general and advanced taxonomy classes / natives featured at Oct. Hammond event

 

For those wanting to learn more about native plants and natural things, several events are upcoming that might be of interest. Dr. Charles Allen, one of the leading experts on native plants in the southeastern U.S. is holding a series of four fall native plant identification workshops, starting with the first, general plant ID starting tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th, in the metropolis of Pitkin, Louisiana. These are intensive two day and a half day workshops intended as brain expanding exercises in natives. I will be taking the Asteracea / Fabacea class on October 30- Sept 1st. Cannot wait!!!!

Dr. Allen, who has literally written the books on natives. see the link

http://www.lnps.org/index_files/TripsandEvents.htm

Aslo worthy of a field trip is the Horticultural Field Day held on October 7th at the LSU Hammond Research Garden. Dr. Yan Chen and Dr. Allen Owings and others will be leading tours of their trial gardens once again. If you haven’t seen these gardens, and you make time to attend, I think you will agree that there is a lot to see and much to learn from a trip there, even if you can’t make it there that day. The gardens are open most every working day of the year. Bring your questions about you plants and gardens and meet these knowledgable folks.

Dr. Yan will be highlighting her work with native plants using local-sourced seed, which is really substantial and cutting-edge stuff! Go Tigers!

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local seed; its a natural

Collected lots of great seed from the farm yesterday. Dreamed of doing this when I was just a wannabee, back in the day. I planted giant gardens of Narrow-leafed Mountain Mint, Rough Coneflower, Spearmint scented White Mountain Mint (Malcolm Mint), Ashy Sunflower, Tall Tickseed, and copious amounts of Lindhiemer’s and Wild Bergamot Bee Balm all those years ago at the seed farm in Mississippi. It is such a treasure-pleasure to mechanically harvest from those seed fields. I hope in time that more folks do this sort of thing. That was the goal for me, not only to make a living from locally sourced native seed  produce on seed fields on my own land but also to provide a model for others to copy before I go to the big aster garden in the sky. It has worked so far. whoop-whoop!

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above, a bundle of White Leafed Mountain Mint, one that I named “Malcolm Mint” about 15 years ago, since Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, who I named it for, was the one to find it in the wild, propagate it, conserve it and pass it on. When I drive through my fields, and crush the Malcolm Mint plants with my tractor tires, the world fills with the heavenly sweet-scented aroma of Spearmint, a sensory delight, I must say.

 

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Similar in sensory over-load is the field of Frey Prairie genes that I planted back in 2000. Loaded with Sweet Goldenrod, one of our most useful and wonderfully scented herbs, Sweet Goldenrod, sometimes called Licorice Goldenrod is so amazing in that it transports your up onto a super-sweet scented cloud high above, when you step your feet across the field. Oh, high horticulture, how I love you! Frey Prairie is now fully extirpated; gone,  plowed under into a rice field. But my seed field has its genes, and all the texture, color, scent and diversity of what Frey once was. Its a gene-pool bank of sorts. in order to plant this field, I harvested the seed from Frey, the once, most-hallowed piece of ground. above, the golden yellow pyramidal heads of Sweet Goldenrod and the purply-pink square heads of Rough Button Blazing Star are complimentary, no doubt. Meadowmakers Seed Farm, Carriere, Pearl River County, Mississippi.

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Cool bean growing in the yard in Covington. It came in on its own only because I don’t mow much. This’n growing up the Agarista popufolia. A nice vine that the hummers and butterflies and I enjoy.

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Chuck Allen says this is a Strophostyles, above

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sweet video of me cleaning Geen Milkweed (below) that I roadside-rustled with Gail Barton last week. Sent my share off to entemologist Dr. Jovonn Hill at Mississippi State for a Balck Belt prairie pollinator planting project he’s doing. photos above are top left, clockwise, Green Milkweed in fruit, then in full seed, cleaned seed, and a massive plant that Gail and I were so impressed with. It was probably oder than she and I put together. It was a giant specimen with a bunch of seed, wrapped nicely on the highly flammable hair-like material that catches the wind and flies the seed off into the air. seed cleaning video uploaded onto my youtube channel.

KIDS! Try this at home!

Cardinal Rule

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speaking of locally native seed. a photo above of Cardinal Flower that occurred on its own in the yard this year, a great surprise, especially since I had bought in a few plants from a nurseryman, knowing they’d been shipped from a grower out of our region. Those bought plants were chewed incessantly by rabbits, so much that they are still nubbed to the ground all summer and still are. These plants, above, I found as seedlings while I was mowing one day this spring and kept the mower blades away from them. The rabbits don’t seem to want to try these. Yet. Maybe I’ll get some seed from them….

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Keep Covington Beautiful, KCB,is a group I have been working with for some time. They get stuff done, folks!

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KCB’s controlled burn result of the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail park is quite obvious. In the distance, see toasty Loblolly Pines, Tallow Trees and mixed vegetation. The fire opened up the landscape magically, removing several years of fuel that had built up, hiding the herb plants from the sun. In the foreground is the future Pitcher Plant flatwoods restoration area. The park is modeled after the North Carlolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the first Arboretum in the country that established a naturally designed and managed arboretum.

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above, sunlight and herbs are partners for biodiversity, on the ground at Blue Swamp Creek.

Permaculture in the Front Yard

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above, in the front yard of the Covington, Loosiana hacienda, my first logs of Shiitake mushrooms are ready for the skillet. I cut Gums out of my seed farm fields in January and plugged them with shitake spore-plugs. In a frying pan with butter and garlic, they are Yum-Yum!

