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.

 

 

 

 

planting milkweed seed for Monarch butterflies, now’s the time :)

Somebody asked me once why I don’t use milkweeds in my projects. The answer is, I do. But they need special attention. They have special requirements. At least in my experience, Milkweed plants aren’t easy to produce and can be hard to keep, in the landscape.

First you have to get the seed. That’s tough enough. Many species of Milkweed show up in the landscape without any rhyme or reason. They are the rebels of the grassland. Doing cuttings is an option in the spring, before bloom, but you have to have a mister system or at least time on your hands to do that. Finding seed takes a little experience and a lot of luck. You have to know where plants are, and you have to arrive just in time to harvest the seed or it will float away with the wind. I recently saw a method of wrapping a bag around the pod to capture all parts when pod ripening and opening occurred. That’s a pretty smart idea. Duh, why didn’t I think of that.

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Pineland Milkweed, Asclepias obovata

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a pod of Green Milkweed, Asclepias viridis, with a single seed and silk (at left). The traveling mechanism of the seed is very much like a Badminton birdie. This is a pod that I picked from a cattle field in the Black Belt prairie area of Alabama. Cows can’t eat the Milkweeds so they are occasionally abundant under hoof. A cow field I go to near Livingston, Alabama has hundreds and hundreds of plants each year.

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Once you get the seed, in order to plant it, you gotta clean the silk fluff from the seed. Malcolm Vidrine showed me a way thats pretty easy if you have the pod in tact and seed not fully open. Remove silk and seed arrangement. Grip silk tightly and rake the seed from it. Gail Barton told me about using fire, which is much more fun than just stripping the seed with your hand. this youtube video, below, is last week’s frying pan fire, when I was planting my milk weed.

After cleaning them, put them in cold for stratification. Its time to do that right now, mid-February. Look at Dr. Charles “Paw Paw” Allen and Mac “Milkweed-Man” Vidrine do their thing in this past-issue of The Cajun Prairie Habitat newsletter. Its a couple of great articles written the masters themselves, last year.

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

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seed can be stratified in paper towel or damp sand. I played out paper towel, put seed on it and wet it. Then folded it into a square and drip-dried in the sink.

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wetness….

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drippin’ and dryin’, into a plastic bad it went on February 8, to the fridge, till March 20th or so, when I’ll sow them in tiny pots. Into the garden they’ll go after that. 🙂

please read the following article (below) on Monarchs just produced by Dr Allen.   Hasta luego, suckers!

Monarchs, Milkweeds, Migrations, Mexico, Midwest, Malcolm’s Method, and Misconceptions

By Dr. Charles Allen with lots of info stolen from Dr. Malcolm Vidrine

 

The monarch butterfly is one of the most, if not the most, intriguing animal with its migration pattern and host plant requirements.  Many Monarchs migrate annually from the United State to Mexico and back but unlike birds and other migratory animals, the migrating butterfly is not the original butterfly but the offspring.  The monarchs overwinter in the mountains of central Mexico and when the weather warms in the spring, the monarchs begin to fly northward toward Louisiana and other southern states.  Upon arriving in south Louisiana, the female monarchs seek out milkweeds on which to lay her eggs.  The eggs hatch into caterpillars and the caterpillars eat milkweed leaves and turn into a chrysalis and then an adult monarch emerges from the chrysalis.  These adult monarchs then migrate farther northward and spend the summer in the central or northern US or southern Canada.  Several broods (3 or 4, depending on the weather) of monarchs are usually produced during the summer and these monarch live 3 to 5 weeks.  But the offspring from the last brood begins to migrate southward and should end up in central Mexico.  The last brood is different in that it lives much longer than the summer broods, up to nine months.  These will overwinter in central Mexico and then migrate northward in the spring.    And, there are groups of monarchs that do not migrate but overwinter in the south (Florida west to Louisiana and Texas).  There is also a group of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains that overwinter in southern California and northern Mexico and migrate northward to southern Canada and back to southern California.

Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweeds or closely related species in the milkweed family and the caterpillars only eat leaves of these plants. For a listing, description, and pictures of Louisiana milkweeds, goto http://www.cajunprairie.org/newsletters/201403.pdf.   Monarch caterpillars are very host specific that is they have to have milkweeds or the close relatives to eat.  Note that adult monarch butterflies can drink nectar from a wide variety of flowers and are not host specific like the caterpillars.

There are two distinct areas for monarchs in Louisiana, the coastal area from about Interstate 10 or US 190 southward to the coast and the inland area that part of Louisiana north of Interstate 10 or US 190 (see map). The blue area on the map is the coastal and the white (non-colored) area of Louisiana is the inland area.  For the inland area, the monarchs are typically present during two time periods, spring-March to April and fall-September and October, both during migration periods.

The map shows that the coastal portion of Louisiana is an area where monarchs practice winter breeding but in talking to people who live in the coastal monarch area, the monarch reproduce year round there.  In other words, the coastal area is an area of summer breeding for monarchs as well as winter breeding. Note that the map does not indicate summer breeding in the coastal areas.  I think that the coastal area of Louisiana is a milder area in the summer than the inland areas thus it is feasible for monarch to reproduce there during the summer.  The milder climate makes the area more similar to the northern US and Canada, and especially the Midwest US and thus monarchs can and do reproduce.  I remember visiting Grand Isle in the coastal monarch area one June and was surprised to see white sweet clover (Melilotus alba) to be very common.  This same plant can be seen in the inland area in February to late April but has succumbed to the heat by June.  I remember seeing this same plant very commonly in Iowa and Wisconsin prairies in July.  And, I have seen lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) on Grand Isle fairly common in April to June but have not seen it or see it very rarely in the inland area.  Lamb’s quarters is another plant that is more common in the central and northern United States.  These two observations on plants on Grand Isle makes me think that there is a milder climate on Grand Isle during the summer and allows monarch to reproduce there.

Map taken from Article on tropical milkweed showing migration and reproduction.

 

 

Wrapup Points:

  1. We need to make the researchers aware of the fact that the monarchs in the Louisiana coastal area reproduce year round (summer and winter) and not just winter as their map and text indicate.
  2. With the study of monarch DNA and tagging, it would be interesting to see if the monarchs in the coastal area are (1) the offspring from same ones from year to year or (2) composed of two groups (new migrating monarchs that stop migrating plus the overwintering populations that have survived) or in fact, (3) is there a new population of monarchs there each year from migrating monarchs?.
  3. We (coastal and inland Louisiana people) need to be sure to have plenty of succulent milkweeds ready in March and April when the migrating monarchs return from Mexico.  I say use tropical milkweed mixed with native milkweeds this year (2015).  And let us see if we can get enough native milkweed ready at that time.  It seems to be a tough job to get the native milkweeds growing and with large enough leaves by March every year.  The only one that I have been able to do is the swamp or aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis).  Perhaps the green milkweed may also be ready at that time.  I don’t see it much in my area but remember it being a common milkweed in the Cajun Prairie region of Louisiana but can’t remember what it looked like in March.  Most of the other native milkweeds are just thinking about growing in March and would not provide much food to migrating monarchs. Within walking distance of my house, I have three native milkweeds: (1). clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicalis) in the very sandy areas; (2) white milkweed (Asclepias variegata) in the shade of hardwood forests; and (3) swamp or aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) growing in wet areas along the Ouiska Chitto Creek.  The only one that seems to be in good shape in the spring is perennis but it was in an open area where I had moved it from the shade of the Ouiska Chitto.  Perhaps, other people may have additional native milkweeds to suggest for the spring migrating northward monarchs.  Then, if we can get enough native milkweeds ready for March, we can phase out the tropical milkweeds for the spring.  I would hate to get rid of all tropical milkweeds this spring and the monarchs arrive to no milkweeds what so ever.  Talked to Malcolm Vidrine (see below) and he says he has monarchs laying eggs on the very small emerging milkweeds in the spring and they prefer natives over the tropical and their favorite native is the tuberosa

I am still leery of Asclepias incarnata and Asclepias syriaca; these may be northern US species that are cultivated in Louisiana.  If tropical milkweed stops south migration and these two are northern species, perhaps those milkweeds would stop northern migration of monarchs??

