with turfgrass, less is much more

“Our remaining prairies throughout the grassland region are vestiges of one of the mightiest ecosystems ever to grace the earth. Our prairie soils and grazing lands made North America into an agricultural powerhouse like nowhere else in the world. And what remain may be called remnants, but they are not artifacts, they are teeming with life—living laboratories of genetic resources that we cannot afford to lose. They are perhaps all the more precious because they are so scarce and so vulnerable”     Carol Davit, the Executive Director of Missouri Prairie Foundation in her opening keynote address at the Americas Grassland Conference




Delighting in the Yellow Rain Lily fields at New Orleans City Park, NOLA

There are two really good models of naturalized, largely sustainable (perennial) meadows in New Orleans City Park, New Orleans, La. One model is the lush natural dark green stands of grass-like sedge meadows that exist on the south end of Scout Island – under the old Live Oaks there, just across from Goat Island (it is Leavenworth’s sedge mostly), and the other model is the Yellow Rain Lily fields that exist in the lawn areas surrounding Tad Gormley Stadium, just north of the Botanical Gardens. I have covered the sedge meadows previously in posts – here’s one post from a couple of years ago.



Its the Rain Lily meadows I wanted to share with you. They were all colored-up, really beautifully, when I was there recently (click to enlarge the pic). This lily field area (above) is located to the north and east of the corner of Marconi Avenue and Roosevelt Mall, which leads into the western entrance of the Park from Marconi Ave., just south of the Interstate 610.


The tiny flowers of Zepharanthes citrina (identification via Scott Ogden’s Garden Bulbs for the South), above. Its a non-native naturalized plant I have found in several regularly mowed properties in different parts of Louisiana; in City Park New Orleans, and at the Chalmette National Battlefield and in many old home sites, some I recollect, in St. Francisville. This very tough, resilient plant takes sun or shade, wet or dry, but does particularly well being in the infrequently mowed understory of a Live Oak tree. This photo, shot when the Lilies were in peak bloom, two weeks ago, and should be in full seed about right about now if it hasn’t been mowed down. Tiny bright yellow Lily goblets scatter the ground over dark green threadlike tufts of Lily leaves.


seeds of Z. citrina are ready when the seed capsule splits open


little black wedges of Yellow Rain Lily seed are light as dust

The Park’s Cosmos color crops next door, are just coming into flower now. These provide brief displays of luxuriant color and double as pollinator-friendly nectaring-weigh stations for bee s and butterflies. The Rain Lily and sedge gardens are perennial, permanent and relatively carefree, while the Cosmos gardens need reseeding, replanting every few months. Color cropping is relatively easy to do and so fun to experience when in flower. There are so many more annuals to try though. The list is long for annual species to dabble with, both native and non-native species.


the gardens are surrounded by wide mowed paths of lawn for access to the edge and some leading through the interior of the plantings.


above, planting color crop meadows using annuals is a fun and really rewarding alternative to mowing turf grass for those who are adventurous and inspired to create big splashes in life.


above, the general feel for what peak flower looks like. This type of garden can be a useful alternative in the design toolbox for developing strategies for fossil fuel reduction and for encouraging land managers to have a more delicate touch in managing large acreage land.

turfgrass transition!

Speaking of gardens that inspire, check out this photo of what used to be a severely boring lawn and is now a really significant prairie habitat garden and gene-bank preserve, containing numerous species and hundreds of thousands of flowers on a monthly basis on about two acres. The insect activity here is amazing, and species diversity and species richness in the vegetation is as remarkable. Superlative vegetation, produced from planting wild-collected high-quality prairie seed. Go figure.


click on the photo to enlarge it.

This is what not quite three years of time after planting does to soil, with high quality prairie seed. A developing prairie garden blankets the earth in broad stroked patterns. Remember, 70% or so of the biomass of a prairie is underground so you can imagine 2 times as much rootmass underground, in biomass – roots going down maybe eight or more feet. That is prairie, mostly roots – deep, dense root highway systems that channel stormwater and harbor an array of undrground micro-fauna. Narrow Leafed Mountain Mint plants, Button Snakeroot, Black Eyed Susies, Bee Balm and an 100 other odds-and-ends prairie species grow with abandon in this natural meadow, demonstrating the character lost landscapes.


A series of mowed lawn trails weave through this two-acre garden and serve a dual roll as fire lines for semi-annual prescribed fires.


University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Hamilton Hall prairie habitat garden rocks campus

The Hamilton Hall prairie garden was planted about three years ago as a volunteer project, from seed gathered and nursery grown plants grown, using Cajun Prairie genetics, many provided by Pastorek Habitats.