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Granny says, “Vittles, Jethro!!”

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um, Probly not.

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last but not least, a vase of Candy Rain Lilly, Salvia and Sweet Coneflower for my sweetie, Sweetheart and wife, Candi, for the kitchen bar-counter. The amazing Sweet Coneflower, typically a plant found in wetter sites, was subjected two months of no rain, severe drought! and didn’t miss a beat when it came time to flower. That’s a drought with searing tempts that mostly reached 95 degrees every day, with at least one day at 104 degrees with a heat index of 120, yet it was happy as a clam in the ocean. Natives rock.

 

 

 

 

LSU AgCenter Station/Bot Garden, Hammond, getting down and dirty with native prairie horticulture

Some really serious horticulture work has been done with these genetics since that time.

I made time to visit with Dr. Yan and Dr. Allen Owings recently. I brought with me, the crop of Side Oats Gramma grass that I grew since June when I made a road side dig in Cameron Parish. I dug enough off the road edge to make about seventy nice and full, quart sized containers. Most of these I loaded into the pick-up and brought to the Station on Tuesday.

Dr. Yan says some of the Side Oats will go into what she calls her “Care and Maintenance” beds, which are demonstration gardens planted with one of the most popular of garden plants, the everblooming Rose, the Knockout Rose. The idea is to demonstrate how folks can use native prairie plants with the most common, everyday garden plants, so that one day local-genetic prairie plants, the ecological wonders that they are, will become more popular and more available for you and me.

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above, the site of my collection of the rare-gene-pool population of Side Oats Gramma grass, south and west of Vinton, Louisiana, a stone’s throw from the Gulf and the Sabine. A very special thanks to Partyin’ fool Bubba (Bubbette) for throwing out his or her Miller Light beer litter so I can demonstrate to you how very short the Gramma actually is. I stuck my machete in the ground, center, (see?), and the grass was about a foot tall in foliage with nice, typical, nearly-invisible flowering inflorescenses. To get some, you might have to beat out the spray guys. Last year I showed up to dig and the whole strip was nuked brown. This year I got em!

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the Grassmobile is going to market!! This eco-type of Side Oats has great potential for horticultural heights in Louisiana.

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above, this is the area where some of the native prairie stuff is at the Research Station, the three north-south oriented at the bottom left are grasses and forbs and three longer, east-west oriented garden beds on the bottom right of the screen are the Care and Maintenance gardens        click photo to enlarge it….

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Indian grass, Switch grass, left, and Cajun Prairie Rudbeckias, on the right, at the demo gardens at the Hammond AgCenter Station Research and Botanical Garden, Hammond Louisiana

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Rudbeckia grandiflora (foreground) and Rudbeckia nidita (in back), in full fruit

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Dr. Yan’s Care and Maintenance gardens, with Rosey-Red Knock-out Roses, Indian grass (far left), Little Bluestem grass, annual Periwinkle, Rudbeckia nidita, and Canada Germander. and some nicely clipped turf grass surrounding each of the gardens.

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Little Bluestem, in foreground, above white creeping Vinca, the black seed heads of Rudbeckia Nidita, visible in the distance. Shock-red of Knock-out Rose.

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These above, are photos provided by Dr. Yan, taken in June after the Rudbeckia nidita had been cut back after blooming in April. She told me she would be cutting them back again, harvesting the seed and looking for yet another re-bloom in October. Great thing about nidita is it is an evergreen, a winter green for the garden, like her big sister Rudbeckia maxima, but with rich green leaves instead of blue. Maxima is a very popular garden plant in the states and in Europe and has been for a long time. Nidita (texana), grandiflora and the very late blooming subtomentosa, I think, all deserve as much fame and fanfare.

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above, nice crop of Split Beard Bluestem coming on in one of the Station greenhouses.

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limited but in my opinion, very significant progress with Narrow Leafed Bluestem. Dr. Yan says they are a bit difficult to grow 😦  .

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above Joey Quibideaux, right, and his co-worker shifting-up the Split Beard Bluestem plants to 3 quart size pots, from four inch. Go Hammond!!!

below is a very unentertaining video of silphiums I found on I-55 on the way back from Jackson Monday, probably integrifolium. yea.

this guy on video, below, is totally wack!

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/2015/08/08/minutes-king-suburban-jungle-southfield-michigan/31344029/

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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.

 

 

Eunice prairie demonstration gardens tour, April 4

The Cajun Prairie folks will hold their spring wildflower tour on April 4th, celebrating the prairie, lead by the two pioneering biologists who started the Eunice Prairie Restoration garden nearly twenty eight years ago. In my opinion, this is one of the top 3 public garden destinations in the state of Louisiana. Society members burned the site for the first time in two years this February and we had an intense fire as a result. It is always a beautiful site to see the prairies during the first week of April, at peak spring bloom; not much created by man in these parts compares. Imagine ten acres of the most beautiful garden you can conceive of and thats pretty much what you’ll see at Eunice in April. Remember Dorothy and friends in The Wizard of Oz walking through the poppy fields? Well, its much better than that. Heavenly, hallowed ground it is.