  1. For the fall migration, the monarchs are supposed to migrate without reproducing but I see them every fall reproducing and have seen them reproducing on native milkweeds.  In fact, fall is when I see, by far, the most monarchs.  The spring migration often passes with me only seeing one or two monarchs but I typically see 20-30 or more in the fall.  The native milkweeds are past their prime at that time with older leaves that are not very conducive to monarch egg laying.  I plan to try to prune my native milkweeds back in August with the hope that the plants will regrow and have young succulent leaves for the fall monarchs.

 

MALCOM’S METHOD

For Malcolm’s complete article with pictures, goto http://www.cajunprairie.org/newsletters/201403.pdf.

Dr. Malcolm Vidrine of Eunice has been working with native milkweeds for several years now and has this to report:

  1. Collect seeds from locations near the final growing site. For years I collected and/or bought seeds of a variety of milkweeds, especially Butterflyweed, from numerous places in Louisiana and other states—these grew and bloomed (or not) as annuals only to die in the moist winter soils of the Cajun Prairie.

The Cajun Prairie Butterflyweed that I grow was found just south of Eunice in a woodland meadow along a railroad right-of-way—they and their offspring have grown in my gardens for up to 17 years.

  1. Remove the seeds from the follicles when the follicles split with a little pressure from your fingers.  Grasp the silk and pull the seed from their silks. Seeds should have a viable embryo—a nut-like palpable swelling.  Note from Charles Allen here: Gail Barton last week at the LNPS meeting suggested using fire to get rid of the silk on the seeds.  I have used that method and it works by simply placing a lit match near the silk and it poofs up in flame as Gail suggested and the silk is gone.
  2. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place until February.
  3. In February, place the seeds into CMS (cold moist storage). This simply requires placing the seeds in

a Ziploc-like bag with a small amount of damp sand for 6 weeks in the refrigerator. Do not do this to the nonnative Mexican milkweed (A. curassavica)—the CMS is lethal in my experience—plant these seeds directly.

  1. In March-April, add water to Ziploc-like bag, and the viable seed should float to the surface. Remove the seeds into a growing chamber—I use plastic containers that come with a lid. The seeds are spread out on the surface of potting soil—almost any kind works—and a light covering of soil is used to simply hide the seed. Keep the chamber closed and moist. I place the chamber in a south-facing window.
  2. Seeds germinate in a week—really germinate—hundreds of them. Allow them to grow out a second pair of leaves—usually 2 weeks.
  3. Move the seedlings outside and transplant them into large containers—5 gallon containers for 1-2 years. I prefer 2 years in order to allow the roots to grow really large (several inches long) and easy to handle.
  4. In winter or early spring, either transplant the entire container into the ground or remove the roots and transplant them separately into the final growing site. The roots can be divided in the spring into 2 inch segments, and placed in individual containers providing even more plants. These cuttings can

also be planted into the final growing site with approximately 50% success. As a final propagation note, all species can be grown from stem cuttings (taken after Monarchs are done eating), but the success rate is highly variable, and the process requires more intensive work.

 

General notes:

 Butterflyweed (tubberosa)—it is essential to grow plants from near your location, and it takes years to get a specimen plant; thus plant 3 in a triangle about a foot apart. The plants reach 3 feet in height and have red to orange flowers.  Red milkweed or Few-flowered milkweed—while this plant likes damp soils, it readily conforms to good soil, but it cannot tolerate drought. I have lost hundreds of these from planting them in poor, dry sites or to severe droughts. The plants grow 4-5 feet in height and have yellow to red flowers.

