just before the new growth starts, generally in April or May. Grasses enable you to have twice as much garden with half as much care. If you’re planting the right grasses, they will likely last longer than you will – they’ll out live you!

Not all grasses are created equally. Some ecotypes (regionally local genetic strains) do not adapt permanently and can decline and fade from the landscape over a few years time. Try to source seed collected locally so the plants are more able to survive in our unique Gulf-influenced environmental extremes. After all, its best to be successful the first time around – unless of course you like failure.

The prairie inspired garden is becoming more accepted in horticultural circles. With so many species adaptable to this idea, the design possibilities are practically limitless.

Common Prairie Plants for Gardening in Louisiana

GRASSES

Little Bluestem grass
Yellow Indian grass
Split Beard Bluestem grass
Elliot’s Bluestem
Elliot’s Indian grass
Narrow Leafed Bluestem
Sporobolus junceus
Dicanthelium sp
Panicum anceps
Love grass
Winter Bent grass
Toothache grass
Purple Silky Scale grass
Aristida purpurascens
Tridens flavus
Triden strictus
Triden ambiguus
Eastern Gamma grass
Big Bluestem grass
Bushy Bluestem grass

WILDFLOWERS (perennials)

Baptisa alba
Baptisia nuttalli
Baptisia spherocarpa
Baptisia bracteata
Coreopsis linifolia
Coreopsis pubescens
Coreopsis tripteris
Coreopsis rosea
Coreopsis lanceolata
Tephrosia onobrychoides
Monarda lindhiemeri
Monarda fistulosa
Monarda citriodora
Monarda punctata
Pycnanthemum tenuifolia
Pycnanthemum albescens
Silphium gracile
Silphium integrifolia
Silphium laciniata
Scuttellaria integrifolia
Eryngium yuccafolia
Eryngium integrifolium
Tradescantia virginicus
Penstemon digitalis
Penstemon laxiflorus
Sabatia gentianoides
Callirhoe papaver
Rudbeckia texana
Rudbeckia grandiflora
Rudbeckia hirta
Rudbeckia subtomentosa
Bigelowia virgata
Liatris squarrosa
Liatris squarrulosa
Liatris elegans
Liatris spicata
Liatris acidota
Liatris pycnostachya
Erigeron philedalphicus
Erigeron strigosus
Boltonia asteroides
Eupatorium hyssopifolium
Eupatorium serotinum
Euthamia leptocephala
Euthamia tenuifolia
Lobelia puberula
Erythrinia herbacea
Physostegia digitalis
Rhexia mariana
Pityopsis pilosa
Solidago odora
Solidago rugosa
Solidago tortifolia
Solidago nemoralis
Solidago sempervirens
Echinacea pallida
Echinacea purpurea
Helianthus mollis
Helianthus angustifolia
Euphorbia colorata
Salvia azurea
Barrens Silky Aster
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Asclepias lanceolata
Asclepias obovata
Asclepias incarnata
Asclepias longifolia
Asclepias perennis
Asclepias rubra
Asclepias syriaca
Asclepias variegata
Asclepias verticilata
Asclepias viridiflora
Asclepias Viridis
Asclepias tuberosa

Where to Visit Prairie Gardens in the U.S

University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Curtis Prairie, Madison, Ws.

North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University, Picayune, Ms.

Where to Visit Prairie Gardens in Louisiana

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society, Eunice, La

Cajun Prairie Gardens, Eunice, La

Allen Acres B and B, Pitkin, La

St Landry Parish Visitor’s Center, Opelousas, La

Duralde Prairie Restoration, Duralde, La

Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve

LSU AgCenter Research and Gardens, Hammond, La

City of Mandeville Wildflower Conservation Area

City of Hammond – Chappapeela Park, Hammond, La

City of Monroe – Kiroli Park, Monroe, La

City of Covington – Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail, Covington, La

Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology, University of Lafayette, Lafayette, La