From this site, this planting, much of the research on seeded prairie landscaping in the Gulf South has been garnered. Many scientific papers have been produced via this single experiment. And many prairies have been produced with seed from it. This is a preserve managed for the conservation of Louisiana Tall grass prairie genetic ecotypes. (click on photos to enlarge, photos by Dawn Allen McMillian and myself)

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sensitive briar, Mimosa quadravalvis

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Phlox pilosa color variations

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awesome rare wild onion, Allium mobilense

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blue eyed grass

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Cardinal on a burnt twig

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there are tens of thousands of Baptisia in the ten acre Eunice Restored Prairie, many of them unique, rare, natural hybrids

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Praying Mantis

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white false indigo, Baptisia alba

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Baptisia bracteata

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Gulf Fritillaries on passiflora vine

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The tour will begin at the Duralde restored prairie, a 350 acre prairie collaboration between the the Cajun Prairie Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lacassine NWR. There you can see lots of acreage of natural coastal Tallgrass prairie seeded in 1995-6 and transplanted with rescue plants over many years from the now extinct Frey prairie remnant, just south of Eunice by the Society and other volunteers. There you can walk through seeded experiments and demonstration gardens planted as a research project in 1998. There’s also the two-acre demonstration garden designed by Dr. Charles Allen and myself, which will is unique to the southeastern U.S., an individual prairie species garden with 10 x 12 feet rectangular plots for all of the conservative species of the prairie to be managed in a mowed- grid form. This area was burned this year, first time in a few.

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The 2-acre Duralde demo garden, November 2015. At two years old, its just a pup.

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Dr. Charles M. Allen, biologist, horticulturist, Sept 2014

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Dr. Malcolm F Vidrine, left, biologist, horticulturist, April 2014

Program for Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society Spring Meeting and Tours-Saturday, April 4, 2015

8:00 AM: Tours of Duralde Restored Prairie. Directions: Take LA 13 north out of Eunice and after crossing a bridge, go about 1.5 miles and turn left onto La 374. If coming from the north on La 13, about 6 miles south of Mamou, just past the Fire Station, turn right onto La 374. Follow La 374 west and it will take a sharp right then a sharp left. After straightening out from the sharp left, go about 0.5 miles and turn left at the first double intersection.  You will be turning left onto a gravel road that is Navy Road.

Navy Road is about 2 miles from La 13. Follow Navy Road and it will take a sharp right and then will start a sharp left but you will not turn at the left but drive straight into Duralde Prairie.

10:00 AM: Eunice Restored Prairies; meet at the corners of Martin Luther King and East Magnolia and enjoy the best restored prairie in the United States. This site is north of U.S. 190 and east of La 13. For those of you coming from the north on La 13, turn left (east) at the first paved road (East Magnolia) to the east after you cross the railroad tracks in Eunice. Go a couple of blocks and the prairie is on your left. For those coming from the east on U.S. 190 turn right (north) at the first red/green traffic light and follow Martin Luther King Drive for a couple of blocks and the prairie is on your left. For those coming from the west on U.S. 190, follow U.S. 190 through Eunice and after crossing a railroad track, go to the next red/green traffic light and turn left onto Martin Luther King Drive (See above). For those coming from the south on La 13, when you reach the stop sign, turn right onto Maple Ave. Follow Maple for about 3 or 4 blocks and at the 2nd four way stop sign, turn left onto Martin Luther King Drive. Follow this street across U.S. 190 and see above.

12 noon Lunch at Rocky’s Restaurant located at 1415 E Laurel Ave, Eunice, LA 70535 (337) 457-6999. and

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society meeting.

And the presentation

“Bring Back the Monarchs” by the Bug Lady, Linda Auld of New Orleans

 

For more details about the meeting and or tours, contact Dr. Charles Allen 337-328-2252 or email native@camtel.net.

 

 

 

horticulture-worthy strains of native grasses for Gulf-influenced landscapes

One of the best things to happen to me in my working career is to have been influenced by a bunch of keen plant people who appreciated and promoted genetic diversity. This influence has helped me see the plants in the landscape with a more discerning eye.

By having the gift of spending time in natural areas, I’ve come across some noteworthy strains of plants that I believe have horticultural promise. Some are genetically unique individuals like you and I and some are entire populations of a single species in a particular location, noticeably different than the typical. Some are just normal, run-of-the-mill.

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Pioneering prairie ecologist Dr. Charles Allen and myself at Chapapeela Sports Park last Sunday in Hammond, Louisiana, checking out for the first time, the lushness of frosted-awesome prairie seeded two years ago in November. Without Charles and his side-kick Dr. Mac Vidrine (and other concerned Biologists), this, and other fabulous prairie gardens around the Gulf Coast region could not have been conceived. photo by Jeff McMillian

Here are a few Central Gulf Coastal plains species and strains worth mentioning:

Switch grass– Switch grass is highly variable in the landscape. Often, when you see lots of it, you’ll see short and tall, upright and rounded, narrow-leafed and wide bladed, blue-leaved and green-leaved. You’ll see variations in color and texture in inflorescence (flower), too. I have a nice dwarf one in my garden that grows about three feet tall in fruit. cule. the old timey selection, Heavy Metal, has been a commonly available cultivar (genetic anomaly) in the hort trade since the mid-1990’s. Northwind, a selection from up above the Mason-Dixon, is an upright and tall form that stays at attention, like a soldier. Cloud Nine is another I’ve grown for many years, getting my first plant from Niche Gardens in the late 1990’s. Its a big sucker, nine ft tall (Get it?) about that wide, too. Dallas Blue I’ve had for several years now and its of course its blue foliaged and decent in that it doesn’t flop and kind of rounded in form and medium texture. A decent plant. I think the perfect Switch for gardens is a fat-fat leaved one about three feet tall and wide, but I haven’t come across it yet. Gail Barton of Meridian Mississippi found a killer selection of Switch on Highway 45 south of Brooksville, Mississippi a few years ago. It is a beautiful grass, a beautiful plant. Its steely blue foliage with a large form about five feet, in inflorescence and a nice fine textured effect when in fruit. The cool thing about Switch grass is you can do large areas from seed really easily. We offer a mix of Switch seed from populations in the Cajun Tallgrass Prairie of Southwest Louisiana. In two years time, you can produce acres of Switch in robust, nearly mature stands.

