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

——————————————————————————————–

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

img_5251 img_5260 img_5261

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.

img_4259

False Foxglove, a fairly common Louisiana plant

img_4289

A white colored form of Gerardia shows up occasionally.

img_4503

img_4301

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.

img_4167

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

img_4160

click to enlarge photos

img_4174

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.

img_4181

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.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

2

above, January 16, 2016, google earth

june-2016

above, May 6, 2016, google earth

img_4193

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.

img_4250 img_4253

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.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

1385638933_c448dc35f4_z

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.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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?

img_2889

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.

img_2881

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?

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

img_3402

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.

f663-05

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.

img_3597

img_3595

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.

img_4466


 

img_4484

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

sweet prairie in all its subtle glory, above

——————————————————————————————

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

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

 

—————————————————————————————

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

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

IMG_8489

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.

IMG_8499

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

 

IMG_8422

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!

IMG_8553

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.

IMG_8551

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.

IMG_8562

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.

IMG_8569

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

IMG_8563

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

IMG_8568

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.

DSC_0386DSC_0378

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

IMG_8575

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…

IMG_8570

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

IMG_8603

IMG_8595

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.

IMG_8597

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

IMG_8602

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

IMG_8594

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!

IMG_8348

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
IMG_8267
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.
IMG_8262
thickets of black-berried holly cover an area of a Baygall, in St Tammany Parish, Louisiana click to enlarge
IMG_8265
The adjacent, grassy, pitcher plant bog in the distance, shining in the sun.
Gaillardia aestivalis, butterfly magnet 
IMG_8630 IMG_8611 IMG_8624 IMG_8626 IMG_8627 IMG_8680
IMG_8612IMG_8623
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
IMG_8524 IMG_7009

up to our arses in grarsses/ Dr. Mac Alford, Crosby Arboretum Botany walk

While working on another notch in the black belt last week, I attended the way-cool Grasses, Sedges and Rushes class hosted by none other than the Master of grasses himself, Charles M. Allen, Phd. Kind of like Woodstock without the music; three days of peace and love of non-flowering grass-like plants.

After following in Dr. Allen’s footsteps for for many years, I have learned that most-always, when he plans an event, it is usually a dry day and last week was no exception. I don’t know how he does that but must have something to do with communicating on the level of the grass Gods.

There was a total of eight students present, most all, wildlife biologists with the State of Loosiana and Rick Webb, of Looisiana Growers nursery, and myself.

Of course, Dr. Allen knows all the good spots to find cool plants and so he did. In Kisatchie National Forest, our classroom for the three day event, we found lots to see.

IMG_4259

above, click on photo to enlarge, …after we crossed through the Baygall (Pine Hammock), we stepped onto the Holy ground of a sweet Toothache grass meadow, in full flower. An interesting thing about Toothache grass is that it will only sparsely produce inflorescence (flowers) when fire has been used the previous season. A true pyrogenic plant, it needs a burn to actually trigger flowering, and hence, seed. No fire = very few flowers and seed.

IMG_4270

see the youtube video link I shot of the dancing swaying Toothache grass at Byrd’s Creek.

http://youtu.be/Sobt2w1g9yY

IMG_4249

White Topped sedge, Star grass, Dichromena odorata among the diversity of the hillside bog plant community. Not too shabby.

IMG_4243

IMG_4288

Long Leaf pine seedling recruitment via natural fire

IMG_4285

Skeleton grass, Gymnopogon species, above

IMG_4200

the wide strapped leaves and fruiting parts of Carex virens at the edge of Fullerton Lake, north of Pitkin, La., Kisatchie. It is helpful, to really be able to appreciate sedges, to look at the flowering parts with a 20X magnification hand lens. It will amaze you, how much there is to these plants when you look at them with magnified eyes.

IMG_4321

Between classes, I was humping it in the Forest, collecting some of the sedges we were working with. This one, Carex intumescens, Bladder Sedge, has nice-sized fruiting heads.