Hamilton Hall, University of Lafayette, Lafayette, La

City Of New Iberia, Mr. Al (the Live Oak) Prairie, New Iberia, La

*the list provided is focused on Louisiana natives – consider other endemics native to your locale when developing your own garden lists – though many of the species listed here are generalists and not site specific

For more information on educational classes regarding native grasses and wildflower identification and culture, contact Dr. Charles M. Allen at native@camtel.net

 

* this article written for December issue of Louisiana State Horticulture Society

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cool lawn color from Oxalis at a New Orleans’ Lake Lawn funeral home

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have prairie, will travel

“While I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara falls, the upper Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but the Prairies and Plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America’s characteristic landscape.”

– Walt Whitman

 

In the Deep South, November is the time of prairie grasses. Little Bluestem, Elliot’s Bluestem, and Split Beard Bluestem grass, with a few Blazing Stars, all in seed, last week, above.

 

I again was given the gift of the opportunity for gathering amazing God’s-gift seed collections yet another year, from some stellar stands of natural prairie. This year makes 25 years of doing this.

Amen.

 

above, even a dreary overcast day is brightened by the study of a prairie grass landscape garden – last week in St Tammany Parish – a three year old prairie garden from cool seed

 

Hometown Habitat presentation, tomorrow, Baton Rouge

Its late, I know, but tomorrow, Sunday November 6 at 2:00 pm at the Shaw Center, downtown Baton Rouge, is the Capitol Area Native Plant Society’s final screening of Hometown Habitat – the movie – Catherine Zimmerman’s latest silver screen endeavor featuring Dr. Doug Tallamy. Be there or be square. ha  Elvis would go if he could. 🙂

Home

last week, I was in in southwestern Louisiana, in a cool prairie remnant, hanging out with Three Awn Grass and and some close friends, below

 

we all had a great time.

see ya’ll later! get outside and see some wild things!

lecture/ program on prairie gardening for pollinators via seed, tonight

Come sit and visit with me at the New Orleans Master Gardeners meeting – we’ll talk about prairie gardens….

powerpoint for tonight’s talk, below

new-orleans-master-gardeners-october-17-2016

6:00 p.m.  @ City Park Botanical Gardens, New Orleans

first frost heralds climactic end to long prairie season

October in the prairie brings on a rush of flowering activity. Many late season species of plants are just getting cranked up about now, making their way to flowering before first frost arrives. Likewise, activity of pollinators increases as so many species of flowering plants come into peak bloom and availability of nectar becomes abundant.

Here on the Gulf coast where our growing season is spread out for such a long duration, spring and summer flowering plants have long finished, stepping aside for the prairie crescendo triggered by the shortening of days.

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False Foxglove, a fairly common Louisiana plant

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A white colored form of Gerardia shows up occasionally.

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And so do the caterpillars of the Common Buckeye Butterfly. Its not uncommon to find one or more of these on each plant.

The hallmark of the fall prairie aesthetic along with late blooming Salvia, Asters, Goldenrods, Blazing stars, and so many other species, are the grasses, the vibrant bones of the prairie. Light refracting grasses shine in the fall and winter season, providing structure and form, beauty and robustness; exuberance.

Here in the Gulf coastal plain, prairie is a year-round feature for man and creature.

In the ecology of restored prairies that are grown from seed, grasses are the part of the landscape that densely covers the ground and is the least hospitable toward weedy species – old field weeds. The southern native prairie grass doubles as a nurse crop for perennial prairie wildflowers. All find their niche – and grow and fight for space, nutrients and moisture, root zone – a real fight for individual survival.

Its so fun and exciting each year to see and feel the liveliness of all the activity in a garden such as this.

 

False Foxglove is a great plant to try from seed. So easy. Its almost a guarantee you’ll get a stand of plants from a tiny bag of seed. It thrives with a little disturbance. Just collect seed by stripping the stalks with your hands any time, now until first frost. Put them in a paper bag and keep dry. Sow the seed whenever, in crudely prepared soil. They’ll grow!