Little Bluestem grass is said to be (or used to be) the most common sun-loving grass in in uplands(out of the wet) in East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It is a high-conservative species, worthy more ornamental use. Northern climate American are and have been selecting for this plant for many years and because of that, people are using them and making economic benefits in horticulture and commerce. We down here in the South are contemplating the matter still. This is an vertically inclined plant plant, its prolific and the beauty of it is more obvious in numbers. You wouldn’t plant a single Bluestem plant in a garden. You’d plant twenty or forty at a time, for effect. There’s strength in numbers, you know. You use Little Bluestem en masse as a element in the landscape. I prairie ecology, little Bluestem is a climax species, providing copies amounts of plants that proliferate in the landscape and when managed well, become a sod. Foliage and stem characteristics are where Little Blue got its name; Blue stems with red nodes and sometimes, the blue color is absent and shades of green dominate a stand. Sometimes the blue color is so intense it looks silver colored. In November, after first frost, Little Blue turns Little Red, and late in winter turns Little Tan. The functional value though is where Little Blue captures its niche. It provides ecological services abound. An interesting note is that Little Bluestem, below I-10 in the Cajun Prairie is associated with facultative wetland species. Normally it is considered a non’-wet loving plant but obviously genetics have adapted to wet ecotones.

Broomsedge/ Virginia Bluestem – since Little Bluestem has been so devastated, Broomsedge (not a sedge at all) is now probably the most common sun-loving upland grass in Louisiana. Its an early succession plant, moved out (in a restoration) by late succession species, Little Blue, typically. However, Broomsedge has some relevance as far as landscaping and horticulture is concerned. It can be managed in perpetuity if done with some skill. It has a most colorful presence in the landscape in the winter; an unusual reddish tan colored foliage, different than Little Blue, and of a slightly different texture. Its easily distinguished by its flattened stem nodes.

Split Beard Bluestem –Split Beard is very similar in habit and form to Little Blue until it blooms and fruits. When in fruit, the trained eye can pick it out of a line-up from a couple of hundred feet way. On I-20, if you happen to catch it in fruit before the mowers come, it creates a cottony, visually-dazzling landscape, whipped by the wind of the semi trucks. The fruit persists for a month or two. A cool, cool plant for horticulture and wildlife.

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above: Split Beard Bluestem in fruit and in the field. click on photo to enlarge

Dwarf Elliots Bluestem -Elliot’s Blue is rarely, if ever, dwarf, but there is a stand of a dwarf strain that I have been closely monitoring for two seasons, now, at a restoration in Louisiana that has horticultural promise for the Gulf coastal plain since most of our Bluestem species get really tall, especially in a garden soil with no root-space competition. An interesting thing is that when you see either Split Beard or Elliot’s, you generally see the other in close proximity. Elliot’s Blue has a similar habit to Little Blue until it blooms and fruits. Its really obvious when the fruit is on board. Fruits are wrapped in an elongated three inch sheath, something quasi-similar to a jack-in-the-pulpit arrangement. A very distinctive identifiable trait. No Bluestems look like it. The dwarf strain is obviously different than typical, and everything else around it is of normal height and form. This is obviously a strain that comes true from seed, hence the size of the stand (presently about 30 x 50 feet).

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above: Elliot’s Bluestem in fruit, and the dwarf stand, about two feet tall.

Dwarf Indian grass -Indian grass is a great prairie garden plant. It is a runner of sorts, but politely so. Again, like with most native grasses planted in a garden situation with loose soil and no root competition, the height and width can double or more, compared to the normal competitive-prairie size. In the competitive world of the prairie, Indian is polite and docile, and only grows a tuft of grass about a foot or so high, with nearly invisible floral stems to six feet, topped with highly attractive and colorful infloresnces. Yellow Indian grass is the common name for this plant since the flower heads are bright and yellowy, robust and unusually large considering the stem diameter. Indian is highly variable genetically with a variety of genetic strains coming from a handful of seed. Often there are steely blue colorations of foliage and differing leaf forms and sizes.

Dr. Susan Barton, U of Delaware (http://canr.udel.edu/faculty/barton-susan/) has made some wonderful discoveries conduction planting experiments with Indian grass. She told me about how she preps the planting area by spraying herbicide repeatedly and then mixes Indian grass seed with saw dust. Then lays the sawdust-seed mix across the ground an inch thick and voila! Instant Indian grass prairie!!!!!

Dwarf Indian in my seed field -years ago, a friend, Gail Baron (yard flower.com), gave me a few cups of Indian grass with origin, as I recall, from somewhere in Mississippi. I planted it out and it has proven to be a particularly dwarf strain. Nice.

Love grass (there are many species) – Love grass should be a good marketable plant just because of its name. It is a very short-statured grass, much wider than its one foot height. Work should be done on this plant simply because it has such a short overall height. And it comes up readily from seed.

