everything’s not perfect but some things are – uncovering the threads at Covington’s Nature Park

A hearty group assembled yesterday for a volunteer work day at the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Park in Covington to collectively peel away another layer to expose a relict pine prairie. There were about twelve or fifteen of us altogether. Some worked for a few hours, some for more.

The objective was to cut and remove the tree layer that has grown up over time. The trees have been increasingly shading out the herb layer that is a cool remnant of ancient vegetation.

Back in late summer, we did our first prescribed fire there, as a first step toward restoring this valuable botanical area. Our goal is to develop the park as a natural interpretive park for the citizens of the City of Covington, St. Tammany Parish, and beyond.

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above, Tommy Mayronne works the fire line at the Covington Nature Park on August 3, 2015. It was hot that day, ugh.

All of the parts and pieces to the prairie are there, they have just been taking a fifty year siesta, gone dormant, as the fires are absent, and the trees have grown up, shading out the precious sunlight which the herbs on the ground need in order to grow.

That’s what happens here on the Gulf Coastal rim. If you neglect your land, it will grow up in forest.

Nothing wrong with forest. In fact, I find forest interesting, but give me more prairie, thank you. We have lots of forest at the Park and need the prairie to fully explain our story of natural succession and natural history and fire here in southeastern Louisiana.

Spent time last week rescuing and then replanting Pitcher Plants for the Nature Park bog. Through that I learned how out-of-shape I am. Was sore for days after ha. But we gotter done!

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step 1 – find a bog about to be mitigated (decimated)

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step 2 – rescue bog plants (disclaimer: only dig from areas where you are sure are “rescuing”. The rescue site I dug from is adjacent to a giant Wal-Mart store, where ten acres of awesome bog was destroyed in order to build a giant parking lot and the store. Back in the 1990’s before the Wal-Mart was built, we organized volunteers to recue many many clumps of bog plants and planted them at the Crosby Arboretum-Picayune, Mississippi. Only imminently threatened sites should be considered for digging and only after all hope is lost in preserving the site).

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step 3 – replant bog plants into a cool bog space at a local public park

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above, on the right is where we’ve just removed trees. on the left is where we are still a-workin’ – notice the trees are toasty from the summer burn. Yes!! Also check out the central area in the photo. This area is managed by the local electric co-op – mowed occasionally to keep trees from growing into the power lines – as the grassiness there testifies – click to enlarge the photo and you can see the busy bees workin’

The tree removing task yesterday was grand, as we got about 75 per cent of the targeted area cleared. We will cut the rest of the trees this week so that our Covington High School Future Farmers of America group can remove them from the prairie garden site.

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This is an “upland” area (with trees before we cut them out), created when the pond for the park was built, where we’ll plant awesome prairie seed this week, seed that I collected back in October at the Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area – with permission from the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Service folks, of course.

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Sandy Hollow is divine, above, September 18, 2015, Liatris squarosa/ Black Swallowtail

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above – The northern-most area of the prairie-bog is generally here, where the electric service line for the Park comes through. You can see my friend – Landscape Architect Johnny Mayronne just past the trees…

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above – this is the same photo but without the trees, an hour later – all cleaned up!

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We made a giant “habitat windrow” to designate to the mower crew where there line is to stop with their prairie eating mowing machines. This will be a permanent interpretive structure for the park, designed to raise wildlife and questions. We’ll collect brush there and watch it turn to dust over time. Perfectly natural!

 

a progression of tree growth 2006 – 2015 via satellite imagery 

click to enlarge ’em

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Covington Nature Park February 28 2006

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March 22, 2010

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March 5, 2013

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October 3, 2014

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August 25, 2015 just after our burn on August 3 – nice!

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above  – take a closer gander at our far’ handiwork

Happy Day it was for my niece Megan and her new hubby Chris. Not every wedding party in New Orleans steps out of the Cathedral to a second line but this’n did. saweet.

 

Guys and gals – if you haven’t been, check out the Camellia Garden Stroll at the way-awesome old camellia garden at Hammond Research Station – Its the bomb – an amazing collection of plants all blooming their little asses off.

contact  Dr. Owings @ AOwings@agcenter.lsu.edu

 

meadowmaker’s farm

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an out-of-the-ordinary Prairie Phlox was blooming at the farm yesterday – nyum-yumIMG_3490

nice grasses!

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perty farm sculpture – steel, copper – Marc Pastorek/ Ricky Martin, 1996

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prairie bling!!! Happy Birthday Candi!!

 

 

a trip to Rick Webb’s Louisiana Growers Nursery = a day well spent

For about 25 years now, Rick Webb’s nursery, Louisiana Growers, located just east of Amite, Louisiana, has been a staple-source for native trees, shrubs and herbs that are either native or adaptable to this region. Rick is still doing this work after all these years, it is clear, because he loves what he does.

