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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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. 🙂

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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! 😦  This could take years of prairie therapy for old guy to overcome. 🙂

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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 😦    (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.

 

 

 

Hammond Field Day, awesome/ finalized program for the prairie-oriented LNPS conference, Feb 5-7, 2016

“Nature is an open book for those who care to read. Each grass-covered hillside is a page on which is written the history of the past, conditions of the present, and the predictions of the future.” – John Ernest Weaver

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above, below, my November 2001 planting in Pearl River County, Mississippi done with seed from the ancient Frey prairie relict, which used to be located five miles directly south of Eunice, Louisiana on an old discontinued rail bed. The seeding at the farm was an experiment that worked, these photos taken Tuesday. The old Frey prairie site, until recently, one of the most floriferous patches of ground in the state. The farmer, who for twenty five years let us dig prairie sod for restorations there, decided the prairie would be better upside down so he plowed it under for an addition to his adjacent rice field. Yikes.

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The beauty of the Frey planting at my farm is in all its subtlety.  What was once an over-grazed cow-field has transformed into a delightfully intricate reflection of Frey by simply adding seed, now, rare genetics.

…the joy of prairie lies in its subtlety. Suzanne Winckler (2004, Prairie: A North American Guide, University of Iowa Press

 

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above, a view of a field at the farm that was never seeded and only managed with prescribed fire, since 1997. Incredibly diverse vegetation has developed here over the last 18 years by just burning. click to enlarge the images..

LSU Horticultural Field Day – Hammond Station – Thursday was the bomb!

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Horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings, LSU, discusses the research-demonstration gardens with the nursery industry group at Hammond Thursday. Many of these gardens are now all-native, with plants grown by Dr. Yan Chen and her staff, from seed collected, provided to the station by yours truly, in 2013.

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There are many very long, eight feet wide garden beds clearly labeled and filled with hundreds of plants of Narrow Leafed Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Splitbeard Bluestem, Indian grass, Switch grass, Tridens grass, Love grass, and Side Oats Gramma grass. Dr. Yan is interested in the conservation value and overall functionality of the grasses. She spoke about their beauty and of their horticultural qualities. She spoke of their connection to “the sense of place”. There are also gardens of some of the better horticultural species of prairie and Pine herbaceous flowering plants , too.

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above, Dr. Yan Chen discusses the attributes of native prairie grasses. Behind Dr. Yan, you can see the bright red of the knockout Roses in the Natives and Popular Plant Care and Maintenance Gardens. These are gardens demonstrating native companion plants for the Red Knockout Rose and common annual Vinca.

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Little Bluestem grass is a knock-out.

Actually, the Little Blue is laying over here more than it would in a poor soil without irrigation. We talked about cutting these back just before bloom in order that they stay more erect. Prairie grasses are used to the worst soil and are adaptable to super-low moisture, and low nutrient soils

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Large yellow flowers of Hibiscus aculeatus, Pineland Hibiscus bloom after being cut back in the summer after their first flowers went to fruit.

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Dr. Yan has cut the flower heads of the Texas Coneflower, Rudbeckia nitida var. Texana, twice this year, at late April and June, harvesting lots of seed and creating a chance for the plants to re-bloom, which they have. So by manipulation, you can get three flushes of flowers. Normally they would bloom just once.

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above, the Care and Maintenance gardens in June, with Rudbeckia nidita at peak flower, Indian grass in glaucus foliage. (photos by Yan Chen)

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above, among other horticultural delights at the field day was this Celosia, a non-native, yes, but a great bee plant. There is value in pollinators that aren’t native. see the celosia-bee video below…

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Purely for horticulture’s sake, the very striking nine foot tall dark purple colored grass Black Stockings Fountain Grass, Pennisetum trispecific. Grasses are swell.

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coefficient of conservatism determines what species are endemic to a particular habitat and how each species is placed in terms of rarity in the habitat.

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with prairie landscapes, the extended period of flowering and the diversity-variation of species carries pollinators through the entire growing season.

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these two above pages are only two of a total of five pages of phenology for the Coastal Prairie of La., The Cajun Prairie.

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Indian grass seed from the Cajun Prairie was used to grow six inch plugs, for the extra-steep slope at Repentance Park, Baton Rouge. Horticultural uses of natives has great potential for industry expansion, enhancement. the Picture sent to my freind Joe James, with Reed-Hilderbrand Architects, who helped design the Park. Someone with City gov’t sent him the image with this note, “With a hectic week of development and activity downtown, I was walking by and just had to pause at Repentance Park. There is something wonderfully beautiful about the Indian Grass in the fall. Check it out!”

backing fires, black lines and head fires, oh, my!

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above, the burn plan before I burned with Kurt Kotteman of Kotteman Tree and Forestry Service Monday. He and his crew let me, el gringo, help. It was the largest burn I have been involved with. What an exciting fire it was. We started at ten and got done at about 6, a long day. I got to throw some head fire once we got the southern portion protected, blacked-in. Head fires are exhilarating in this scale and the ferocity, compared to backing fires, especially when you have Inkberry en mass is impressive. Large patches of the colonizing Inkberry Holly, Ilex glabra and Big Inkberry Holly, Ilex coreacea, grow along with fine fuel grasses in Pine prairie habitat. The leaves of both black-berried Gallberries contain a waxy coating that is highly flammable. With a head fire and some wind, these masses of shrubbery go up in red flaming leaps of twenty feet or higher. Leapin’ lizards!!!! the dotted line is a line Kurt used as a safe line, due to its high moisture and low, very little, fuel load.

this on-the-fly video shows the immediate result of laying down a continuous fifty foot line of flame in a Gallbery patch with with a five mph wind behind it, and seeing the immediate reaction. Its tough getting through the Gallberry patches especially when you have fire on your tail and you get wrapped up in a greenbriar (smilax)! Yeee-Ouch, already!!