Green antelopehorn (viridis) —this plant can be grown in your lawn as it actually appears to appreciate being mowed by machines and/or Monarchs. It is very easy to grow compared to the previous 2 species. The plants grow to 2 feet high and have green flowers.

 Shore milkweed or Swamp milkweed (perennis)—this plant can tolerate container growth for years, unlike the 3 previous species. It prefers damp soils and cannot tolerate drought. It stays green almost all winter, and it is a superb host for Monarchs as it is green both in early spring and in late autumn. It is the easiest to grow, and the most prolific bloomer. Seeds lack silk. The plants grow to 2 feet high and have pink or white flowers.

 Whorled milkweed (verticillata)—this plant is easy to grow and transplant. It prefers damp soils and can tolerate drought better than the red milkweed. The plants grow to 3-5 feet and have green to white flowers.

 

All of these are used by our migratory Monarchs. Each has different growth habits and requirements for good flowering. Butterflyweed and Whorled milkweeds appear to be long-lived (more than 10 years),

while the other 3 species appear shorterlived (usually more than 5 but less than 10 years).

 

 

You should have my email native@camtel.net and Dr. Malcolm Vidrine’s is malcolmvidrine@yahoo.com

 

 

 

converting a 15 year old Chinese Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle and Sweet Gum forest into a magical flowery prairie lawn

Well, from what I hear, everybody wants to know how to change from a mega-shrub-scrub patch to a high quality natural grassland-wildflower area. Okay, well not everybody wants to know but there are a few of you out there in left field who do.

First thing to know is that it aint easy-peazy.

The project can be a little easier if you’re changing from herb vegetation to herb vegetation, rather than from forested, woody vegetation to herb vegetation. Trees can be much more difficult to deal with than herbage, so the labor requirements can be more intensive, more laborious. Hauling off trees is tuff stuff.

But that didn’t stop me.

I’m like, up to the challenge. I’m Prairie Dog, after all. Defender of the Prairie.

I planted Long Leaf pines on much of my new twelve-acre property that I bought back in 1997. The intent was to plant scattered pines with a ground cover of fine fuels, or pine prairie. I wanted to create a beautiful landscape. There’s one area, about 80 feet by 80 feet that I never got a chance to plant. I figured I’d get to it later. The pines have grown to be awesome and giant. Seeing them brings back memories of pleasant days when my two boys were still boys, helping Pop plant little pine seedling plugs. Joel was 13 and Cale was ten.

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above: Some of the pines are now twenty and twenty five feet tall and I am now finding an occasional seedling in the “grass” stage, generated from the Momma trees.

So on this 80 by 80 piece of land, I started two years ago, working on killing Chinese Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Gum and salvaging the Pines. I began the process of changing the landscape from overrun scrub to pine prairie.

I got out the big guns on the big Gums. Say that really fast ten times.

My buddy and neighbor Terry Johnson, a great guy who grew up on a farm in Iowa and can engineer anything, helped me re-rig my old tree sprayer. He and I worked to change the power plant on the rig from running via two-cycle lawn mower-type engine to being powered via the PTO on my tractor. I got a new PTO pump and we changed it out and built a new platform out of treated lumber to mount the rig onto. We built it so all of this hooked up to the tractor via a three point hitch. I then had a 150 gallon water tank sparyer, ready to go. I would use it for controlled burns and for spraying herbicide. I was now armed and dangerous.

Last summer (2013), I experimented by spraying Round-up on the Privet, Gum and Wax Myrtle. I was careful not to hit the Pines.

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above: last winter, I burned and seeded the area with a Low-Mow seed mixture dominant in low-growing native grasses; Narrow Leaf Bluestem, Pine Land Dropseed, with a tab bit of Elliot’s Bluestem and Split Beard Bluestem. As soon as I finished burning, I sowed the awesome collection of seed.