Walk through his nursery and he will matter-of-factly tell you as you are passing by a particular crop, what side of the road, in what creek bottom of what Parish or County the cuttings were “collected” from.

This is not your typical Liriope nursery. This is Rick’s World! A lush land off the beaten path where the bottom line comes in the form of a pick-up truck and trailer loaded to the gills with radical plant stock, headed out to a new garden somewhere.

Louisiana Growers is a regional source for good and native plants. Rick is a regional source of hard-tack knowledge about the inner workings of nursery production geared toward the cutting-edge plant market. There are no frills here. Just good nursery stock and any lagniappe information you might need to help you succeed in transitioning a particular plants into the garden.

I recently made two back-to-back trips to visit Rick to pick up some goodies for my experimental meadows here at the home place. One plant I loaded up on was ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod, a selection of Solidago rugosa that was introduced to the nursery trade by my good friend Ken Moore of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, way back in 1993. Niche Gardens actually was first to grow the plant for sale. In trials at the Chicago Botanical Garden ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod was rated number one of all the Solidagos tried. The plant, as Mick Jagger would say, is a gas, gas, gas!

Get you some, cher!

Another trip I made was for the very trendy dwarf grass, Tripsicum Floridanum, or Dwarf Fakahatchee grass. This is a plant of promise for natural landscaping on the Gulf Coastal plain. Drive around South Florida and you’ll see it just about everywhere, growing along roadways, in cottage gardens, and in cut-outs of parking lots in shopping malls. It is a really clean and neat plant, tight in growth yet robust in appearance. And dwarf. Folks like grasses to be dwarf, ya’ll. Its said that the plant has less than 500 specimens remaining in its native habitat however through wise nursery production(and locally, through Rick), it is quite available to use in the garden. Yip! This plant has no serious pests is known not to become a pest but it is an adaptable, persistent and long lived plant with lots of character and functionality.

Rick is a self described ‘Woody guy’, meaning he likes growing woody plants like trees and shrubs but he has lately been working with herbaceous plants since there has been a demand for it.

Rick has an eye for cultivated plants. He sees plants in the wildscape that are beautiful and grows cuttings of them for eventual sale. He is a plain-spoken plant connoisseur with a green thumb and nursery full of stock to prove it!

How has his nursery successfully made it through these hard economic times? Probably through shear perseverance, a little blood sweat and tears…. and a lot of love of and dedication to his work (oh, and a little help from his best friend, wife-and occasionally accountant, Susan).

Rick grows lots of native shrubs including several selections of Lyonia. He grows Arrow Wood, Cyrilla, Yaupon, and Possomhaw Holly. How many folks do you know do that? Very few. Maybe his mentor down the road, Margie Y. Jenkins, perhaps (Rick and Ms. Margie trade plants regularly)

Spruce Pine, Evergreen Sweet Bay, American Hornbeam/ Ironwood, Parsley Hawthorn? Ricks’s got it!!!! Plums? Red Cedar? unusually special Oaks? Got Virginia Willow? what a great plant. I have planted many selections of this wetland wonder from Rick over the years.

Need some stuff grown for an up and coming project? talk to Rick. He is one of many dedicated nursery-type-folks who doesn’t let dust settle on his shoulder. Rick works, and he produces lots of leafy gems for stellar gardens.IMG_3019

Rick with ‘new crop’ trees healed-in in a pine bark pile back in February

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Landscape Architect Blake Guidry searches at Rick’s for just the right stuff.

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A crop of Cyrilla seedlings showing genetic diversity in late Winter.

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above: a dwarf gene was prominent in this Cyrilla seedling

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a nice red-foliaged Leatherwood…

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Long Leaf pines in grass-stage, for the taking!

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a sweetly nurtured crop of Cajun Prairie genetics of Big Bluestem grass grown by Rick via contract for a cattle forage project in southwestern Louisiana (summer 2011)

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Rick, with the assistance of horticulturist Gail Barton, grew Indian grass plugs via seed from Cajun Prairie genes. (summer 2012)

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massive trees dug and loaded from Rick’s field, by Rick himself! (2012)

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after twenty five years of making his name growing woody trees and shrubs, he may be famous one day for spotting this herbaceous genetic anomaly of Manfreda virginica that I have named Manfreda virginica var. marginata ‘Rick Webb’. Its a plant that he spotted in a crop of Rattlesnake Master that he grew for me and identified it as ‘unusual’. He pulled it to the side for safe keeping and gave it to me later. Good eye, Rick!

thanks for all the good plants!  🙂

 

Rick’s Louisiana Growers serves the wholesale nursery market.

 

Louisiana Growers website

http://lanativeplants.com/

Louisiana Growers availability list

http://lanativeplants.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/avlapr14.pdf