Baygall, Hammock, Bay head, all synonymous.

:  red bay
2
:  a tract of swampy land; especially  :  a low-lying tract of boggy or spongy land in the southern U.S. usually overgrown with the inkberry and with bay trees
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Baygalls are cool. There are loaded with evergreen shrubs and trees. Ilex coreacea, foreground on left, is a beautiful plant. The only place I’ve ever seen it for sale was through Woodlanders, Aiken, SC. But it should be more available. Dark green waxy leaves, with plants that form colonies, tight thickets.
I once asked famous Texas natives landscape designer and nurseryman Will Fleming of Hempstead, Tx., why he like Ilex coreacea and he said “Because its pretty.”.
Wow. pretty good reason.
In the baygall along with coreacea, you’ll find Red Bay (Persea), Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana), Southern Magnolia, Ilex glabra, Lyonia lucida, Itea virginica, Smilax, Cepalanthus occidentalis, Pinus palustrus (Long Leaf Pine), Pinus taeda, Black Gum, Taxodium ascendens, sphagnum, chasmanthium, wax Myrtle, odorless wax Myrtle, Cinnamon fern, Mitchellia repens, with a cyrilla thrown in every now and then. In east Louisiana Baygalls, you might see the rare Clethra alnifolia. In the western-most Louisiana baygalls you may find the rare Rudbeckia scabrifolia, Rough Coneflower, which is nearly identical to La. Coastal Tallgrass prairie’s R. Nitida, but is specific only to baygalls.
The shaded Baygalls transition into pitcher plant bogs, which are open and sunny and grass dominant. Baygalls have very little vegetation on the ground. Soils are sandy and are generally wet with occasional seeps, springs that can be tiny or very substantial. Fires generally blow through the grassy pitcher plant bogs and stop dead at Baygalls, with fuel levels low, and moisture levels high.
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thickets of black-berried holly cover an area of a Baygall, in St Tammany Parish, Louisiana click to enlarge
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The adjacent, grassy, pitcher plant bog in the distance, shining in the sun.
Gaillardia aestivalis, butterfly magnet 
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speaking of high horticulture, on of the highlighted plants LSU is touting is the Mesa Gailardia. A good plant, I’m sure. This’n above, is a variant species, an east Texan, Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri, found in very small populations in ten counties including Newton, which is on the state line with Loosiana. hmmm. These are variations of the white, the normal color of this subspecies. These surely have some horticultural promise. and they are all exceptional butterfly/ nectar plants. The bestest!
Gailardia aestivalis is yellow centered and maroon wine petaled in Loosiana with some populations having the subspecies flavovirens, an all yellow.
Prairie Event – February 5-7th 2016, Alexandria area, Loosiana, for more info, check in with Louisiana Native Plant Society after the middle of this month, when this program in its entirety, will be posted. Whodat!

8:30-9:00 Dr. Charles Allen – Prairie Garden Dynamics – Natural Changes Through the Years

9:00-9:30 Larry Allain –  Prairie Conservation and the Fate of Native Pollinators

9:30-10:00 Jim Foret – How to Solve All of the World’s Problems Using Prairie

10:00-10:15 Break

10:15-10:45 Dr. Malcolm Vidrine –  The Cajun Prairie Gardens and the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice – Flowering Phenology as it Relates to Natural Landscaping, Pollinators and Just Plain ‘Knock Your Eyes Out’ Beauty!

10:45-11:15 Beth Erwin – What I Have Learned About Hydrology and Prairies in Northeast Louisiana

11:15-11:45 Jessie Johnson – Briarwood’s Wildflower Meadow and How it Came into Being Because of Hungry Voles

11:45-12:30 Lunch

12:30-1:15 Business meeting (begins mid-way through lunch, in lunch room)

1:30-2:30 Jim Willis – Wildlife Habitat Federation – Bringing Back the B’s–Restoring Native Habitat in the Coastal Prairie

Larry Allain, Botanist, USGS National Wetlands Center, Lafayette, La

Charles Allen, Botanist, Fort Polk, Louisiana, Environmental, Colorado State University
Beth Erwin, Curator, Kalorama Nature Preserve, Collinston, La
Jim Foret, Horticulture, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
Jessie Johnson, Curator, Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve, Saline, La
Malcolm Vidrine, Biologist, Louisiana State University, Eunice
Jim Willis, Co-founder/ President, Wildlife Habitat Federation-Jim Willis Consultants, LLC, Cat Springs, Tx
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will work for prairie!

Lots of fab stuff happening at the Ponderosa ..and beyond…

Processed precious seed Monday that I gathered from our family farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi. A righteous collection it was, on a beautiful September Sunday afternoon. Below, an old proverb says, a bird in hand is better than three or more in the bush, or something like that.