Three Awn grass -Aristidas are feathery, fine textured and rather attractive native grasses that create puffs of color and texture in the landscape. Some come up readily from seed. These are relative to the Wire grass, Aristida strict, so common and dominant in Florida and Georgia pine lands but absent from west Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Generally dwarf in size, most often, about a foot high, wispy and vertical; moved by the slightest breeze. Purty. The best one for horticulture is A. purpurascens.

Narrow Leaf Bluestem – a most promising garden plant and lawn substitute, Schizachyrium tenerum has a short and rounded form with needly-thin leaves, growing about a foot high and 30 inches wide. Its distribution range is a fairly small area, the central  Gulf coast, mainly, with some disjunct populations, east, in eastern Georgia and North Carolina and west to Corpus Christi, Texas. Narrow Leaf Blue is unique in that it is one of the species in the Coastal Prairie of Louisiana (Cajun Prairie) that separates the Tall grass prairie of the midwest from the Tallgrass prairies of the Gulf Coast region. It has something to do with the Gulf influenced coastal pine lands intergrading with the Tallgrass prairie. Its a true Southerner.

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above: Distribution range of Schiz ten

Pineland Dropseed, Sporobolus junceus -what a beautiful and very useful grass this plant is! A favorite of mine. It graced my prairie seed catalogue cover years ago. Prairie Dropseed casts a wide net horticulturally for the potential it has for use in gardens, home and urban prairie landscapes and especially for the no-mow or low-mow native lawn. This plant is so petite, a tiny thing, that gets about six or eight inches in height and maybe a little less wide. The inflorescences are erect barely visible, they’re so thin and fine in texture. Very interesting. Its a clumping tuft with fine textured foliage and is delightful to find en masse in the wild. Am presently working on plantings of it for demonstrations for the last couple of years.

Brownseed Paspalum -Brownseed is a great early succession nurse crop for strarting a prairie garden since it comes on early in dominance and stays until competition moves it out to a lesser roll in the prairie landscape. A good wildlife plant but not much on the eyes. Most folks would say it looks like Bahia grass but it is quite different, actually. Much thinner inflorescences and fruit clusters. Its another Gulf coastal species mostly, with reach into northern area outside the coastal plain. Adaptable from Texas to the Carolinas.

Side Oats Gramma (or Side Oats Grammaw grass)– Boutaloua curtipendula isn’t supposed to be in Louisiana but Botanist Chris Reid showed me a killer naturally occurring stand last year in Cameron Parish, a stone’s throw from the Gulf. He and another expert told me that that is an anomaly and that that stand is probably something that came from seed sowed for forage. I dunno. However, its growing like a weed in the Louisiana coastal Parish of Cameron! That’s big news folks. Big potential there in that genetic strain. I went to collect some seed and or plants last year and it had just been nuked by the Highway dept. or county road crews. Bummer, dude. This species (and for us, this strain) has incredible potential for low-mow, no-mow lawns and is a great garden plant. The closest place to find it naturally near us, other than in Cameron Parish stand is in the Black Belt prairie region where it is not common at all, rare. These Black Belt genetics have potential for trial also, in heavier, higher Ph soils like New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Eastern Gamma –is a big, big plant. Its a large textured, pale green leaved, rounded plant with flower spikes that radiate outwardly and above the foliage in all directions, from the center. An ancient relative of the corn plant, if you suck on the seed a bit, you’ll see it even tastes like corn. Voted a better plant for bio-fuel than Switch because of its higher sugar content, its also an ornamental plant of note. It can be grown easily from seed but is not as fast as say, Switch grass. But in three years time, you can easily grow several acres by seed and save tons of plant costs while creating large swaths of grassy landscape. Super good fire generator and an excellent wildlife food and cover plant. Also, ook into the use of its far-southern first cousin Florida Gamma grass, rare in the wild but common now via conservation, on highways and shopping mall parking lots in south Florida, Miami area. Cool beans. I have a nice stand of about fifty maturing plants in my home garden here in Covington, trying it out. It seems to be tough as its cousin for me so far.

Go! Micro-Prairies!!!!!

 

 

Sunday garden stroll in LSU’s Hammond Camellia forest -awesome

If you haven’t been to the LSU Hammond Research Station to see the Camellia collection in its full-blooming glory, you are sadly missing out on one of the best kept horticultural experiences in the state. You don’t have to be a plant lover to thoroughly enjoy this wonderful garden. See the fascinating article by Stephanie Bruno on the collection at the link (oh, and photos from yesterday) below.

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/homegarden/11635433-171/lsu-agcenter-hosts-camellia-stroll

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my friend Charles Allen with Loblolly pine and old timey camellias.

click to enlarge of the photographs to check out the landscape of towering Loblolly pines and a zillion colors and shapes and sizes a la Camellia. Its a magical feeling walking through this garden. Charles Allen and family, etc met Candi and I there for a stroll through.