10608548_807668099329610_1898870874217784816_o

Biologist Chad Gaspard, of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, made a birthday during class. Rick Webb lights up the candles in a Blueberry pie that Top Chef Sue Allen made.

IMG_4368

last week’s photo of our conservation area planting for City of Mandeville/La. DOT, done last November at 190 and Causeway approach, Mandeville, La. IMG_4363

Blue Bachelor Buttons, Lavender-rosey-colored Monarda citriodora, and Coreopsis tinctoria in color with Clasping Coneflower just starting up. These annual plants will die off soon and the growth of perennial grasses and native flowering herbs will begin.

ARBORETUM SPRING BOTANY WALK (Adults)
Saturday, May 30th 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Explore the Arboretum’s native plant exhibits with Dr. Mac Alford, Herbarium Curator and Associate Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. After a short indoor discussion of plant taxonomy and ecology, the program will move outside for a field walk through the grounds. Free for members, $5 non-members. Register by May 29.

for more info, call or check the website       http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu

 

Gotta go! got work to do….

That’s all, folks!

 

 

prairie phenology, Obama goes native, Chris Reid prairie presentation-video, gaga for Milkweeds…

In prairie, a picture doesn’t speak a thousand words. You have to get out in it to see a prairie first hand to really begin to try to grasp it. Its like trying to describe the vastness of the scenery from a 14000 footer in the rockies with a picture. It doesn’t cut the mustard, as my Dad used to say. Of the many aspects of Malcolm Vidrine’s book The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History, the phenology chart is one of my favorite graphics for conveying the sequenced abundance of the prairie.

Prairie phenolgy describes what transpires florally through the season and in this case, the Cajun Prairie, the Coastal Prairie of southwestern Louisiana. Every month that passes changes the landscape. This listing of 170 species is about half of the 350+ herbaceous species in the Cajun Prairie that have Coefficients of Conservatism, 4 or higher.   fact: Cajun Prairie is one of the most diverse of all prairie grass systems in North America.

IMG_3446

IMG_3449 IMG_3450

click photo to enlarge the image

…” as the seasons advance, the panorama of the landscape varies to an extent that is almost kaleidescopic in character…”   John E. Weaver  (amazing prairie dude)

succession chart-1

above: a “succession through the season” interpretive graphic produced by the design team of Roy Dufreche, Adam Perkins, Margaret Wilkinson, and myself for the one-acre prairie/savanna garden at Chapapeela Sports Park in Hammond. Louisiana.

For more on Coefficients of Conservatism, see the link below:

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1061&context=napcproceedings&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fsearch%3Fclient%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den%26q%3Dfloristic%2Bstudy%2Bcajun%2Bprairie%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8#search=%22floristic%20study%20cajun%20prairie%22

Also, check out the presidential memorandum on native plants and pollinators for federal building projects. saweet!

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/20/presidential-memorandum-creating-federal-strategy-promote-health-honey-b

See an amazingly solid presentation by State botanist Christopher Reid on the interest in conserving new discovered and superbly awesome prairie lands that are in private hands. The presentation was at the State of the Prairie Conference held by the Coastal Prairie Partnership (Louisiana and Texas). It is well worth a sit-down listen.  link-up!

http://prairiepartner.org/video/balancing-immediate-conservation-action-with-long-term-research?xg_source=msg_mes_network

Dr. Mac Vidrine, Milkweed Master.

10273363_657184851026801_1717454723394768461_o

above: Malcolm guides a group of Louisiana Master Naturalist students through his front-yard plant breeding nursery, Eunice Louisiana, June 2014

If you are a fan of Monarchs and butterflies in general, and you haven’t yet seen the newsletter from the spring of this year from the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society, you might want to check it out since it is full of good stuff, lots to do with Monarchs and Milkweeds. Dr. Allen and Dr. Vidrine both wrote an article worthy of study. linkarama…

http://www.cajunprairie.org/newsletters/201403.pdf

Malcolm has devised some neat ways to counter the mortality rate of nursery grown milkweeds as they transition into the landscape.

