Hammond Station worker-bees make good!

While we were enduring our three back-to-back polar vortexes, the worker-bees at The LSU  Hammond Research Station were indoors, being very productive.

I stopped by yesterday for the second time this week to get a further update on progress with prairie and savanna seed activities at the station. Tuesday I met with Dr. Yan Chen, Joey Quibideaux, and Gina Hebert. We talked some more about the seed inventory and we discussed specifics for the planting projects.

Yesterday I met with Gina again, and we finally got a chance to go into the lab where they are doing their first real experiment, sowing Cajun Prairie and Louisiana Long Leaf pine herbaceous savanna species in order to get a feel for seed viability.

That was more than great! I was so impressed with the effort they have made to clean the seed that I’ve provided for them. They have obviously been really busy and taking their work very seriously since they have bags and bags of the most beautifully clean wild-seed that I have seen.


Their refrigerator is full. We were searching for some seed that had been in unmarked bags, trying to ID the “ones that got away”. It is pretty tedious work collecting individual species a-la-wild-collect, so I missed marking a few bags. This(photo above) is one unmistakable species that was unmarked, Narrow-Leaf Bluestem (Schizachirium tenerum), one that holds so much promise for Gulf coastal horticulture: a beautiful, dwarf-sized native grass, much-needed in the ornamental nursery trade.


One of four or five cleaning stations in the labmanned by the seed cleaning crew. This is a mix of Little Bluestem and Virginia Bluestem collected for native grass demonstration plots.


Seed, some starting to germinate in agar.  (click photo to enlarge)


Cool stuff.


blazing stars, bottom left, and a couple of milkweeds #3 and #11

Next on the agenda is sowing seed in seed trays. They’ll also be doing some cold stratification on a good portion of seed and will eventually sow that into seed trays, as well. They’ve got some good plans and are making steady progress.

The intention is to grow the plants and will use them in demonstration beds for display and for future propagation purposes. Eventually, the seed from these plants will be offered to nurseries interested in growing some for commercial availability.

Special thanks goes to the worker-bees, Gina Hebert, Ashley Edwards, Richard Vander Muellen, JJ Gulley, Vincent Noil, Laura Giacone, and Master Gardener Voluneer, Carolyn DeRouen for their very productive work! But also, thanks, so much to Dr. Regina Bracey, Dr. Allen Owings, Dr. Yan Chen for their interest in working with these precious prairie plant species.

whooty hoot, ya’ll!!!



Tangi’s Bot Garden

In the Parish of Tangipahoa, there aren’t big cities. Its small town, mostly: country folks and Pine trees.

Its a beautifully green Parish with fresh-water marsh on the southern end at Lake Ponchartrain and the rest is mostly whispering pine flats, rolling hills, and the shaded bottomland of its waterways. The greenest spot in all of the the Parish though, may be the Hammond Horticultural Research Station, just 5 minutes north of Interstate-12.


Tangi is part of what the locals still call the Florida Parishes. Map circa 1767

The LSU AgCenter has an extensive collection of ornamental trial gardens here, along with numerous research and experimental/trial gardens.  It used to be an experiment station for truck crops but the focus these days is on ornamental horticulture. On my first visit to the Station, I had a great meeting with Dr. Yan Chen, Dr. Allen Owings and hort technician Gina Hebert. I was there to discuss with them their interest in adding native grasses and wildflowers to the gardens. Since then, they have taken a keen interest in natives and I have taken a keen interest in their beautifully maintained gardens.  (click on the photos to enlarge)




above: many acres of “island” gardens exist for your enjoyment, at the Southeast Louisiana Research Station

Dr. Owings and Dr. Chen have begun the process of designing new demonstration gardens, where they will trial the usefulness of some of the states best high conservatism native perennials. I have made it my focus lately to collect the rarest and best seeds for them. They’ve begun propagation some and will continue through the winter and spring. At some point early next summer, we’ll possibly get together and dig root divisions of different species and cultivars of native grasses from my seed fields in Mississippi so that they can “grow them out”, in their ultra-sleek nursery facility. We have some time to prepare garden beds and meadow areas since the majority of plantings will be made in November of 2014. In the meadow areas, weed competition will be eradicated by repeated treatments prior to planting and this leaves lots of time to produce enough plants to fill the gardens when the time comes to plant.

If you get a chance, you should visit one day. It may be the north-shore’s best-kept secret.

This week on Thursday is an open house-field day event which should be fun and entertaining with plenty of folks to network and talk about plants with. A visit then will be especially good since we just got our first taste of dry, fall weather!

All across the several-acre Station site, you’ll find gardens with many combinations of color and form and textures: ones that will delight your eyes. A wonderful collection of native trees has been established over the years by Dr. Paul Orr, and of course there’s the Margie Jenkins Azalea collection garden which is full many significant plants. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I hadn’t been here before my recent comings and goings but I guess it was about time I had arrived. I hope to see you there Thursday!


click photo to enlarge.