* all photos courtesy of University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Facebook page ha


Prof. Jim Foret, Jacob Delahoussaye, and Steve Nevitt and volunteers from the UL Horticulture Club got together and built the prairie garden at ULL, Hamilton Hall, on the northeast corner of the building. Its really taken off now, developing into a full fledged prairie sod, via prescribed fire management.


above, architectural structure can be helpful when blending a wild garden design into the refined urban condition.


fat and sassy Anole lounges on a prairie perch


Coastal Prairie Coneflower (R. nidita)


above, a Purple Coneflower flower is a happy place for a Skipper butterfly


the delicate flower cluster Coastal Hibiscus, a native marsh edge plant


the flower buds of Helianthus mollis, above


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Hibiscus mosheutos and a worker bee


anthers and filaments of the Eastern Gamma grass flower



a spent calyx from a Hibiscus flower



Foxtail grass





Button Snake Root



Cassia fasciculata




Coastal Hibiscus bud



Rudbeckia nidita and passenger



postage stamp prairies are doable! Three cheers for the ULL Horticulture Club!


Fire, not for amateurs —

One of the most controversial – yet possibly the most important aspect of gardening for ecological recovery of fine-fuel prairie vegetation is fire, the prescribed fire. Fire is a natural condition that transforms landscapes through natural succession, an orderly natural process. Using prescribed fires is a science and a necessary tool. Considering humidity, wind speed and direction, fuel load, etc., you can develop a plan for successful execution of the burn and do it safely. Training and certification is a good thing or just find a forester who can do it for you. That’s my advice.

You can prairie garden without fire, too. Just prepare for the management you choose before planting is done.


This borrowed photo captures a moment in time, a frame of a flame – at a prairie restoration about three or so years old – produced from Pastorek Habitat’s high quality prairie seed.    photo by Biologist/ Ecologist Matt Conn

Take a look at Matt’s blogpost on large-scale Chinese Tallow removal via helicopter. Matt’s experimenting and learning hands-on, via natural plant communities. Matt partnered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working directly with biologist Andrew Dolan, who is the Service’s private lands consultant, to prepare for and establish this small-acreage (I think a few acres) prairie garden. Andrew’s job focus includes guiding people interested in turning part of their property into wildlife habitat. There is someone in Andrew’s position in every state in the union so there’s a private lands coordinator somewhere near you. Get grass, people!

link to Mr. Conn’s Chinese Tallow article below


link to New York Times article on Matt…



Marc to speak at CPEX Smart Growth Planning Summit in November

Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) will host the 11th Annual Louisiana Smart Growth Summit November 1 & 2, 2016 in downtown Baton Rouge. The Summit has become the Southeast’s premier event promoting dialogue on innovative planning and exploring models for creating healthier and more resilient communities, making our streets safer while expanding transportation options, as well as examining the real estate market and development trends, and the important role of policymaking and leadership. Major sessions will hit on the big ideas that we hope will inspire our communities to move forward, as well as best practices and how-to follow-up sessions for our practitioner


Lafitte Greenway 9-acre native meadow magic set to begin

The City of New Orleans’ newest City park, the Lafitte Greenway, a sixty-four acre public space designed by the Landscape Architecture firm The Design Workshop, of Aspen, Co.,  -built for biking, team sports, community gardens, and other forms of recreation – will soon see progress begin for the process of establishing authentic Louisiana prairie habitat gardens and Sedge-dominant wetland gardens, just under 9 acres in all, using our amazingly-viable local-genetic seed and awesome restoration technology.

We were so fortunate to have been chosen as The Design Workshop’s lead horticultural consultant during the time the park design was being developed and perfected, starting back in November 2011. We’ve since been actively working with the Landscape Architectural staff at the City of New Orleans, the Landscape Architecture firm Dana Brown and Assoc., and a slew of other specialists, to help hammer out the details of what will soon become the crown jewels of the Park.

Nose to the grindstone for three years, ya’ll!

link to the American Society of Landscape Architects Award for Analysis and Planning – 2013,  below




The Greenway is a linear Park (the greenspace on a diagonal from top left to bottom right) inspired by a group of visionary citizens who saw an opportunity to develop what was once an old derelict rail road line (and before that, a navigation canal), into an viable and invaluable public space for the City. The Park serves as a green transportation connection between the French Quarter and the City Park area. All of the trees and garden areas in Lafitte are designed 100 per cent with native plants. All construction is mostly finished at this point but for the prairie gardens.


at Galvez Street looking to the southwest – Lafitte Greenway at Claiborne Avenue/ I-10


looking north to Lake Ponchartrain @ Lafitte Greenway at Bayou St. John/ Jeff Davis Parkway


above, Volunteer-painted fence in background with one of our several storm water-bioretention gardens (foreground)


Marc and Blue Hawaii Elvis hangin’ out at the Greenway!