My friend, Jim McGee, and I cut the trees and scrub off of one area about fifty by thirty feet and planted a sweet mix of No-Mow native lawn there. Most of the stumps regenerated this summer, growing about a foot or so tall. I sprayed 2-4-d and Remedy (trichlopyr) on these regenerated stumps and on the not-fully killed Privet, Gum and Waxes this past summer. This herbicide mix kills everything but the grasses. I killed a lot of plants that day. It left a bunch of standing scrub carcasses baking in the sun like old bones in the desert.

Yesterday, I got busy cutting a new 35 by 30 foot square out of the dead, standing carcasses so I could plant another section of my new Wonderland No-Mow lawn seed mix (for details on this mix, see our blog home page section titled “About Our Local Eco-Type Seed”). I started about 10:00 in the morning and cut and I whacked and I cut and whacked again and by 1:00, I had finished whacking. There was leaf litter on the ground surface so I raked it up to expose bare soil. I got that done and was ready for seed. Folks, it takes two full years of patience, of killing, to get to a point where you are seeding when you’re dealing with beasts like these.

Whoo-hoo! Its a happy day when its done!

I got the area seeded and then stabilized the seed with wheat hay so that the seed wouldn’t go bye-bye in the next rain (its planted on a nice sloped hillside). This hay cover also makes for a more moist condition for seed germination than bare, exposed seed and soil does. Careful: too much hay, not good.

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This is what the biomass looked like before I got a’cuttin’. click on the photos and enlarge to see ’em better. Look at the pines for scale/reference.

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Got the biomass cut and gone, I left the Yaupons because they are nice.

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I raked all of the leaf cover from the ground to expose soil, hauled it off, and then seeded just by dispersing seed onto the ground.

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All done with seeding, I mulched sufficiently to stabilize seed on the slope.

It should be easy going from here. Presto!! Change-o!!! I pull a rabbit from my prairie dog hat!!!!

Come see the progress of this and other cool experiments, old and new, at the annual May field trip at the Farm next year. There aint nuthin’ like it.

Get busy and build a pine prairie No-Mow lawn, folks!! Time’s a’waistin’.

 

a greener Baton Rouge, “Plant Smart Baton Rouge”

This Saturday afternoon, July 19th, at LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum, I will be speaking, along with Scott Courtright, sharing ideas about natural landscaping in the urban condition, at Plant Smart Baton Rouge, “a green educational event”. The title of my talk is Louisiana Native Grasses for Urban Landscapes. I will discuss new concepts utilizing grasses and grass-like plants to create low energy landscapes that can be used by designers to incorporate optional venues of beauty and ecological function into large swaths of the urban forest.

Specific topics that I’ll cover are monoculture meadows, biodiversity native meadows, seasonal color-inspired meadows, sedge meadows, and low-mow lawns, all of these applicable to Baton Rouge and the central Gulf South region.

I hope to see you there. Here is a link to the event announcement on the web. Robert Seeman, nephew of a favorite client of mine from the late 1990’s, and current Director of Baton Rouge Green visited my prairie farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi in June. He took photographs of plants in the fields. I will wear the same goofy-cool outfit I used in the field with him that day, the one that hid me from the glaring sun, just for kicks. He included one of the photos of me in one of my Coral Bean patches in the announcement.

… stirring it up, yall! 🙂

http://batonrougegreen.com/content.cfm?id=39

slo-mo snake attack just like on TV, and other “wild things” news

So there I was, Monday, working in my meadow gardens here at the Ponderosa when my phone rang. I needed a break anyway so reaching into my pocket, and took the call.  While chatting to my client, I proceeded to sit down in the path next to the garden in the small shade of a juvenile water oak.