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the main focus of the effort was to get a bunch of Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindhiemerii seed, the large rounded seed head in the middle. This field has acres of the stuff, and fills the fields full of pink and white when they’re in bloom. The white seed heads, above, at bottom-left, are of the fragrantly aromatic White-Leafed Mountain Mint, a favorite plant of mine. At ten o’clock, tucked between my index and middle finger is a tiny cluster of grey-ish seed heads of the illustrious Narrow-Leafed Mountain Mint. At eleven o’clock is the elongated head of the distinctly Coastal Prairie species Rudbeckia texana (nitida). At high noon is the demure but mui grande, Rudbeckia grandiflora, and, next to that, Rudbeckia hirta, which is next to Ashy Sunflower, at 3 o’clock. All of these are needed in adding to seed mixes, when applicable. And all are originally from the dozen or so, Cajun Prairie remnants, found and preserved by Dr. Mac Vidrine and Dr. Chuck Allen and the other Cajun Prairie pioneers-volunteers, way back when. Go micro-prairies!

 

Go west, old man…

Loaded up the trailer with the home-made superlative spray rig onto the back of the Kubota for a trip west to do some Tallow-whacking. Spent a grand mid-morning with my soil-loving bud, King of the Cajun Calm, Jim Foret, who has, just recently, pulled off a regular coup by getting permission to develop a three acre prairie garden at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Cade Farm. Additionally, Professor (Generalissimo Jim) Foret and Cade Farm manager, Mark Simon, will prepare for and plant a demonstration garden of native-gene Switch grass, about two acres. They already have a two or three acre planting of Switch grass, but it is Alamo Switch, which is a cultivar with genes from up above the north Texas line somewhere. eeww!!!!!

The UL planting with be research based and all native; local genes.

 

Cajun Prairie Restoration site work, Eunice, Louisiana; Woody-plant slaughter! Oh, the humanity!!!

Did a day of spraying Tallows and other woody plants in the afternoon on Wednesday at the Cajun Prairie Habitat Restoration site in Eunice. I think I got a good dent done there. It was so fun. Hooray for mechanical equipment!!!!

 

Hangin’ out in Hackberry

Headed to Hackberry, Louisiana for Thursday morning, where I met and worked with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries folks, Louisiana Natural Heritage field botanists Chris Reid, Chris Doffitt and Sairah Jared at a very cool and mostly flat piece of ground on a private ranch, where only the hippest and happiest cows dine. Our objective was to accomplish an unforgiving slaughter of Chinese Tallow trees on what is a very large and biologically significant Coastal Prairie remnant. Chris says that this is one of the most promising of the restores he is working with in terms of the private land owners being open to the idea of restoring native prairie and going all-in on what is real, live, native prairie, complete with mounds. It was like walking on air out there; levitation. Okay, actually, it was like walking on air in a very hot open-air baking-oven; I felt kinda like a thanksgiving turkey. But other than it being a wee warm, it was very enlightening to see yet another one of these treasures, a landscape-scale coastal prairie remnant. This is third I have been invited to in the last year. Whoop-whoop!

Hackberry, is one of many places in Louisiana where the world ends, basically.

You can’t easily get there from here, as the old saying goes.

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We met at Brown’s grocery Store, where you can get Hackberry House Slippers (shrimping boots) (sometimes called Delcambre Nikes) in three different colors; the typical white, green-camo and pink-camo. Yea! Take that, Rodeo Drive!

I drove behind Chris Reid, who knew the trail to the prairie ranch site.

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miles and miles we went, across the idyllic fresh water marshes and this, a man-made road through Black Lake.

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it was pretty, ya’ll.

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…we went, and went and went, westwardly…. and then we went some more…

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We finally arrived at the ranch. Nice Mima mounds were scattered in the grazed-mowed fields, before we reached our final destination.

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you can see to the left of Ms. Brahma, a four foot tall Mima mound. Pretty things, both.

I was there to share the technique I have been working on, for killing Tallow trees, which are a problematic plant when it comes to restoring prairie. We were using a brand-name of herbicide called Clearcast. Last year I painted some full-strength Clearcast onto some Tallows with a paint brush, in the yard here in Covington. The stuff out-right killed the Tallows, dead as a door nail, no root sprouts at all, ya’ll. We have been using Clearcast at the restorations in Eunice because it is deadly as a foliar spray and mostly selective to Tallow, but the full strength basal application is a new approach with promise. whooo-hooo! Herbicides rock!!!! get some!

Chris Reid was interested in trying the technique, and so I did an application and safety demo. I got them all instructed and off they went into the Tallow groves on-foot. Instead of a paint brush, they used a back pack sprayer with Clearcast and a crop oil for extra penetrating-ability. Then I saddled up the Kubota for some mechanical spray acrobatics-aerobics. Its all in the wrist, ya’ll.

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mixing the backpacks with stuff. photo by Sairah Jared

I think we did some real good. Got ‘er done! You can get a feel for the landscape we were working in on the south end of the 110 acre site by looking at my you-tube video link, below. I was foliar spraying, gunning for Chinese Tallow. You’ll see the Tallows in green in the field edges and lots of four-foot-tall Hibiscus lasiocarpa, a fuzzy leafed, bold herb, odd and grey as it’s leaves are. Its common on the Mima mound prairie landscapes I’ve seen in southwestern Loosianner.

 

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after we worked, we took a pleasure ride to the north end of the prairie restoration area where its open. Chris Reid said that this north side is the higher end of the field and so there was not as much woody plant encroachment. What a treat, indeedy!

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Here, a nice specimen of Ovate Leafed Cacalia, a beautiful, tall-growing perennial that pollinators seem to relish, in the mix with Little Bluestem grass and the tiny bright yellow sparkles of Soft Golden Aster, on a sweet treeless mound.