Thank ya ver’ much!

Grow Cleome hassleriana from seed. Play around with this plant and you may get lucky and get a good crop of flowers. Cleome’s an annual plant, very short lived. Very easy. Blooms only for a month or so and then it makes lots of round, linear seed pods – that you can easily gather and grow!

I recently saw Cleome growing in sugar sandy beaches that are formed in the bends of the Okatoma Creek, in south Mississippi. But you can see below, its pretty common in Loosiana, yall (Allen and Thomas’ Vascular Flora of Louisiana).


Cleome gets around via seed. Its a prolific seed maker.




the leaf of Cleome resembles the leaf of Cannabis, which happens to be just next to Cleome in the book – same family –



This little crop was a-buzz last week when I took an early morning walk about.


Basils, easy to grow pollinators

Basil plants come in many shapes and forms. The typical culinary Basil, easily grown from seed is not only great to eat, it is a highly sought after plant by bees and other pollinators.There are many types, cultivars, of Basil in the horticulture trade. I’ve grown Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Opal Basil, Holy Basil, Purple Basil, and, this year I’ve tried for the first time, African Basil – and have enjoyed having it in the garden. Three words for Basil growers; simple, simple, simple. I plan to make some pesto soon with the African variety to try it out. I was excited to see a Hummingbird Moth on the African Basil patch in the middle of the day the other day. Odd since the moths, I think, are nocturnal. First time for everything, I guess 🙂   cool hummingbird moth on basil video, below



Natural Beauty in the State of Mississippi

Okatoma Creek near Seminary, Mississippi – one of my grandkids, little Asher Pastorek, jumps from a clay bar – canoeing in the red clay state w the young’ns. nice…



Save the Date! Competing meetings!

September 24th, 2016   Pollination Celebration – Hammond, La

a day long educational forum on pollinating insects and plants they utilize




September 24th and 25  Texas and Cajun Prairie Conference – Lafayette, La

Details are still in the making, but basically this will be a two day event with a night Social between (they are considering having a Zydeco Band for music so bring your dancing shoes). There will be an educational forum on Saturday and a field tripping caravan on Sunday.

keep a look-out for this event at cajunprairie.org and prairiepartner.org/



student’s Chappapeela meadows field work starts this week

Data collection work will start this Tuesday and go through the following week for students of LSU’s Conservation Biology Lab class – 4017, at Chappapeela Sports Park, in Hammond, Louisiana. This is one of the best public park displays of natural prairie in the region; a cool garden. This is the third year that Dr. Bill Platt has used the park planting as his outdoor laboratory, presenting a seed derived landscape of biologically significance for his students to work in and experience first hand.

The gardens is only four years old yet it contains a wide variety of plants managed almost exclusively by way of controlled burns. Over the years, the students have identified 35 species (excluding grasses) in the 30 one-meter-square plots that we’ve set up in what is a total of about 3/4 acre.


above, Dr. Platt lights the fire with a drip torch at Chappapeela, last spring, as Conservation Biology student Jene calls out temperature readings to her fellow students, in one of the Fuel Effects study plots.

The class has broken up into groups and have developed experiments based on data collections and scientific experiments of the earlier classes. One group will count species, one will cut and gather above ground and underground biomass, one will document effects of pollinators on Baptisia, and one will collect data on shade effects- tree shaded areas.

If we get dry weather in mid April, Dr. Platt and I hope to have the students lend a hand with our prescribed fire.

We’ve been asked by Peggy Davis, Director of LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum, to notify her of our burn schedule, as she and some of the board members and other Hilltop devotees are interested in attending the burn, as part of the research they are doing in developing 2 acres of prairie exhibits there at the Arbo.


above, teaching assistant Matt Fadlyn looks on as prairie goes up in flames, April 2015

If you would like to be there for the burn, just send me a note and I will let you know our plans as they develop.  We have to work around rainy weather, which we have had a lot of lately. 🙂


Baptisia is one of the first plants to bloom at Chappapeela. This photo, above, taken this morning.

I am planning a field trip tour of the gardens in July or early August. Join me.