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stately pines with an understory of hundreds of old flowery Camellia shrubs

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I don’t know a single Camellia name was told this one is Rebel Yell, nice name. 🙂

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and this one’s Carter’s Sunburst

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After the Camellia walk we took a side trip just a couple of miles away to Chapapeela Sports Park, off of Airport Road in Hammond. The gardens at the park are really robust and I consider them to be top notch and super diverse; very beautiful. The Little Bluestem there is thick (or “tick”, as they say down the bayou). These are the same gardens that provide a cool natural habitat that Dr. Bill Platt and his students with his Conservation Biology class use as an outdoor lab. It was the first time that I had had the pleasure of showing the gardens off to Dr Allen, who is a major mentor of mine and the person who, along with Dr. Vidrine and others, is the inspiration for my prairie landscape business. It was a great treat to show it off to him and to the others in attendance. whoop-whoop!! Go Micro-Prairies!!!

thanks to nasa and awesome technology, here are two google earth maps with locations of the Camellia garden and the prairie grass gardens. they’re self explanatory. You can go to these public spaces during daylight hours to visit. Go often.

Chapapeela and Hammond station map

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EXTRA!    —–news flash!!  

KIDNEY BEAN SHAPED NATIVE GRASS BEDS AT A GROOVY ST TAMMANY RESIDENCE GET PLANTED    Yayah!!!

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Awesome Native Grass gardens went in this weekend in Folsom, Louisiana at the guest house of a client. The client spread the garden areas out with herbicide during the summer a few times to reduce the likelyhood of perennial grass competition. I like this grass island concept but I would scratch the tree design I originally presented a year or so ago and do a Long Leaf pine meadow as a forty foot strip at the road edge to connect the south end of the property with the meadow on the north end of the property. The purpose is to build a baffle between the road and the house as natural baffle; a separation from the road creating a more intimate garden room. This would also allow for a much easier, less rigid management program for the the area, a softer touch.

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Dallas Blue Switch grass. Its a pretty thing….

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Tripsicum floridanum in foreground of this bed, with Muhlenbergia lindhiemeri in the rear. An island of Tripsicum dactyloides and Muhlenbergia capillaris to the left island and Dallas Blue Switch on the right. Lindhiemers Muhly is one of the top three grass plants for effect in Louisiana gardens, at least ornamentally speaking. A bad-ass grass.

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in a largest island garden, next to my truck, is a non-cultvar native Switch grass that fills the bed, with 5 Aralia spinosa, Devil’s Walking Stick, gracing a central area. Aralia spinosa’s a cool looking plant with pulpy berries that birds love and a flower head as big as a basketball. cool.

 

 

 

 

Mandeville’s new 1 acre Long Leaf Pine prairie preserve

Thanks to the forward thinkers at Mandeville City Hall and the Mandeville City Planning staff, the one acre island created (two islands, actually) by the roadway intersection at Highway 190 and the east Lake Ponchartrain Causeway approach will soon be completed. The planting is inspired by the Long Leaf pine prairies that were once so prevalent in the Parish and the entire Central Gulf Coastal region. Tim Bailey, a local landscape contractor and Prairie Dog, Inc. (Pastorek Habitats, LLC.), have been chosen to collaborate on the planting and management of the project. The planting is just east of the Causeway approach, check out the google maps to locate. You may have to click and enlarge the photos below, to see.

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I’ve worked this past spring and summer, getting the prep work done and Tim has just completed the tree plantings; a few Live Oaks located in the outside of the pine prairie and Long Leaf Pine and Cherry Bark Oaks, chosen specifically because they would be a natural companion for the prairie and because they are pyrogenic (they love fire!). The plan is to use annual controlled burns as the preserve’s main management device.

Adam Perkins, a Landscape Architect based in Hammond (Dufreche and Perkins), and Maggie Gleason, Landscape-Urban Forestry Inspector for the City of Mandeville’s Planning Department collaborated on the planning and design of the landscape. Adam, Tim and I all worked together at Chapapeela Park prairie landscape in Hammond, which is a jewel in the crown of Hammond’s public Park system. Adam’s graphics are great. They explain the project very well.

Gotta give credit to Chuck Allen and Mac Vidrine, those crazy-brilliant-Cajun-Prairie-cats, because without the help of the how-to science they developed, the preserve would probably have become a large tree filled lawn that would have to be mowed in perpetuity, or something really boring like that. By approaching the “approach” this way, we get awesome wildflower diversity and eventually, fire on the ground!!! We also get another model of what can be done in the urban context with ecological landscaping; totally logical.

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bird’s eye view looking north (click on the photos to enlarge)

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looking southeast, lighter green is pine prairie, darker green is mowed turf grass

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looking south, with City of Mandeville City Administrative complex on right in white

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Signs identify the pine prairie area as “wildflower preserve”, a series of posts delineate the prairie from mowed turf for maintenance staff when they are mowing and to create a neat strip of highly managed vegetation that will contrast beautifully with the wildness of the blanket of prairie. Caroline Dorman, Louisiana’s pioneering promoter of “the wild things” would be proud!

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This is a big deal for Mandeville, ya’ll. And for us, too! . And for Pine prairie!!! We will be planting the first week of December and I hear that the local Louisiana DOT representative and some other City leaders want to be present at some point when we are seeding to see what we do and how we do it. There seems to be a lot of interest in this project. The City Leaders seem invested in more ways than one. Will keep you (all three of you) posted on progress, as it happens.

three good books on Long Leaf Pine and Pine prairies

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/892456.Looking_for_Longleaf

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13790960-longleaf-far-as-the-eye-can-see

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15809827-forgotten-grasslands-of-the-south

Iberia Parish’s Matt Conn makes New York Times with his wetland restoration project + 120 acres, dripping, oozing in wondrous herbicidedness + a holy-cow prairie remnant!!!