Repentance Park, City of Baton Rouge, La., an urban park with a grassy flair!

Indian grass, it turns out, happens to be an effective low maintenance groundcover for an extreme-slope large scale landscape condition.

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above, the foliage of Indian grass is blue green, a stark contrast to the dark green canopy of Southern Magnolia.

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click to enlarge photos

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Golden yellow flowering heads of Yellow Indian Grass – of local, Louisiana genes. BR Convention Center on left. Different grasses species and different horticultural selections of some grasses have varying characteristics that can be exploited, useful for many horticultural applications. 3500 Indian grass plants were grown as one-year-old plugs for this garden planting, planted three years ago.

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Baton Rouge’s City Hall looms in the distance as Indian grass solidly solves slippery slope erosion issue, while making a great color and texture contrast with Carissa Holly, bottom right  – Repentance Park gardens, designed by Reed-Hilderbrand, Landscape Architects/ Reich, Associates, Landscape Architects/ Pastorek Habitats, llc.

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Louisiana Department of Transportation/ University of Louisiana at Lafayette prairie planting is rockin’

This La DOT prairie garden is about two acres in size, just west of New Iberia, Louisiana, at Highway 90. September 27, 2016. It was planted in November of last year – still a whippersnapper, yet.

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above, January 16, 2016, google earth

june-2016

above, May 6, 2016, google earth

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September 27, 2016 – Ryan Duhon, DOT Supervisor and project partners UL Prof Jim Foret and Mark Simon stand in the shade of “Mr. Al”, the giant transplanted Live Oak tree, surrounded by lush first year prairie growth. We saw many nice maturing flowering clumps of Little Bluestem grass everywhere – some fistulosa Bee Balm, Hyssop Leafed Thoroughwort (HLT), and a few very hip Clustered Bushmint that were scattered here and yonder. There were lots of Boltonia aster – typical for a first-year seeding. And there were a few hundred giant cloud-puffs of Late Flowering Thoroughwort (LFT) Eupatorium serotinum (the white flowering plant in the photo) – I guess you could say LFT looks a little weedy but its one of our best butterfly plants and it happens that it blooms just in the window of time for Monarch butterfly migration, late Sept to late October. Such a great pollinator plant! You gotta get you some, folks!

In prairie ecology from seed, LFT is replaced by through natural succession, a lack of soil disturbance. With planting (soil disturbance), LFT fills the site and over time it fades as LFT colonizes.

LFT is a gangly fellow, four to six feet tall while LFT is typically about two or three feet short.

eupatorium-serotinum

Eupatorium serotinum, a generalist species, is associated as much with woodlands as it is with prairie. A commonly found disturbance-oriented plant considered to be an exceptional late season butterfly nectar source – a worthy pollinator species. map, BONAP

eupatorium-hyssopifolium

Eup hyssoppifolium is limited to high quality herbaceous grasslands of the Gulf and Atlantic coastal plain, etc. From seed it establishes easily and is prolific seed (plant) producer.

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Eup Serotinum is found easily in every Parish in Louisiana, a very common roadside plant- Eup Hyssop, is not so easily found, limited to high quality, generally fire managed, sites. (above images Allen and Thomas – Vascular Flora of Louisiana)

Eupatoriums are an important part of our native flora with 40 plus species and subspecies found in Louisiana. In a prairie you’ll often find many species growing together. Valuable plants they are.

After our visit with Ryan, Mark, Jim and I went out to Cade Farm, the ULL, School of Geosciences Living Laboratory to see the new seed storage and educational  facilities being built and to see the site of the new four acre prairie garden, to be planted this November. Nice.

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National Guard prairie making hay while the sun shines

Pretty fun to walk the fields at the National Guard facility in Franklinton last week. There are acres of cover crop of Sida, Zinnia, Purple Basil, brown-top Millet with lots of Buckeyes, Sulfurs, Fritillaries and Swallowtail butterflies a-fluttering about – many many butterflies. Sida rhombifolia is an amazing early succession weedy plant that really brings in the butterflies, skippers and what have you. Lots of pollinator activity there, ya’ll – how fun!