Bog Garden showing signs of renewed life in Covington, La


spring time in a south Luzianna bog restoration


newly transplanted, rescued Pearl River County Yellow Pitcher Plants relocated to a new St. Tammany Parish preserve


Pitcher Plants in flowery glory


Louisiana Children’s Museum happenin’!


site prep in the early stages at the Children’s Museum, City Park, NOLA

I have been workin’ like a Turk over the last couple of weeks assisting putting the final touches on the most awesome garden designs (I must say) for the new Louisiana Children’s Museum. Landscape Architect and plantsman John Mayronne sat with me yesterday and contributed his amazing talent to the cause and I have forwarded that bit of info to Deb Guenther and Christian Runge of Mithun, the firm spearheading the design process. Deb tells me there is an article forthcoming about the Museum in Urban Land magazine. Can’t wait to see that! Construction should begin on the museum by late April. The design has been ten years in the making. Candi and I feel fortunate to have been able to work as consultants for this special garden, one so close to home.

worst video of Prairie Phlox ever made! Phlox pilosa, blooming at the farm – too bad you can’t smell the delectable fragrance via video – it’d be better

Prairie Gardening talk, part of Louisiana Master Gardener’s Conference agenda

I will be doing a presentation on using prairie plants in the landscape for the Master Gardeners state Conf in New Orleans. Keynote speakers for this event are the amazingly insightful Biologist Dr. Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware and Texas horticulturist Dr. Bill Welch. A number of other wonderfully talented speakers including nursery pioneers Margie Jenkins and Buddy Lee, horticultural brainiac Dr. Allen Owings, Dana Brown Landscape Architect, and Biologist Dr. Charles Allen. They grace the stage, along with educational displays and vendors – all sorts horticultural commotion. Be there if you can!

Click to access LMG16-Conference-Agenda.pdf

Baton Rouge’s BREC Bioblitz – today!!


Event Calendar, Louisiana Nature, via Dr. Charles Allen 

(contact Dr. Charles Allen native@camtel.net 337-328-2252)

Apr 2  BREC Bioblitz 2016, Baton Rouge

Apr 2  Picnic at Briarwood

April 2-3 Festival des Fleurs, Lafayette

April 5-7   Basic (General) Plant ID Class Allen Acres

April 8-10 BBBBB  Allen Acres

April 8-9  Southwest Louisiana Garden Fest Lake Charles

April 9 The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program along with Louisiana La-Terre Master

Gardeners is having a Native Plant Sale on Saturday, April 9, 2016 from 8:00am-12:00pm.

April 13-15  Basic (General) Plant ID Class Grand Isle

April 15-17 Grand Isle Migratory Bird Celebration


April 19-21  Graminoid id workshop, Allen Acres

April 26-28 Basic (General) Plant ID Class Shroomdom Poplarville, Mississippi

May 3-5  Wetland Plant ID Class, Allen Acres

May 7-8  Edible Plant Workshop at Allen Acres

May 12-14  Louisiana Master Gardener Convention, hosted by the Master Gardeners of Greater New

May 14  Cajun Prairie Meeting

May 17-19 Basic (General) Plant ID Class Idlewild, near Clinton, LA

May 21  Crosby Arboretum  Butterfly Gardening

May 24-26  Sunflower Legume Plant ID Class, Allen Acres

May 28-30  Columbia Catahoula Caravan.  Tours, etc in the Columbia area probably Copenhagen Prairie,

Charles Allen Nature Trail, and Catahoula National Forest and more.  Details to follow

July 17-20  North American Prairie Conference, Normal, Illinois  http://nap2016.illinoisstate.edu/

July 23-31  National Moth week

July 29-31  Moth event plus Bio Blitz at Allen Acres

August 19-21  Lily Orchid Days, Allen Acres

Sept 17  Haynesville Butterfly Festival

Sept 30-Oct 2  Butterfly Blast, Allen Acres

Jen Blanchard and team selected as finalists for water-challenge-civic-design-competition

Just got the news last night that Jen Blanchard, NOLA Potter, LLC., and our team was chosen as one of three finalist for the water-inspired art installation in the central focal area of the Lafitte Greenway and Revitalization Corridor. I’m super stoked to be involved with such amazing people of talent at this point in the conceptual stage of the process. Jen and Team Oui! will be hammering out the details of our design in the next couple weeks. The project is sponsored by the New Orleans Arts Council and Propeller Incubator, New Orleans.

This is Jen’s announcement.

I am extremely honored and happy to announce that my public art proposal “Contraflow” submitted to
The Arts Council of New Orleans and Propeller for the
$25,000 Living with Water RFP has been selected as
one of three finalists!
On March 23rd at NOEW Water Day 2015
there will be a competition where
I will give a pitch presentation along with the
members of my team, composed of:
Peggy Bishop – Collaborating Artist
Michael Manjarris – Sculptor/Project Installation
Marc Pastorek – Environmental Landscape Designer
Jen Roberts – Water Management/Environmental Scientist
Dana Brown – Landscape Architect
We are all looking forward to this incredible opportunity! 

Here’s the official announcement  http://www.artsneworleans.org/news/ac-news/water-challenge-civic-design-competition-finalists-announced/

Propeller Incubator website    http://gopropeller.org