Mr. Al gets hitched!

Mr. Al, the stately Live Oak tree that the Louisiana Department of Transportation saved from destruction a few years ago by moving it one mile ‘up the road’, welcomed some permanent company- a life companion, his favorite friend, a prairie, Tuesday. Al the Tree, had grown-up in a spot which had been slated for a shiny new frontage road on the adjacent highway 90. An effort was made by the community and the DOT to move him to a safe, comfortable place, where he could have a better view of the folks headed into New Iberia from the west. ha. and be out of the way of traffic. Ryan Duhon, a former student of Professor Foret, and district supervisor for the Louisiana DOT provided expert assistance in preparing the site for a new Cajun Prairie planting, about one and a half acres altogether, enough of a billowy blanket of prairie the ground fully surrounding Old Al, enough to make it all better. ūüôā

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Moving a mile up the road, if your an maturing Live Oak, is quite a traumatic event. One day somebody’s fishing under your shade-casting limbs, and another you’re a mile further north! ūüė¶¬† This could take years of prairie therapy for old guy to overcome. ūüôā

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Jim Foret and his fellow-prairie-planters haying the seed.

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above, Mr. Al

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left to right, Dr. Jim Foret, four very happy and helpful Highway Transportation Dept technicians, DOT’s Ryan Duhon, Steven Nevitt, Lilli Voorhies, Jacob Delahoussaye, and lastly, another of Jim’s students, can’t remember his name ūüė¶¬†¬†¬† (I asked for and will add the names of these fine folks later).

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The DOT hired Professor Jim to speak the language of tree and to care and nurse it along to new establishment. So time has passed and Al is now settled in, kicked back, relaxing with his bud Prairie.

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After a two year period of site prep, and three years after the transplanting of the tree, the new Cajun Prairie garden at the intersection of Jefferson Terrace Blvd and U.S. Highway 90 is now planted and the process of transition will be starting very soon with tiny spring-germinated seedlings.

 

The University of Lafayette, Experimental Farm, Cade, Louisiana, to develop a large experimental-research-demonstration Cajun Tallgrass Prairie gardens

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above, preparation will soon be underway at this ten-acre site at the Cade Farm, thanks to Susan Hester Edmonds, farm manager Mark Simon, and Professor Jim Foret’s native grassland initiative. We will develop designs of different models of Cajun Prairie vegetation to plant via seed.

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the ULL Model Sustainable Agriculture Complex is 600+ acres of farm and research land south of Lafayette near Cade, Louisiana

 

Here’s your sign!

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A sign for the soon-to-be 10 acres of prairie grass and wetland gardens scattered about the length of Lafitte Greenway and Revitalization Park project in New Orleans which now connects the French Quarter to The New Orleans City Park- Bayou St. John area. Howabout that, ya’ll?

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above, prairie grasses dominate the prairie landscape in the beginning of winter here in the central Gulf rim. The Doug Green home in Folsom, yesterday afternoon, looking east from the north side of the garden. These cool gardens were planted two years ago from seed.

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looking west, above. all of the summer vegetation has seeded and the remaining grasses, still with seed, wave in the wind

 

Black Bayou and English Bayou Mitigation Bank visit, fruitful

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above, Will Grant, left, discusses the wetland mitigation goals for one of converting the four large parcels of fallow row-crop fields that we visited last Tuesday, south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, into a Cajun Prairie habitat via local-genetic, source certified seed.

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building sustainable natural pyrogenic grassland wetlands through the only practical means available, local-genetic seed.

Reserve, La. pollinator field flower-window closes

First-frost lays down Marathon Oil Refinery’s pollinator garden. see smart-phone video of the garden last Sunday before the Monday morning freeze came, below.

 

Cool Grass Garden, Baton Rouge

The Lamar Advertising building on Corporate drive serves as a buffer between the busy boulevard and a hidden patio area for the employees and guests to relax under the shade of Live Oak trees.

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above, Design image by Mossop+Michaels Landscape Architecture, summer 2012

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above, the Lamar berm is about 150 across and 70 deep, rising about six feet from the natural ground plane. Muhly grass inflorescences of pinky-purple in flower last week, Tuesday. Pastorek Habitats consulted on soils and plants and the technical approaches – specifications, needed for executing the design. There are wildflowers in the planting that bloom in the summer, and we’re trying a new approach with the use of annuals this spring, attempting to get even more from this large low-input landscape.