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holding a panicle of Sporobolus pyramidatus, Whorled Dropseed grass, in a bare saline area near a pimple mound, my first time seeing this. you can make out a better image of the seed head- one is laying over at the very top of the image against darker color in the frame, very skeletal

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Narrow Leafed Bluestem, a Coastal Prairie and Long Leaf Pine understory endemic just up a foot or so from the base of a mound.

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The Mima mounds are plentiful here, and generally uniform, showing up in this image as green vegetation. “The woody plants are generally up on the mounds” Chris said. Here, a ten foot Tallow tree plays King of the Mountain. However, if Chris has his way, it won’t be king for long.

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…this mound, a four footer, seen here behind the group, was topped with Indain grass and Little Bluestem and had many Liatris acidota, Sharp Blazing Stars, just finished blooming, wrapping around the base of the mound. The mounds are wonderful little gardens with fantastical arrangements of flowering plants and grasses, taking advantage of the gradient with high and dry plants up top, wetter loving plants at the base and a mix between, all native. From left to right, Sairah Jared, Chris Doffet, center, and Chris Reid, on the right. Botonia asteroides/ difusa is the white and Flat-topped Golderod is the yellow in the foreground.

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the farm house area in Google-earth, with mowed and grazed Mima mounds, click on the photo to enlarge

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the prairie field of a little over 100 acres, and the trees, in green, we were working on

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Just south of the farmhouse = cool landscape

 

Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area trip

Took a quick trip yesterday to scope out a seed collecting prospect, at Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area. I’d been wanting to see the site for a few years or more. It was worth the time spent. Sandy Holler is a great natural Pine prairie site with really significant herbaceous vegetation, with not-particularly-significant woodlands.

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Big Bluestem grass is plentiful at Sandy Hollow, seen here in front of the blue pick-up. Its fairly rare to find it in Tangipahoa Parish. You can certainly get an idea of what vegetation looked like in the Parish by seeing this Pine prairie remnant.

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They don’t call it Sandy Hollow for nuthin’. Its sandy there. Bush Mint, a cool plant, yea, growing in a more dry condition than normal.

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Liatris sqarrulosa, Southern Blazing Star or Red-neck Blazing Star

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This particular seedling of Southern Blazing Star had really dark purple colored bracts, and stood out among the others as superior in form. Really nice.

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I saw lots of Swallow Tails out there. This one, I think, a Giant Swallow Tail, but there were some Spice Bush Swallow Tails a’nectarin’, too. Some happy, smiling butterflies a-flutterin’ around in the sun.

 

Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects – Built Environment – Merit Award – goes Repentance Park Landscape Architecture design team – Go Micro-prairies!!!!

Repentance Park, Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Landscape Architect:  Reich Associates

Pastorek Habitats, LLC consulted on the Indian grass slope meadows at Repentance Park, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We also provided the seed for, and contracted the growing of the 3500 Indian grass plants (thanks Gail Barton!) planted as a natural meadow garden. We worked through Reed Hilderbrand, Cambridge, Mass., who, with subconsultants Reich and Associates, and Suzanne Turner Associates, of Baton Rouge, collaborated to provide construction documents and planting and management strategies for this steeply-sloped garden at the City Hall/ Old State Capitol/ Convention Center area. Other collaborators were the City of Baton Rouge and the landscape construction contractor, George Francise Landscapes.

LEED Project Army National Guard facility in Franklinton, Louisiana contract ink is dry!!!!!!

We will start on the preparation for construction of natural meadow-prairie grass areas at the Franklinton Readiness Center, a National Guard construction project, with the first herbicide application planned for this week. We are the designers of the meadow areas, in collaboration with Dufreche-Perkins Landscape Architecture. Go Army!

THIS JUST IN!!! HITCHMOUGH VIDEO OF PRESENTATION AT LSU, APRIL, 2015!!! Thanks, Landscape Architecture Prof. Wes Michaels!  and thanks Dr. Hitchmough!

http://coadmediasite.lsu.edu/mediasite/Viewer/?peid=34967c0816f14433ac5dd36ce335030f1d

 

Crosby Arbo event/ February Prairie Gardening Conference in Louisiana

Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University event!

This Saturday July 11 is the day of the annual Aquatic plant sale (and gardening talks) at Crosby Arboretum, in Picayune, Mississippi. The Arbo has been doing this sale for many years and the staff works hard to propagate and find, cool plants to offer for sale for your water garden. I will be leading a field walk along the “pond journey” at 10:00, discussing the delights of having marginal aquatic plants in the garden and how to grow many of those we see from scratch.

Eileen Hollander, of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society will talk about propagation of the endemic, treasured Louisiana Iris at 11:00.

http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/july-calendar

February Prairie Gardening-Restoration Conference in Louisiana

I was asked by Bud Willis, the president of the La. Native Plant Society to help put together an education program focused on prairie gardening and restoration. With the help of Charles Allen, Beth Irwin and Rick Webb, I have succeeded in doing that, I think.

We have put together a single day of prairie presentations by seven of the most knowledgeable folks I know. Mark your calendars, Feb 5-7th, 2016 in the Alexandria, La. area.

Beth Irwin will speak about her work with her prairie gardens at Kalorama Nature Preserve and with Rector Hopgood’s amazing prairie in Mer Rouge Louisiana.

Charles Allen will speak on prairie dynamics natural succession

Malcolm Vidrine will speak of his work with building prairie gardens and will touch on prairie ecology.

Tree hugger and dirt lover Jim Foret (University of La, Lafayette) will speak of his home prairie garden.

Jessie Johnson will speak of her prairie gardens at Caroline Dorman’s Briarwood Nature Preserve.