As I sat, it all happened so quickly but I can recall it clearly, as in slow motion. I happened to be just looking in the direction of a cool blue-leafed switch grass in the central part of the garden a few feet away when all of a sudden a Bronze frog (Lithobates clamitans, I think)in an ascending lift-off, airborne, flying towrds me from the horizon, landing just next to me. Directly on the trail of the frog, coming over the same horizon, was a sprinting three-foot-long snake, hot on the trail of the frog. He’d come from around the switch grass too and he got a glimpse of me which stopped him in his tracks. He put a screeching halt to his progress and quickly cut-off to the north into a big patch of Bee Balm and he was gone. This all happened within a few feet of me and within the time frame of a second or two. The frog took one more giant leap for frog-kind into the pond on the other side of the path and he was gone, too. How fun!

Caroline Dorman called this “the gift of the wild things”.

This reminds me of the time I was collecting some water lettuce from a friend’s pond in Slidel, when I saw a nice little froggy swimming by in front of me and then SPLASH!!   a moccasin ate that sucker up right before my very eyes. yikes. Biology rocks!!!

 

Three upcoming events dealing with the wild things are coming up, all rolled into one week!

First-up is the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society’s prairie garden tour on May 10 in Eunice. I’m pretty sure that without the pioneering activities of Malcolm Vidrine and Charles Allen, there would be no Cajun Prairie left. But because of their brilliance and wisdom and hard work and a lot of help from volunteers, some of the remaining gene pool of Coastal Prairie has been preserved. We work hard on this and other sites so that people like you can see for yourself in living color! This property is on permanent display for your benefit. Come any time. Come see for yourself the kaleidoscopic vegetation, man.  We’ll travel five miles north from Eunice to Duralde restored prairie which is a much larger property where we’ll see some more unique plantings of crazy-cool wildflowers and then see progress made, since our last visit, on the two year old Demonstration Gardens there. Should be fun and informative. It always is for me! contact Charles Allen for details native@camtel.net

May 13-15 is a Plant Identification Class presented by Charles Allen in the Pitkin (Louisiana) Metro area. As you may know, Charles has a third-degree black-belt in buffet and a very specialized garden designed as a kind-of native bird and bug “rest area”. Charles plants gardens to attract wildlife and to demonstrate gardening techniques for using natives and attracting native critters. He also is all-things-caretake-of-rare-plants at Ft Polk, Louisiana where the flars are pretty. He is an biologist and educator, he can’t help himself. This is a very popular, very well done event, folks. The last one he did had no availability by start time (it was filled up!) and this one is almost full (two spaces left as of this a.m.) so contact Charles at native@camtel.net or 337 328 2252 for more info.  the flyer for this is posted at the bottom of this page.

Lastly, Patricia Drackett of the Crosby Arboretum has organized a field trip to Meadowmakers’ Farm and Hillside Bog Natural area on May 17th in Pearl River County, Mississippi. This is a joint event hosted by Crosby, Meadowmakers Farm, and the Louisiana and Mississippi Native Plant Societies. Heather Sullivan, botanist on staff at the Mississippi Natural History Museum, will lead the two trips. I am so excited to have Heather walk with me through the wildflower plantings at the farm. Its a big deal for me. This is the first visit to the farm for Heather and it should be a treat to see the different plantings through her eyes. Lots will be in bloom. You should come! We’ll break for lunch on or own and reconvene at the Crosby satellite property, the Hillside Bog. The Bog should be in full glory with wonderful wild things to gawk at.

Bring your own boots, water, shade hat and find a restroom before you arrive at the Farm and at Hillside Bog because we’ll be in the woods, more or less, ya’ll, you know what I mean?  This aint no sea cruise.  🙂  Actually, on Highway 43, just a mile west of the Farm, is Fortenberry’s Grocery and Slaughterhouse. They have welcomed any visitors who need restroom facilities and at Hillside Bog, there is a gas station just down the street, a few hundred yards away.

see links below for details  or call me at 504 296 8162

http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/pages/calmay.php

https://marcpastorek.wordpress.com/crosby-native-plant-society-meadowmakers-botany-field-trip/

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PLANT IDENTIFICATION WORKSHOP 2014