I was treated to the wondrous sight Tuesday of the project property where the mother load, 700 pounds, of wet-coastal prairie seed, seed that I have been collecting this summer, will be planted. The vegetation was nice and toasty brown, the color of awesome death. Yummy!! Boy did this make me (and my seed) happy. 🙂

After all, why would anyone work so hard and stake so much investment in money, seed and time only to see in three or so years that it all was wasted because the right prep work wasn’t done? I would rather see the weedy vegetation totally-wasted, and my seed, so precious and rare, and so hard to acquire, given a proper chance for survival. No, this seed deserves an opportunity for a long and healthy life.

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above, looking west from the center of the property in southern Calcasieu Parish (click pic to enlarge)

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above, looking north ……and into the bright future…

After the visit to the planting site, I was then lead by a good friend and mentor across the creek (the Calcasieu River) to see what he said was definitively “the most significant coastal prairie site in the state”. This coming from a fellow who at his early age, has just about seen it all. Pretty sure he was right with that claim, after seeing it with my own eyes. It was an old cattle farm property that had never been plowed, complete with monstrous pimple mounds, low prairie, and an occasional marias, all filled with premier prairie vegetation and very little, almost no, foreign invaders. On the pimple mounds were the high and dry species, some common in the Looziana sandy piney woods. At the base of and surrounding the mounds were the heavy-soil low-land species. And in the marias were the marginal aquatic and aquatic species, all thick like hair on a dog’s back. We walked through dense vegetation. We worked for our reward since it was a good, hot day albeit a bit over cast and a long way to go. We made a large loop with many smaller dipseydoodle-loops through what I’m guessing was about ten to fifteen acres or more of land and saw only a small portion of what was there to be seen. When we were done, we were both dripping wet, soaked to our boots. Had a good work-out/ detox! Spent over two hours ooh-ing and ah-ing. I am not sure who was more excited, he or I. In April, he and his colleagues had used fire in the way of controlled burn, to breathe new life into this amazingly diverse prairie remnant, something it had not seen for many many years.

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My friend Chris in Little Bluestem grass, with tall, wiry spikes of Florida Paspalum in foreground. On right, the milkweed Asclepias obovata, with the foliage (above my hand) of Twisted leaf Goldenrod, Solidago tortifolia (click on pics to enlarge ’em, ya’ll)

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Twisted leaf Goldenrod just barely coming into color on left (it was stunningly electric), and the chalky blue of Andropogon virginicus var. glaucopsis, Blue leafed Broomsedge. Can you say drool?

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above, a sea of Solidago tortifolia and Liatris pychnostachya, and an odd-ball colored Pychnostach of thousands there, a lighter shade of pnerple!

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Chris, wading through the pycnostach, and the whiteness of Eupatorium hissopifolia on right (a pod of passion vine in my hand). num num!

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Pinky-purple Muhly grass in color with a crispy-black skeletal remains of a juvenile wax myrtle in foreground/ right

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the daisy-like Bidens aristosa, umbels of twisted leaf Goldenrod, spikey liatris and barely visible naked inflorescences of Florida Paspalum

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above, yours truly in a marias pothole, about an acre in diameter. I went straight for the center where the Eliocharis quadrangularis was. How cool is this folks?!!!! Water was about six inches deep throughout the pothole.

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dried up leaves of American Lotus, amongst the dense, lush foliage of Panicum hemitomum. “Lotus in a prairie”, said the Zen master.

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Chris and I agreed that we both had never seen anything close to this size of a stand of the delightful mint, Hyptis alata, Cluster Bushmint. This is a highly significant plant, attractive to numerous nectaring insects. This patch was about two acres in size. Woah! We were both likes little kids in a candy store. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had found heaven on Earth.

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I spotted an anomaly out of the ten thousand Hyptus plants, a double flowering form that stuck out like a sore thumb, above

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Eupatorium rotundifolium, insect airport

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Here you can barely make out a green mound on which Chris stands. A pimple mound that rose about six feet above the surrounding area, supporting unique vegetation. Dude.

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No need for me to dream tonight! (me and my grin, a selfie, through a fogged-up smart phone lens)

Folks!!!! check out The New York Times article on Iberian Matt Conn. Matt bought seed from us last year for part of his 60 acre wetland restore. A well-done article on a cool young dude with lots of ambition. see the link below. read it and weep.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/us/a-hobbyist-whose-workshop-sits-among-the-cypress-trees.html?_r=0

also check out Matt’s blog   http://turtleboyandthebirds.blogspot.com/

 

The wonders of Lance-leaf Blanket Flower

I walked with a client the other day in a field planted last winter with a Long Leaf pine herbaceous understory wildflower seed mix. It was a great walk and we got to see about a dozen species of high conservatism, juvenile in stature. Some though, had flowers and for me, that is always exciting. Not too shabby for a first year walk. 🙂

One of the plants we happened upon was Gailardia aesivalis, the Lanceleaf Blanketflower, some folks call it Yellow Indian Blanket. This is not to be confused with the more coastal and gaudi-colored Indian Blanket Gailardia pulchella. These are plants worlds apart, in my mind.

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What do you do with the orangey red and bright yellow of Indian Blanket? umm, Not much when you’re a plant snob like me…

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This, my friend, is a classy gal, the most common form of Yellow Indian Blanket or Lanceleaf Blanket Flower, Gailardia aestivalis variety aestivalis. If you’re lucky, you have her growing out in the back forty or right at the front door.