 

Visit Crescent Park, New Orleans, its worth the time

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Had the pleasure of consulting on the process for developing the awesome native grass landscapes at Crescent Park back in 2012 and visited the gardens twice now, looking for glimpses of the contractor’s handiwork. I met with Casey Guidry Monday to talk about the present state of the meadows. She is interested in tying the prairie idea to education, with the idea of bringing school children to visit and incorporating some interpretive signage – information for those with a curiosity about the gardens.

The ornamental gardens, separate from the meadows, at Crescent are beautifully done. The architecture, creative hardscape walking surfaces, and its up-close views of the mighty Mississippi River are so uniquely and pleasantly layed-out with such inventive use of horticulture, including my favorite, the masses of Evergreen Golderod, Solidago sempervirens, which is nothing but a coastal weed (a good one). It’s super-prolific. Its pretty.. It’s easy to establish and in fact is showing up in adjacent gardens. Like I said, its a weed, but a good one. It’s a superduper pollinator plant that is super-easy from seed. Try it, you’ll like it.

check out a photo by Julia Lightner, of Elmer’s Island, near Grand Isle, Louisiana, with a tall marsh-meadow of Switch grass and Evergreen Goldenrod, below

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A spectaculary positioned bridge upon another bridge – you step up and over the rail tracks over the cool arched bridge at the entrance to the Park to see the massive twin Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridges in the distance, separated by the River’s vastness and the famous Algiers Point. The very spot of the River you see here is the deepest, at 180+ feet, on the west bank at just below the point, in the eddy of the point.

Wow! Wow, is right!

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Rusty red leaf color of Red Maples blends with the rusty red of the arched bridge, above

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black pervious paving works well with near-white monlithic slab-benches that stretch at angles, lengthwise across the park. The use of cobblestones and re-purposed brick accent areas along the walkways.

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Hargreaves and Associates, of San Fransisco, designed the Park. They resurected some wharf areas and left some derelict, leaving the character of the original site, a hundred year old former wharf-shipping dock-warehouse complex.

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I arrived early and saw only a few folks running, one guy was practising his trumpet, blaring it out onto the riverscape. How aprapos.

 

 

 

central Gulf South Silphiums

Rosin Weeds are not weeds at all. They are really fine ornamental herbs that¬†provide for substantial wildlife¬†activity and add lots of pizzaz¬†to a garden. Silphiums are some of the more shining,¬†luminous¬†jewels you can incorporated into your prairie-meadow if you’ve got one. Several Silphium species are native to our¬†region¬†and all are easily grown, adaptable, dependable, and extremely persistent garden plants. That is, if¬†you can find them in the nursery trade available for purchase or …if can get some seed. Most all of mine were originally grown from seed.

Silphiums are no minor player when it comes to garden boldness. My¬†friend Gail calls them¬†“tall boys”, and puts them in the same category as Joe Pye Weed, Iron Weed and Big Bluestem.¬†All are adaptable, long to establish but long-lived, and permanent plants that almost never need care.

They’re exquisitely beautiful organisms. Excellent garden plants, no doubt. They¬†have a huge capacity in the landscape for specialized ecological function. They feed good-weird bugs and stuff (they’re highly attractive to butterflies and other very specialized¬†pollinators, y’all).

I’ve heard some of my northern gardener-friends say that they are weedy, but I have not had that kind of luck yet. In the fifteen years or more I’ve grown Silphiums, I have never had enough show up via re-seeding and they have rarely become prolific in a planting, only somewhat, maybe. But they seem to be more than prolific¬†above the Mason-Dixon line. Dumb luck, I guess.

Rosinweeds¬†are for royalty. They are for refined gardens and wildscapes, too! They are horticultural clout. Vertical botanical bling! Some of Europe’s most visited gardens have American Silphiums in them. The Brits Dunnett and Hitchmough use them in their famous wildflower work. And where we live they are tame,¬†yet¬†seductive.

Most Silphiums¬†grow as large-leaved herbaceous plants, big leafy¬†rosettes with tall terminal stalks laden up-top with big butter-yellow ‘ray and disk’ flowers. In the best conditions, during the best year for rain, the tallest ones, the Compass Plant and Prairie Dock, both can grow flower stalks to eight or ten feet tall.

Who wants an eight foot tall herb in their garden? Me, that’s who!!!!