 

Sida is anything but a good ornamental plant. Its a weed, really. From ten feet away, you can’t see the tee-tinesy flower, but a closer look at the flower and you can see how it might be related to the hibiscus family.

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sida-cordifolia

The stems of the plant are tough stuff, nearly unbreakable, by hand. Its a disturbance oriented plant but declines and eventually disappears from prairie managed landscapes due to intense plant competition and from the lack of soil disturbance in managed prairie.

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LaDOT eastbound I-20 Rest Area pollinator garden at Tremont is showing signs of progress in spite of a late planting date. Who would have thunk?

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Four months after planting, we have some good looking identifiable inflorescences of a few of the Little Bluestem plants, above. Seeing the Bluestem plants with flower stalks helps develop a search image to identify seedlings without flowering stalks, below. Its really hard to ID grasses without flowering, fruiting parts.

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Go Team Blue!

Perennials are generally super slow to grow and prairie garden is made mostly with perennials; grasses and all. Seedlings like these take time, to make enough roots to mature, to make a flower and then fruit. It takes a few years to develop a dense prairie sod from seed. So what are you waiting for?

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cool prairie plants that double as outdoor ornamentals and indoor arrangements!

A few prairie plants I’ve enjoyed so much this year – natives and nonnatives – consider them for ornamental plantings. Find yourself some Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Sweet Coneflower, and you’ll have a plant worthy of the finest spot in your garden.

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Rudbeckia subtomentosa has a long bloom period, two full months. Here it is in flower with Wendy’s Wish Salvia and Amastad Salvia, Mikania (not in flower), in a semi shade spot in my garden in Covington, last week. Its been in flower since August 1. Sweet coneflower takes mixed shade or sun and is tough as nails, an evergreen ground cover in winter.

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cool, dude “Henry Eiller” Rudbeckia subtomentosa, a northern selection, northern genes, of R. sub. I’ve been admiring this plant in my friend Gail’s garden for years. Very unique indeed, no?

 

Kosteletskya (Hibiscus) virginica var. ‘Immaculate”, the white flowering form of Coastal Hibiscus, one found by Landscape Architect/ plantsman John Mayronne in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, in the 1990’s. Its now a common specialty garden plant. Notice Rudbeckia subtomentosa in flower, in the background, Indian Grass in foreground. Plants purchased from Rick Webb’s Louisiana Growers Nursery (wholesale). A six footer, Immaculate is upright and flowers in late September. Flowers open at night and finish up when the afternoon heat arrives.

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http://www.nichegardens.com/catalog/item.php?id=1558&PHPSESSID=4dfc8ef8a53ffd7b7311adfbd37d6ca2

One of the most exciting and fun plants I’ve had the chance to grow this year is African Basil, Blue Basil, a non-native. Over the years I’ve dabbled in Basil cultivation – really like to use Sweet Basil and Thai Basil and of course purple leafed Sweet Basil, etc., etc. but planted this year about 20 or so pots, from Stelz Nursery, and how amazing is this plant, constantly full of Bumble Bees and even Hummingbirds taking a sip every now and then. Some Bumble bees even bed down at night right on the foliage – they can’t seem to get enough of the stuff! wow. amazing plant for sure.

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Cacalia ovata in hand in a cool seed field – Tangipoahoa Parish, La.

sweet prairie in all its subtle glory, above

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October 13, 2016 Marc Pastorek Presentation to City Council on status of prairie garden, City of Mandeville, 6:00, at Community Center across from City Hall
October 17, 2016 – Master Gardeners of Greater New Orleans – Prairie Gardening for pollinators via seed – East Bank Regional Library 4747 West Napoleon Ave., Metairie, LA 70001.
November 2, 2016 – 2016 Smart Growth Summit, Baton Rouge Louisiana –
Session Details
NATIVE PLANTS, URBAN ECOLOGY & SMART GROWTH PLANNING
When: Wednesday, November 2nd, 1:15pm-2:45pm
Where: Hartley/Vey Studio, Shaw Center for the Arts
Speakers:
Marc Pastorek, Founding Partner and Landscape Designer, Pastorek Habitats, LLC
Robert Seemann, Program Director, Baton Rouge Green
MODERATOR: Ryan Benton, Designer, CPEX
December 2, 2016 – Master Naturalist Urban Ecology workshop, New Orleans City Park