Larry Allain of the National Wetlands Center will speak on prairie restorations he’s worked with and maybe share some insights into his many years of study of prairie pollinators.

Jim Willis of Cat Spring, Texas , co-founder of the Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), is a prairie gunslinger like no other. He has helped re-establish over 40,000 acres of prairie by way of his wonderful work with the WHF. Jim is a master of the farm implement when it comes to building grasslands.

Bring your questions. You’ll most likely get them answered at the conf. See the article from the Houston Chronicle on Jim and the WHF, below. how lucky we are to have him visit with us from so far away.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/science-environment/article/Prairie-landowners-replant-to-make-room-for-quail-5928426.php

It should be a great day with lots of information shared.

Cucumbers with Character

On to horticulture in the garden…..

I have been working like a Turk over the years, trying to bring in a cucumber crop on a steady basis through the summer. Around here, you can grow cukes from April to November and you should. I try to put in a new crop every couple of weeks or once a month at least. This insures a steady stream of them. I’m on my fifth crop right now. Just planted seed yesterday.

I can’t stand a store bought cucumber. They are pretty to look at but not so good to eat. yuk!

Grow your own. Its so darned easy.

Okay, sometimes things go horribly wrong but heck, that’s farmin’, folks.

Its when they go right that matters and if you do a crop each month, you’re gonna enjoy reaping the benefits of your work. Go organic, dude. Yee who tries sometimes succeeds.

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My planting yesterday of cukes. Last week I took a shovel and turned the soil in this spot. came back yesterday and turned again, opened a slight linear trench with my shovel head, and sowed seed. I stepped on the seed to press them into the ground, and then barely covered them by busting a few clumps of soil with my hands over the seed trench. Then I stepped on the trench again to double up on soil-seed contact.

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a garden planted June 15th with a row of squash in the back and two rows of cukes in the foreground, left. I built two simple structures out of scraps for the vines to climb onto.

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this is the same garden yesterday. I build leaning trellises so the cukes hang away from foliage and are easier to find.

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I love to mulch with cardboard. these were planted a couple of weeks ago, just tied up yesterday, onto the cross-rope with little strings. I use the same technique of stringing that I learned at the tomato farm where I worked when I was just a whippersnapper. Tie the string in a boland knot so it doesnt sinch down and strangle the stem and then go up to the cross-rope and tie off. Each week, I assist the vines up the string by wrapping the vine around the string, just like at my old friend Lee Smith’s farm! Cardboard is so cool to work with, and its like, free! You can see the old cardboard (behind, in white) from last year, still suppressing weeds. Working overtime!

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looking north, Monty the Labradorian prairie dog chillin’ next to the Cucurbitaceae patch. On the left going up my hog-panel dragon sculpture is the wild and crazy Cucuzza squash vine, just getting started. In the center of the image is my heirloom White Chayote vine, down here we call the Merletons (we say it Millitons). French, I guess. I got this from friend, Bonnie Bordelon. Thanks Bonnie!

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You can see in the foreground here, my mulch job with all the recycled paper I collected from our office last week. saweet!!!

Verbena-on-a-Stick, Verbena bonariensis, great plant for nectaring Lepidoptera

Most garden folks know the common weed Verbena Braziliensis. Its a weed you can find all over the Gulf Coast; not so pretty, but a Butterfly magnet. Most folks don’t know V. bonariensis, a bad-ass plant for garden color with a long, long bloom time and an ability like few, to attract so many kinds of Skippers and Butterflies, flies, wasps, bees and such. Real nice.

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I grew about 250 of these last year from seed. Spent ten bucks and ended up with lots of plugs, which I planted and gave away. I used to grow this years ago just for the flowering but I would say it is a solid 10 when it comes to pollinator attraction. It didn’t like it in the areas I burned but it loves to grow, most places that are sunny. Its not a stellar perennial but if you plant several they will hang on for some time; years. I found a stand of this plant with Charles Allen once in Newton County Texas at an old home site where the home was gone and the soil sandy and that is likely why it persisted so many years. Howabout dat.

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I know you have been waiting to see my life-size carboard cut-out Blue Hawaii Elvis so I placed him, for scale, in front of the Verbena bonariensis in the garden. Thank you ver’ much.

I posted a youtube vid with the Gulf Fritillary that was hangin’ out at the garden yesterday. There were lots of different Skipper Butterflies working the flowers.

 

 

the MD Anderson-Mays Center and Steve n’ Jake pocket prairies

Pocket prairie is a term used for describing small prairie gardens.  By small, I mean postage stamp size to a few or more acres in size. You can find pocket prairies all over the place. Two really good ones that I saw this week are the M.D. Anderson, Mays Center prairie garden in the Medical Complex area in east Houston and the Steve and Jake Pollinator Habitat Garden at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

Both of these were planted just a couple of years ago. Both are stellar examples of backyard habitats in high profile locations.

The two-acre Mays Center garden is located in the heart of a huge complex of medical centers and is a natural area where not much else is natural. Dominant in native grasses but full of colorful flowering prairie plants, the gardens are a quiet area for contemplation. Its an outdoor park with a focus on native grassland vegetation of the Houston region.

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From above, the prairie areas are in darker green color, mostly to the left of this googleearth image.

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nice lines are made, with turgrass meeting prairie

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a couple of interpretive signs speak of the flora, fauna, and historical content.