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above: a more rare sub-species for Louisiana (and elsewhere) is Gailardia aestivalis variety flavovirens, the Yellow Indian Blanket with an obvious and pronounced yellow central disc. This is found in Vernon Parish and Allen Parish, also in the Kieffer prairies, and in some Parishes in upper-central Loosianna. Quite a find indeed.

The common Lanceleaf Blanket Flower is a most desirable plant to have in the garden or the natural meadow. It happens to be a very long blooming, one I consider to be the longest blooming of all of our native wildflowers. It also has the characteristic of dropping its petals and holding the rounded, maroon-wine colored central disc, which is very ornamental itself and persists for a long while until seed is fully formed. It is extremely adaptable to a variety of soils. In Louisiana, you’ll find it in the Cajun Prairie, the piney woods, the clay of Kieffer prairies, Copenhagen prairie: an amazingly adaptable thing it is. Just give it a full day of sunlight, step on it every now and then and if you can, burn it. Its a pyrogenic plant. It loves to go up in flames!

It is a significant nectar plant for numerous butterflies, skippers, and other beneficial insects. And because of that, it is popular for predators, who hang out in wait for the nectaring tribes to come moseying along.

This plant maybe wouldn’t make it in the dog eat dog world of horticulture, but for the work of the good folks at the Steven F Austin University Horticulture Department and its associated Piney Woods Native Plant Center. This is due mostly to the keen eyes of the amazing forth-degree master, Dr. David Creech and his black-belt side-kick, Greg Grant.

Dr. Creech and Mr. Grant have been working with a rare species of Blanket flower, Gailardia aesitvalis variety winkleri, a wonderfully clear white variation found only in a few counties along the Texas Coastal prairie. What a fabulous thing it is for them to have found this plant! From their selection work, they have produced a significant horticultural introduction, a cultivar called Grape Sensation.

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the very rare Gailardia aestivalis var winkleri, White Blanketflower

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photos above, of Grape Sensation Blanketflower at the J.C. Rauston Arboretum, Raleigh, North Carolina. (click on the photos to enlarge them)

About fifteen years ago, I introduced one of the first passalong plants of winkleri from Dr. Creech via Peter Loos, into my meadow field in Mississippi. I forget now what color form it actually was that I was given. But today you can walk through the area where that plant was planted and see a whole variety of color forms, plants that seeded since, parented from the original. There’s white, pale lavender, darker lavender, deep redish, and so on, so forth. Its a wonderful experience if I say so myself. Come see them when you can. And get some Lanceleaf Blanket Flower! Find it at the upcoming plant sale at Steven F Austin or at specialty nurseries like Tony Avent’s Plant Delights nursery, through mail order.

Pineywoods plant sale!!!! October 1 2014         http://www.sfasu.edu/5711.asp

Plant Delights offer of Grape Sensation http://www.plantdelights.com/Gaillardia-aestivalis-var-winkleri-Grape-Sensation-for-sale/Buy-Grape-Sensation-Blanket-Flower/

do a search on Gailardia aestivalis winkleri and see a pdf article by Steven F Austin University.   for some reason I couldn’t link it up here.

 

http://www.lsuagcenter.com/news_archive/2014/September/headline_news/Mesa-gaillardia-named-Louisiana-Super-.htm

peace!

art meets Lauren’s gardens

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On my recent trip to visit family in Colorado, I was able to make a long awaited trip to see the Denver Botanic Gardens. I have, for several years, wanted to see, among other things,  the handiwork of Lauren Springer, one of the horticultural artists who have put their personal touches on some of the Garden’s many themed venues. We happened to time our visit coincidentally with the installation of Chihuly glass art in the Gardens, installed for our enjoyment, during a bright and sunny day stay in the Mile High City.

Lauren and her husband Scott Ogden, are a husband and wife team of horticultural heavyweights, authors of the popular 2008 Timber Press book Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Places, and Spirit. Their book is a treatise on garden design with plant diversity, botany, as the main focus. Architecture and hardscape fills a more functional, secondary, less obvious roll in their plant filled garden designs.

Lauren designed the perennial border, the romantic garden complex, the xeric garden and the romantic garden at the DBG. If you get the chance, drop in and see how she thinks when it comes to incorporating plants into the landscape. Its pretty cool stuff, folks!

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the perennial border is about 200 ft in length, bounded on the sides by a clipped cedar-like hedge, standing about ten feet tall. The garden space is filled with herbaceous perennials of many sorts.

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above: Joe-Pye weed and cobalt blue Chihuly lobes

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click on photos to enlarge…

 

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above: at the the end of the Perennial Border garden is an axis point,    ….looking north, east and then west in the entrance of Lauren’s Romantic Garden.

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above: the central area of the Romantic garden hosts a very large Chihuly tower

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nice glass in North American prairie area

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above: Blue Gramma grass in the Short grass prairie area killed the day with a stellar display of such beautiful low-growing foliage, inflorescences, and associated groovy herbage.

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Blue Chihu!

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a very extensive, smartly executed, Alpine rock garden (garden visitor and belly in picture for scale)

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above: parts of Lauren’s high-desert Xeric gardens

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misters created a softened feel to the Ornamental grass garden, with towering white-flowering ornamental Tobacco

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above: Tobacco, Celosia and Cosmos blend in with the finely textured species, Dog Fennel, Eupatorium capillifolium, considered a weed in our part of the country

These gardens show how naturalistic design can be utilized more commonly in our regional landscapes, even in formal settings. This type of gardening shows a connection with the land and a sensitivity to natural areas and how we can emulate them more completely using a lighter touch of our hand.

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