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above: a single flower of Will Fleming’s awesome “curly leafed” Rosin Weed, almost five inches across. not too shabby.

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Actually, Rosinweeds are just foliage clumps in the landscape for months in the spring and early summer until the plant prepares to bloom, sending stalks skyward. The photo above,(click it to enlarge it) taken by Jovonn Hill, of the Pulliam prairie landscape in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, with Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum, just emerging in April, after a controlled burn. Cool thing is you can see right through the stalks of Silphiums when they bloom, like, the stalks almost become invisible.

Here are the Silphiums I have grown for some years now, in my gardens.

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above: Silphium laciniata, the Compass Plant, emerging after burn in spring in the Covington garden. ūüôā

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Compass Plant in flower and fruit, Eunice, Louisiana

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Gail and UWA student Colton stand amongst hundreds of ancient Compass Plants at the oh-so-amazing Epes, Alabama chalk glade.

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above: seedling of Compass Plant from hand-harvest seed from Epes, growing at the Black Belt Prairie Garden, University of Western Alabama, Livingston, Alabama, May, 2014.

link to cool photos of Compass plant

http://www.missouriplants.com/Yellowalt/Silphium_laciniatum_page.html

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S. gracile¬†or Slender Rosin Weed’s¬†distribution range, above, a plant found both in Pine forests and Prairies in Louisiana. Lush rosettes, entire leaves, high-oil seed makes for an excellent wildlife plant. Gracile is a real southerner with a red-neck attitude, often kind of slouchy and grinning. No, really, its a very plant with a good attitude. Niche Gardens, a specialty native plant nursery in Chapel Hill, N.C offers¬†this species for sale.

S. simpsonii, Simpson’s or Tall Rosin Weed is a non-Louisiana Native given to me by Texan nurseryman Peter Loos in the mid 1990’s. Good-naturalizing, adaptable, seed¬†excellent for wildlife. Looks very similar to gracile.

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early growth of Silphium simpsoni, above

S. integrifolium, Prairie Rosin Weed, is found associated with inland prairies of Louisiana and the Jackson Belt prairies of Mississippi. Its a Rosin Weed with conspicuous leaf arrangement. A vertically attractive course-textured plant.

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above: the burly-tough rigid stem and leaves of Silphium integrifolium

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above, Silphium integrifolia in full-glory, Harrell Prairie Botanical Area, Bienville National Forest, Scott County, Mississippi

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S. terebinthinaceum, Prairie Rosin Weed (above), is not found naturally occurring in Louisiana and is only found in one county in Mississippi and one in Alabama. Its at the southern end of its range here in the GS. The largest leafed Silphium, by far. Awesome. Tony Avant of Plant Delights nursery in Chapel Hill grows and offers it for sale. Mine hasn’t bloomed yet and it is at least five years old but the leaves are very large and showy without flowers. It may have a lot to do with the seed coming from clay-specific soils to acid soils here in Covington, duh.

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above: S. perfoliatum, The Cup Plant, is an uncommon¬†plant in Louisiana, with records in only one Parish. More commonly found in much of the eastern U.S (minus Texas), this guy¬†has the distinction of forming “cups”, where water collects where the ‘perforated’ leaves join the stem. Bold and strongly structural architecture.

S. asteriscus, Starry Rosin Weed, is one I have only grown for four or five years now. It seems to be very floriferous and a bit shorter than most other species.

Silphium (origin, Will Fleming) is a curly margined form of a yet-unidentified (um, I forget) species with a distinctive leaf form. I’ve grown this plant for five or so¬†years. A worthy ornamental.

Propagation of these species is fairly easy if you have some good, viable seed. Just sow the seed in a good soil mix and barely cover the seed, enough to keep it moist. Germination will come pretty quickly unless its the dead of winter. Field grown Silphium seed is a horse of a different color. Seed I sowed of laciniata, in 1998 and 99 didn’t show up for several years, being out-competed and beat-up by unwanted competition. So eliminate competition in the field before sowing and maybe save yourself some years of waiting and wondering.

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actual flowers of Silphium

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after flowering, seed setting

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The oily seed of Silphium is covered by a wafer-like coating

 

Get down, get tall, get Silphium, and get with it, folks!!!!

 

the link below is the short version of the Flora of Pulliam Prairie paper.

http://www.bluegrasswoodland.com/uploads/Campbell___Seymour_2011b.pdf