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the Mays gardens were controlled burned last year

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American Bachelor Button is a fun plant to play with. It is easy from seed as a winter annual and it very showy and very fragrant (above). They close up in the afternoon (left) and open in the morning time (right). click to enlarge

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a wallow was created to quench wildlife’s thirsts.

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a nice Carex sedge, maybe an esculentus, odoratus relative

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Yellow Indian grass beginning to flower

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The Texas Blue Bell and Button Snakeroot were planted throughout. I understand that the seed for planting this prairie came the recent grass-roots-acquired-preserve; the Deer Park Prairie. Jaime Gonzales, who worked on this project via the Katy Prairie Conservancy and the Coastal Prairie Partnership, also help to spearhead the purchase of Deer Park. Deer Park is a wonderful prairie remnant that was slated for destruction, construction. The People took action and raised the money to purchase Deer Park and prevented its demise. What a happy story.

The Steve and Jake Garden at the University of Louisiana,  Lafayette, is a great contrast to the Mays Center garden. It is one that people all around the region can emulate, right in their own front yard.

The Steve and Jake Garden is at the northwest entrance to Hamilton Hall on the UL Lafayette campus. From what Professor Jim Foret told me, Steve Nevitt and Jake Delahousseye got seed and grew plants and planted them all in the two areas on each side of the walkway leading into the doorway area. came out nice, guys. Did ya’ll have some help? I hope they’ll comment here.

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Maestro Jim Foret stands in front of the Steve n’ Jake garden at Hamilton Hall, ULL, Lafayette.

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opposite the garden is an Oak that Maestro Jim’s Daddy planted back in 1952. Cule.

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looking west at sprawling Eastern Gamma grass reaching out to touch passers by.

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There’s a really classy brick edge that’s really wide wrapping around the garden edge. Behind is a bench-like architectural structure, which edges the backside very nicely.

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a cacophony (dat’s a lot, ya’ll) of floral color, including the erect, beautifully blue leaves of Yellow Indian grass (above, right).

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click on this photo to enlarge it, above

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Hibiscus large and small

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and Sunflowers…

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a large Mamou plant has an island unto itself

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and then we took the State prairiemobile to see the State highway planting demonstration plot for Department of Transportation along highway 90. Ryan Duhon, with DOT has been diligently spraying and prepping the site. Jim and Ryan were able to get a plan together a year or so ago for planting a cool prairie near the large Live Oak that was saved by DOT from destruction, Mr. Al, the Live Oak Tree. Al looked great and so did the prep work so far! another pocket prairie, to be seeded in November.

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Highway 90 east of New Iberia, Louisiana (the Berry) will be the new home of a demo Cajun Prairie, near the famous but modest Mr. Al, the Live Oak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeper of the Flame

If you’ve ever been to Kisatchie National Forest, the Vernon District, you probably have a good idea of what the natural Pine landscape in Louisiana and the Gulf Coastal Plain looked like a hundred years ago, minus some big trees and Buffalo. If you haven’t seen Kisatchie before, pack up tomorrow morning and get an early start to the 25th Annual Bogs and Birds Brown Bag event with Dr Baygall, himself, Charles M Allen. Dr. Allen has attended and or hosted this event for 25 years. He is known as one of the leading authorities on Pine Baygalls and Bogs. He is an amazingly kind botany field trip leader and he has a catalog of great jokes about plants. What could be better!? Seeing cool orchids and lush pine prairie landscapes, shaded white-sand creeks. ah Lou’siana! see the link for more on this very fun and informative event hosted in the great outdoors- in the open beauty of the fire-touched pine lands of west-central Louisiana. Hope to see you all there…

see cool details of this brilliant guy’s creative mind in “events” below

http://www.lnps.org/newsletter2/LNPS%20Summer%202014%20newsletter.pdf

Margie Jenkins Field Day and Lecture Series, Friday/ Mr. Joe’s old Petunia field

The LSU AgCenter research station in Hammond will present their spring Field Day and Lecture Series speakers Friday, May 15th. Rick Webb of Louisiana Growers nursery in Amite and Mark Windham, Research Scientist at University of Tennessee, will speak, and the gardens will be open for tours. If you can, make the trip to Hammond to see this fine facility and its expansive gardens and plant talks, do so! more info in below link…

http://www.lnla.org:8080/home/Jenkins%20Lecture%20Series%20and%20Industry%20Open%20House%202015-1.pdf

Spring Fields of Color

Thanks to Dr. Allen Owings, of the Hammond Research Station for answering my burning question about the true identity of the old timey garden petunia I am so familiar with, here in the Central Gulf South.

I had a neighbor in Mississippi back in the 1990’s and 2000’s, Mr. Joesph Burks, that for many years, each year, he grew the most amazing field of “wild” petunias. It wasn’t something he planted each year, but a stand that had naturalized, with the assistance of his helping hands. Mr. Joe and his wife gardened each year in a field next to his old home place. He used an old blue Ford tractor to plant Corn and Tomatoes, Butterbeans and Purple Hull peas. After he was done with the veggies, he would mow the crops down and then in fall of the year, he’d lightly disk the field, stirring up the millions of seeds of what Dr. Owings says might be Petunia violacea. The seed in Mr. Joe’s field would grow slowly all winter and then about April, they’d create a carpet of countless petunia flowers with colors ranging from white to lavendar and pink. It was a stunningly beautiful site from the road and if you walked it, it was, for sure, what it would be like to walk on a cloud. Just heavenly!