IMG_7343

Mac Vidrine’s hand adds scale to the fruiting Asclepias tuberosa, Orange Milkweed, in his garden, hidden snugly amongst the Little Bluestem grass. August 2014

IMG_7347

above: yearling Tuberosa Milkweeds. Dr. Vidrine starts his seed in peat pots and then transplants them into ten gallon sized nursery containers for the entire first growing season. You can just barely make-out the peat pots here in this image. After a year in the pots, he carefully removes the rootball-soil, he slides the entire rootmass from the pots and then plants it halfway into the prairie garden soil, as a single unit. The upper part of the rootball is left above ground so isn’t susceptible to rot. This leaves half of the rootball above ground, allowing the plants to become fully established during the second year.

IMG_7350

an Asclepias perennis crop coming on…

IMG_7349

above: a crop of Asclepias verticilata

IMG_7346

the very sharp Mac “the Knife” Vidrine surveying his milkweed-permaculture extravaganza

2002_0818_105336AA-1

the prairie dudes, circa 2001-2, me on far left, Charles Allen, Peter Loos, Bill Fontenot, Malcolm Vidrine, Larry Allain

20131104_121952_garth_500

this is me after several years, showing the detrimental effects resulting from a chronic interest in diverse natural prairie.  🙂

 

 

Chapapeela Sports Park looking mighty sporty!

Ducked in to check on the fine fuel meadows at Chapapeela Park today while in the Hammond area and was delighted to see the array of wildness there in all its glory. Of course the maintenance crew has insulted it quite nicely with herbicide spraying, but other than that, its looking pretty dashing for a less-than-two-year-old planting. Its amazing what the eradication of weeds on-site before planting does to jump start a meadow. I learned this concept the hard way. When I planted my fields in Mississippi 15 years ago, I didn’t do much in the way of prep only because we were only at the cusp of discovery back then and we didn’t know diddly. Through trial and error (plenty of error), we garnered some knowledge of how to speed-up the prairie process. This Chapapeela/ Hammond project directly lead to the City of Mandeville project, which we are currently doing prep work for with seeding to be done in November. The Mandeville project was designed by the same Landscape Architect and we’ve been working on it now for several months, polishing it up. Its about an acre or so of land in a very public and high-profile position, at a major intersection on highway 190. Sweet!

photo-33

above is a photograph I took at Chapapeela today. The meadow, folks, is amazing in its diversity. I think its astonishingly beautiful. Notice how the maintenance crew has sprayed all of the best part away with round-up. I had collected Indian grass seed, had it propagated and grown off, then painstakingly planted those delectable plants all along the edge of the walking trail so that eventually the lowest possible plant would abut the walkway, and they have twice killed it all off. duh. A knucklehead is born every minute, ya’ll! :).

I met last week with Professor Jim, who teaches at ULL and happens to be one of the nicest guy on the planet. Good thing HE is teaching plant science, etc. Anyway, we had lunch and during our extended discussion, one of his students, Jennie, dropped in for an off-the-cuff consult on a project she is working on. The project is one I have visited on-site before, a large piece of property in the Lafayette area. We talked about processes and details, etc. As usual, the subject of using herbicides came up as a means of preparation. Yea, I know, if you are doing like natural landscaping, you shouldn’t need to use herbicides because they are bad for the environment. Right? WRONG! I suspect when there are no more wars and everybody loves one another and we all strive for serenity, we won’t need herbicides anymore. Only then. The fact is we have screwed up our Earth so badly in most of this part of the world, that trying to restore most landscapes ecologically means eradication of noxious weedy stuff. I think this is a good trade off. A few applications to help produce amazing diversity and substance in a feeble effort to save the Monarchs and other of God’s critters so that maybe our grandkids will have some wild things to experience and appreciate. Some spraying to totally heal a part of the earth forever. Not too shabby.