 Tuesday May 13 thru Thurs May 15, 2014

Allen Acres in Cravens, Louisiana; 5070 Hwy 399; Pitkin, LA 70656

337-328-2252  native@camtel.net  www.nativeventures.net

 

If you want to learn to recognize many of the common plants of Louisiana and the Gulf South, the names of those plants, and how to identify other plants, this is the workshop for you.   The workshop will include fieldtrips, where you can see the plants in their natural environment as well as labeled specimens in a lab setting.  Additional info on plant identification will be presented thru power-point presentations and printed handouts.  You will be given BRF’s (Best Recognizing Features) for each plant plus other facts like use, edibility etc.  You are encouraged to photograph, take notes, ask questions, and take specimens with you.  During the three day workshop, you will be exposed to more than 200 species of wildflowers, grasses, ferns, trees, shrubs, and vines.

The schedule:

Tues May 13, Wed May 14, and Thurs May 15:  9 AM till 5 pm (fieldtrips, power-point presentations,

discussions, questions and answers) Lunch provided

 

Cost for Workshop = $200 (includes three days of intense plant identification and lunch daily)

 

Other Options:  Allen Acres B and B:  $70 per room per night (includes Breakfast) (usually $80)

Allen Acres camping: $20 per person per night (includes Breakfast)

Dinner (supper) $10 per person per meal

 

Registration for Dr. Charles Allen Plant Identification Workshop 2014-2, Tues May 13, 2014-Thurs May 15, 2014.  Preregistration required.  May cancel on or before May 9 for full refund.  No refund after May 9.

 

Name_________________________________________

Address____________________________________________

Email_________________________________________________

Phone_____________________________________________________

 

Plant ID Class                                                                $200

Options

B and B; $70 per night per room             ______________________

 

high horticulture in Hattiesburg

disclaimer: for those of you not into high horticulture, click out of here now while you still have a chance because this post is long, boring and full of cool-nerdy plant stuff.

and it goes like this……..  once upon a time….

Kerry and Kru Stewart’s Hattiesburg Mississippi garden is a horticultural gem; one I am so glad I was able to help with. I stopped in to visit this morning to see the garden. Its been a year since I was there. They have established, over the years, a series of wonderfully rich gardens, heavy in horticultural substance. You could call it a collection garden, since it is designed with variety in mind and a focus on wildlife gardening, plants, and birds, butterflies and beneficials.

From the start, Kerry has wanted to care for the plants on his own. We didn’t put in a fancy irrigation system and we didn’t have a written-in-stone design. I just guided him along and he took instructions well. We had a dream of doing something special with special plants for the sake of fun, art and backyard science. And what a good result his tender-loving-care has wrought.

When the Stewarts called me, in I think the fall 2003, we talked about plants just a bit and then I quickly discovered that Kru was the niece of the great Texas plantsman and botanical explorer, John G. Fairey, of Hempstead Texas and of Yucca-do Nursery and Peckerwood Gardens fame. My client was horticultural Royalty!

So they had great expectations back then as far as cool plants goes, and somehow luckily they found me. I got busy designing the front yard since it was the decided place to start. The design below was the original. It was what I came up with but it was morphed here and there along the way since we started with a big initial push and then incrementally added year after year, and had ample time to think things through and hash things out. I just suggested stuff and Kerry made all of the big decisions. He has become fairly smart when it comes to whats growing in his garden. He now knows his plants pretty well.

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above: the original hand-drawn plan, was a conceptual and is the basis of what we started with (click on it to enlarge). Its a pretty crude drawing graphically, back then, but its a real-deal horticultural gem in reality, today.

The idea behind the design was to create a powerful take on the personal botanical garden and run with it. A fine collection of native and useful plants was over time, collected, and the satisfaction level increased and the garden matured more with every year.

Its been ten years, now and we’ve gone from the front to the east side to the west side to the back, culminating with most entertaining of gardens, the “dog gardens” (more on that later).