If you had the windows open in the car when passing the field in the late afternoon of early morning, when the humidity changed and the fragrance began, the perfumey aroma with the sweetnesss of the scent of Wood Violets, would waft through your car. That image of a petunia field is something I want to see again one day. Mr. Joe was a World War 2 veteran and he has gone on to the great petunia field in the sky, God bless him, but his awesome touch on the land with his blue tractor still energizes and inspires me. He was a quiet guy with a big heart and a gift of a green thumb. He was a friend.

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One capsule of seed from the old petunia plant can contain many many seed. This is a single plant that I started from seed and planted in one of the pots in the garden here at the hacienda in Covington. It had been neglected mostly, all winter and yet has put on a fabulous show for the last two months. Soon the seed will form and I’ll cut and stuff the plant into a bag just before the pods open. I’ll most likely get a tiny crop of plants there below the pot its growing in next year since I’ll probably miss the perfect harvesting time and some will drop. And I will share some seed with Dr. Owings, who mentioned he’d like some. Anybody else up for some?

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a few flowers from my wild-haired petunia, Petunia violacea. nyum nyum. 🙂

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above, Evoking feelings of emotion, the cosmos plantings at City Park, New Orleans, yesterday near Marconi at Tad Gormley Stadium. Lots of people were out and about with jaws open and cameras-a-clicking. Mom’s had their kids posing with I-phones a flickerin’.

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Our Hitchmough-Dunnet-esque six-acre planting (this is about half the field) at an oil refinery north of La Place, Louisiana, yesterday. Mixed into the zillions of Clasping Coneflowers are native annual sunflowers, annual Coreopsis, and Lemon Mint (Monarda citriodora). This is a really wet field, an old sugar cane field, and the Coneflower likes it that way. click to enlarge the pic.

We aim to please.

good day!

Go Micro-Prairies!

wheels on new Louisiana Children’s Museum design, rolling

Several, okay many, wonderful things happened this week in the life of Pastorek Habitats, the business. But best part of the week, as always, is like yesterday, when all the work was done and I made an early-morning break for the Mississippi state line; Pearl River County, that is, for some George W. Bush-like rest and relaxation (only in a Murica!).

Down on the farm its always like heaven on Earth for me. I got a chance to do some spraying in what is to be a new experimental planting area, getting ready for planting next year. Got to walk the prairie gardens. Lots of butterflies, everywhere. Go Micro-Prairies!!

One of the most exciting things to happen this week work-wise was my phone meeting with Architects Debra Guenther and Christian Runge with the firm Mithun. Mithun was chosen for the design of the new Louisiana Children’s Museum which will be located on eight acres in City Park, New Orleans, near the Museum of Art and the Botanical Gardens. Mithun has offices in San Fransisco and Seattle and they’ve been working with the Children’s Museum on the development of the idea of a new facility for several years.

Mithun is an interdisciplinary firm of architects, landscape architects and interior designers, providing integrated design of all those services on the project. Biohabitats’ roll is that of water resource ecologists for the project and Pastorek Habitats as the native plants and soils ecology. Its a real honor to be included in this short list of team members.  🙂

The design process is in full swing and should be finished, with working specifications completed within the next ten months or so.

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above, a few of my favorite things; a cool Prairie Parsley stand, down at the farm in Mississippi. Lots of different insects using it- fun to watch.

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click on the photo to enlarge. in the foreground, is the spring fluff of the extra-fine mass of inflorescences of Winter Bent grass, Agrostis hyemalis, a very common and abundant disturbance-oriented perennial winter-grass that is finishing up now in the natural landscape. Behind it is Sweet Coneflower, Rudbeckia subtometosa, the dark green in the center background, with course-textured Velvet Panicum, Panicum scoparium on the left and the bluish leaves of Switch grass, Panicum virgatum on the right. This is in the garden, at the house in Covington, Louisiana.

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Before I knew what Winter Bentgrass was, I called it Mississippi Tumbleweed because I lived my early adult years, 26 years, in Pearl River County, Mississippi and I always saw it collect on the fence rows in cow fields. The stem of the inflorescence, breaks, becomes detached, and floats away-rolls away in bundles, in the wind, often collecting in large windrows at the field edge. Its a beautiful thing, Winter Bent grass is. Its motional. It moves in the landscape and then around the landscape.

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cool pic of the flower of Mottled Tuberose, Manfreda variegata (foreground), with my son Cale’s “tornado pot” and my ceramic sculpture “Family”, on yellow pedestal. The Tuberose is such a great garden plant, a native of Texas-northern Mexico. I got my start many years ago from Texas nurseryman and radical garden designer Will Fleming. The flowers are all stamen and really unusual but its all about the foliage of Mottled Tuberose. Its like a giant Manfreda virginica, but with dark green leaves that are strap-like and often, 12 to 18 inches long. The rosette of leaves grows low and flat to the ground, no more than a few inches tall; perfectly prostrate, covering a circle of ground and eventually making pups that pop-up from the root. Coolest plant ever? Maybe. Best plant ever? Probably.

Mr. Fleming selects for the really mottle leaf forms since the seedlings vary greatly from heavily mottled to nearly mottless. He likes to put those showy ones in his gardens.

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Here’s a garden with Mottled Manfreda that I planted five years ago in the native garden area at City Park Botanical Garden, New Orleans. It was budding-up a couple of weeks ago when I visited. Mexican Primrose, the pink carpet surrounding it, in spring full-glory.

a very revealing story in this paper written by my friend and mentor, Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, at below link

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1076&context=napcproceedings

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above, for more on the story of our need to protect the health of our watersheds, streams and rivers, is this book by Dr. Vidrine

Also, a notice for the Tall Grass Prairie Center’s -2015 Iowa Prairie Conference: Working Prairies in July via Dr. Bruno “Tee-Bru” Borsari, in Winona, U of Minnnesota – see link

http://www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/2015-prairie-conference

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHERS ON THIS, MOTHER’S DAY, AND ESPECIALLY TO MY BEAUTIFUL MUM, JANE PASTOREK! (…and to Candi, my wife)

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totally artificial, but perfectly natural!