High Society Field Trip

I hope to see you at Ouida Plantation in St. Francisville Saturday for the Native Plant Society field trip hosted by Dave and Tracey Banowetz. I first did a small landscape for Dave and Tracey many years ago, about 1997-98, when they were in Baton Rouge. Bill Fontenot, the expert Bird-attraction-garden designer(see Nature Dude), had given them my name and we executed some cool work with herbs in stones an stuff. That was then.

Dave and Tracey moved to the country and started some work on a new and larger garden, converting an old pasture to awesome pasture. Back when they started, they were buying seed from the Cajun Prairie Society via Charles Allen (the grass dude). When the seed sales went from the Society to me, they purchased a few times from me and so they’ve added lots of seed over the years. This is a good approach, by the way. Keep adding seed and keep getting more of the good stuff. Its a pretty nice prairie restore these days. I saw it last year for the first time. They’ve been nurturing it by way of fire. Nice work, ya’ll!

John Mayronne, of Covington and Rick Webb of Amite, two leading figures in this region when it comes to designing with woody plants in general but native in particular, will be the experts leading the morning field trip at Ouida and Charles Allen and myself (lil’ old me) with do the prairie part of the day, after lunch. It should be fun and informative so come visit! I’ll see you there, maybe.

IMG_3236

 

Johnny Mayronne (so shy and reserved) and my ugly mug at a client’s crayfish boil with the Hot 8 Brass Band in background, last spring. Its a shame we weren’t having fun that day.

for more on this go to the link,  http://www.lnps.org/index_files/TripsandEvents.htm and click on Sept 20 Ouida Plantation field trip      peace-out

Charles Allen does Christo-like prairie-art installation!

This past Saturday, the prairie dogs showed up at the Duralde Prairie restoration site to permanently stake-off the new demonstration plots. In the end, the installation was Christo-like in effect, producing what looks like a giant 2 acre pin cushion.

P1030906

click to enlarge

P1030912

the poles actually lay out the grid design so that mowers can regularly groom the six feet wide paths between each 10 x 12 feet planting blocks. The individual blocks were planted last year with seed of high conservancy Cajun Prairie species. There will be a 6 six feet wide walking path wrapping around each planting block. Each species will soon be labeled.

P1030910

The effort was designed by Charles Allen, Andrew Dolan and myself. Andrew secured funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund the seed collection and planting/ management of the site. Five additional blocks were planted Saturday. There are a total of 88 blocks, 74 are now complete. We will gather the remaining 14 species of seed next year for our species wish list and will add more seed to some seed to some of the blocks that we only had a small collection for in the original plantings. We were short on seed of one milkweed and lacking altogether in another.  We will continue to add seed to enhance the gardens in the next few years so that they’ll grow up big and pretty! There are already some neat up-and-coming seedling stands beginning to show. We are confident that this huge garden will provide a good demonstration of the beauty and function of these fabulous native plants. Come see it at the Cajun Prairie spring meeting. see http://www.cajunprairie.org

duralde demo plot

click on the photo to see the enlarged version of the google earth image of the two acre site, a square in the center of the image. The Duralde property is the Evangeline Parish unit of the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge.

z duralde

see the same property but from 5 miles high. It is awash in farm land. Its the only large area of naturally managed land for miles. You can see the drainage “coulee” just below the Demo square and the pipeline crossing the property just above the Demo square

P1030915

a few of the prairie dog workers, at rest. Dr. Charles Allen, Margaret Frey, and Jacob Delahoussey. Stacy Huskins and Jim Foret, not shown. Is that a new punk-rock hair-cut Margaret has or just the wind making her look retro? Charles wore a hat so that wouldn’t happen to him.

P1030922

breakfast for prairie dogs

christo_running_fence

belvedere_castle_christo_gates

What next?  a commission for an installation in New York’s Central Park? Ah, yes…

………………