 

http://summit.cpex.org/2016-agenda/

for native plant and ecology events email Dr Allen at native@camtel.net

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the genus Sida, Louisiana

by Charles Allen

The genus Sida (teaweed) includes five native herbaceous annuals or perennial species in the Malvaceae. The stems are tough, and the plants are distinctly tap-rooted. The leaves are alternate and simple, with pinnate major veins and obvious stipules. The inflorescences are axillary and solitary flowers with pedicels that vary in length. The flowers are perfect and regular, with five sepals, five orange-yellow to yellow petals, and numerous stamens that are united into a tube around the ovary. The ovary is superior, and the fruit is a ring of five to ten carpels that separate at maturity. The caterpillars of common and tropical checkered skipper plus the gray hairstreak use Sida plants for food. The plants are also host to the caterpillars of four moth species including the tersa sphinx.

A. Mericarps, styles, and stigmas 5; stem with a spine subtending each leaf; leaves usually truncate to subcordate at the base……………………………………………………………………………………………. S. spinosa
A Mericarps, styles, and stigmas (6-) avg. 10 (-14); stem lacking spines subtending the leaves; leaves usually cuneate to rounded at base…………………………………………………………………………………………..B

B(A). Leaves narrowly elliptic to linear, (3-) 4-20× as long as wide…………………………..C

B. Leaves elliptic-rhombic, mostly 2-3 times as long as wide…………………………………….D C.(B) Pedicels shorter than 2 cm ……………………………………………………………………… S. elliottii
C Pedicels 2-6 cm long ………………………………………………………………………………S. lindheimeri

D(B). Leaves and branches borne distichously; stipules usually falcate, several-veined.. …………………………………………………………………………………………… S. acuta

D. Leaves and branches borne spirally; stipules linear, 1 (-3)-veined .S. rhombifolia

The most common and widespread species is common teaweed (Sida rhombifolia) also known as ironweed and Cuban jute. It is a somewhat dark color and very common with reports from all 64 parishes.

The second most common Sida is spiny teaweed with a short spine subtending each leaf. It is yellow green and fairly widespread in agricultural areas. It is reported from 56 parishes and these are the eight parishes where it is not reported: Acadia, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Sabine, St Helena, St. James, Tangipahoa, and Washington.

The other three species are uncommon to rare. Sida acuta (common wireweed) is reported from East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Plaquemines parishes. Sida elliottii (Elliott’s fanpetals) is reported only from Cameron, East Baton Rouge, and St. Tammany parishes and Sida lindheimeri (showy fanpetals) only from Cameron and East Feliciana parishes.

 

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-biggest-missed-opportunity-in-dc/2016/09/16/93993ed8-79e1-11e6-bd86-b7bbd53d2b5d_story.html?utm_term=.2c25e7883bd7

prairie: a proven model for large-scale sustainable landscape design

High quality prairie vegetation is more than just a field of grasses and flowering herb plants. Prairies are authentic grass habitats that are as alive as you and me – they are teaming with natural biological activity and, coincidentally, they’re easy on the eyes!

A prairie garden provides a lifetime of interest and intrigue, an endless series of questions.

 

In this pine-flatwoods prairie video, above, Little Bluestem grass and Moore’s Bluetstem grass, Split-beard Bluestem, Elliot’s Blue, Bushy Blue and Virginia Blue, along with Love grass and Toothache grass and a long list of others, provide the bones of this landscape, with flowering plants woven in.