I did a short presentation for Dr. William Platt and his LSU Conservation Biology Lab class yesterday on prairie landscaping. After I was done, we discussed the work I do and how the students could build their experiments around the previous class’ data collecting and research results at Chappapeela Park in Hammond. Dr Platt thinks highly of the vegetation there. He said that my work with prairie is “totally artificial, but perfectly-natural”. I thought that was a awesome. So true, Doc!

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K-9 Conservation Biology Lab Teaching Assistant Kimber makes her rounds while Dr. Platt’s discusses experimental possibilities with his wiz-kid students.

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take me to your leader! cool rendering of the new sculptures going into Lafitte Greenway, NOLA in November

I attended the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Water Challenge function Monday to see if our design would be the chosen one, but we were won-out by the really cool, spinning, night-lighted, sound-generating scuptures concieved by artist Michel Varisco’s “Turning”. We were sad to lose but this was honestly, a good choice. Its beautiful, kenetic modernistic artsy stuff. The sculpture’s going to be the first art installation installed along the Greenway. Maybe more to come from what I hear! Thanks to Jen Blanchard for inviting me be on the team of designers who collaborated to conceive and produce a great finished design proposal. see the winner Ms. Varisco in the articles below. Next competition, Jen!!!

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2015/03/water_challenge_entrepreneur_w.html

http://nolavie.com/variscos-turning-wins-first-living-with-water-arts-pitch-10847/

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above, a borrowed drone photo from Facebook of the play fields/ native grass areas, one of many along the Lafitte Greenway. In all, about ten acres of native grass, prairie, and wetland sedge-meadow gardens will be established. The meadows are the major features besides the trees and turfgrass in the landscape design. Meadows will  help capture stormwater runoff from the Park site. We designers had a timely meeting this week finalizing the details of the Greenway planting plan. We’re now three and a half years of design work with another two and a half or three years of establishment and management left to finish. It will be a unique Park for New Orleans, for sure.

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At North Broad Street and Lafitte Greenway. Doing last minute detail study before the big meeting. Saweet!!!! The wetland-retention ponds are constructed and most of the final grading is done. Ribbon cutting ceremony in June or July, ya’ll.

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above, a photo taken by Dawn Allen McMillian in April last year at the Cajun Prairie Society’s meeting. This year, along with prairie restoration and garden tours, we are presenting the first “native prairie seed auction”, a fund-raiser event planned for the business/ lunch part of the meeting.

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Dr Charles M Allen in 2012, while planting the third “grid garden” at Duralde Restoration site. The second was done just across the road from this one in 1998 or 99 or so. The first, earlier than that. We disked this area for two years before we planted, in November 2012. I collected the seed. Charles and I designed it, and a wonderfully spry group of volunteers planted it.

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Jackie Duncan, Greg Trahan, Sara Simmonds, Margaret Frey, and Linda Chance, laying out the grid

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October 2014 mowed paths, the crop-circle look. The south side of the road has been burned this past winter so it should be glorious wildflower viewing for all who attend.

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Charles’ description of the design.

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Charles’ recently produced prairie map for Louisiana. Cool, huh? It is to be published in the new Handbook for Prairie Restoration in the Southeast, By Jovonn Hill, et al, Mississippi State University, due out this summer.

I got to see the amazing Dr. Sara Mack of Tierra Resources speak at the Water Challenge event. What a treat that was to hear about her work with Wetland and marsh restoration and water-minded collaborations in Louisiana. She is a force. She’s a Louisiana hero.

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Dr. Sara Mack, Entrepreneur Week Water Challenge past-winner and speaker at Water Challenge 2015

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Second meeting in a week with the BREC, the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks folks. They run an amazing model for urban Park management. Everyone should see their management guidelines. They are to reach a goal of reduced mowing over time, going to a more sustainable model. This is the Bluebonnet Swamp meadow area we discussed Tuesday. Last week I was with horticulturist Brett Autenberry at the Baton Rouge Zoo.

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Bluebonnet Swamp is delightfully sublime.

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Cypress knees

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Lizard’s Tail covers the marginal bottom of the swamp preserved by BREC at Bluebonnet.

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I am proud to be working with such a game-changing group of folks such as BREC!!! I’ll be meeting with the new Conservation Specialist on staff at the BREC Conservation Department, Matthew Herron on the idea of doing a meadow planting at Independence Park in Baton Rouge in the next couple of weeks.

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above, “the falls”  at Clark Creek.

If you haven’t ever been to Clark Creek Natural Area in the Woodville, Mississippi area, try to go. There’s a filed trip hosted by some great botanists and naturalists with the Capitol Area Native Plant Society.  they say……..”Also…this area is quite rugged (for our part of the world haha), so if doing some up and down walking is not your thing, this hike isn’t for you. Make sure to bring some water and a little bug spray (for possible ticks and chiggers), and there is a small ($5 or less) fee for vehicle access. If you’d like to meet us there, the address is 366 Fort Adams Pond Rd., Woodville, MS”  fun starts at 8:45 9:00 tomorrow

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adios amigos!