 

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above, a wee whippersnapper adolescent stand of pine prairie, with native grasses and herbaceous perennials – photo taken in August 2016, Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana – the garden, established by Pastorek’s awesome seed, in November 2014

 

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above, another seed-grown native grass planting with numerous species of flowering plants – with lots of little puffs of Flat-Topped Goldenrod – just about to turn golden yellow. Folsom, Louisiana, September 2016

 

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Little Bluestem grass in the Folsom garden. Garden planted by the owner with Pastorek’s native Florida Parishes seed. Most of the summer, the grasses are just a foot or so tall until they start to produce inflorescences in September and into October – the plants then go to seed in November filling the air with seed as light as ether. The quaking flower stalks are mostly invisible to the eye yet visually captivating.

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Graminoid (grass) identification class by Charles Allen, Phd. September 27-29th, west-central Louisiana, Pitkin – contact Charles Allen at native@camtel.net

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sweet_goldenrod_close_sized

above, of all the many species of flowering plants you’ll find in central Gulf Coastal prairies, if you’re lucky, is Sweet Goldenrod, which is most aromatically fragrant in late September and through October when it is big and in flower – at least its then when you can spot it readily. A high-scented sweet-perfume carries across this field as you walk through, crushing the plants with your feet. Not the showiest plant, but super-duper pleasant to have a few around especially at tea time – yum-yum!

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The Lafitte Greenway, New Orleans’ newest City park, to be blanketed with 9 acres of cool prairie!

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above, studying the prairie designs for the Lafitte Greenway, City of New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana – this is what 3 miles of scattered prairies and sedge rain gardens look like in a linear Park, on paper – a panoramic view – click on the photo to enlarge

https://www.asla.org/2013awards/328.html

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Lafitte Greenway prairie construction area – on right of path – North Scott Street looking at Carrollton Avenue

 

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prairie construction area – bioretention swale sedge rain garden-to-be, North Lopez Street looking north to Jeff Davis Pkwy

 

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Sojourner Truth Community Center (in the distance) to be one of the prairie focal points – all of the area between the path and Sojourner Truth will be transitioned to cool prairie and rain gardens.

 

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virtually all what you see here will be prairie – from near Lemann Pool, North Prieur Street and Lafitte Street intersection, looking south to the Claiborne Avenue/ Interstate 10 overpass expressway.

Transitioning existing vegetation to prairie is a bit of a hat trick but anyone can do it with some technical help.

A prairie is an important design component that is necessary for creating large-scale natural landscapes that can be established from seed and managed with relative ease.

The transition process for establishing prairie at Lafitte Greenway has begun.

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Black Swallowtail on prairie, St. Tammany Parish, La

 

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Pine Land Milkweed in bud (and in flower) with Bumble Bee, St. Tammany Parish, La

Prairie is the best model for designing butterfly gardens, with growing-season-long flowering, host, and cover species that proliferate, persist and perform!

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article on prairie with Larry Weaner in Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/an-environmental-designer-shares-his-secrets-for-growing-dazzling-lush-meadows/2016/08/15/d08fd4e4-5a58-11e6-9767-f6c947fd0cb8_story.html

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Pastorek Habitats assists in garnering national Honor Design Award for Louisiana

We are very grateful for Jeffrey Carbo Associates including us in the service credits for the ASLA Honor Award his firm will be receiving the award in New Orleans in October. The gardens at the St. Landry Parish Visitor’s Center are really looking good! Get there and check in on them. You’ll see…..

https://www.asla.org/2016awards/171925.html

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cool event….in the west

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event;jsessionid=51448090AB41BA878EC1F2577C6D0480.worker_registrant?llr=ejjbmvjab&oeidk=a07ecyp33k35061afd9

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cool event……in the east

https://tpmgblog.wordpress.com/pollination-celebration-2016/

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Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society annual fall prairie tour October 22, 2016 – contact the Top Prairie Dog, Charles Allen @ native@camtel.net – he’ll give you the low-down, wuff-wuff!!