Its a very long list of species in this garden. Many are very rare. Maybe the rarest is the cinnamon scented flowering small tree or large shrub Mexican Summersweet (Clethra Pringlei), a plant introduced from Mexico through John Fairy’s seed collecting expeditions to the twilight zones of Mexico, in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

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above: a three feet tall Four year old) specimen of Mexican Clethra is surviving and bloomed this year, here in the red clay soils of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Looks like he needs some ironite or lime, though.

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above: Kerry and Kru’s front yard, the northwest corner looking south, from the street with a collection of three different species of Beautyberry plants in the foreground.

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Callicarpa japonica (Japanese Beautyberry), a tiny berried species

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our native beautyberry. My Mom tells me she used to snack on this as a kid in Arkansas.

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Woodlander’s Nursery dark-colored-fruited selection Callicarpa acuminata “Woodlander’s” turns the color red like a fine dry cabernet sauvignon, when ripe.

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above: the northeast corner of the property is anchored with what was a fairly mature Sothern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)(existing when we started), bounded by the ultra-rare Dwarf Loblly Pine and Bidwill Coral Berry, Bottle Brush Buckeye, a small Fig tree, and Sourwood.

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Maybe the rarest plant on the property is the eight or nine year old Dwarf Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda var. nana), supplied by Doremus Nursery, Warren Texasintroduced to the trade by the legendary Semmes, Alabama plantsman, Tom Dodd, Jr., propagated from a witch’s broom (a rare botanical anomaly). Don’t ask me how he propagated it: expertise is probably the answer.  A fine specimen of Bottle Brush Buckeye (Aesculus parvaflora, in the foreground. The hybird Erythrinia (Erythrynia X Bidwillii),  to the right.

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the north-south side street planting encloses the front garden from the street spectators and provides a sense of privacy that most neighbors would envy. Meanwhile the place is chocked-full of botany. The Mexican Clethras are just beyond the magnolia. There are two. Where the edge of the road is, a slight swale exists and captures water for plants with a higher moisture regime. In the distance is a way-cool native Hibiscus and native Iris garden Kerry and I have established.

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Looking out from the yard, beside the existing Magnolia at the corner is a baby Sourwood, and two Ocala Anise flanking a maturing Chestnut Oak (Quercus micheauxii). You can see that there is space occasionally to stroll through the plantings.

In the slight swale at the street edge, we planted different native species and hybrids of Louisiana Iris and Hibiscus, taking advantage of the ever-so-slightly wetter environment. These two genus work together because when the iris is dormant, the Hibiscus is active, and visa versa. They’ve grown and matured and today Kru sent me an April shot of the iris in what I call the “ditch”

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possibly Iris ‘Cherry Bounce’ in background, left

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possibly ‘Moi Grande’ Hibiscus, gowing to seed

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Halberdleaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis)

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a wall of Moi Grande and Flowering Maple ‘Vesuvius’

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Vesuvius Flowering Maple, a hummer will love you if you plant one

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dwarf leaf leatherwood (Cyrilla)

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Botton Bush flowers all summer long and is a most excellent butterfly nectar plant

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The seed capsule of Coastal Hibiscus (Kosteletskya virginica)

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the driveway is the only “entrance” from the side, except for a gate at the southeastern corner. Its a comfy-cosey, private stroll to see plants in the front yard.

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looking from the driveway to the front yard, you can get a bit of the feel of the open central area and the lush plantings that surround it. layers of plants on the right, form the wall to the street. One of Kerry’s favorites in this wall is the Foresteria acuminata, about twenty five feet tall, ten years old. Its a stunning early spring show-stopper when in bloom.

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Fragrant Desert Mahonia (Mahonia fremontii?) on the lower plane, doing surprisingly well, tucked among its upland associates

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Weeping ‘Traveler’ Red bud doing its thing.

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The north facade of the house (the front) is always shady. It includes the garage wall and front door entrance area which holds a wonderful shrubby strip: a collection of native woody shrubs (mostly woodland, shade tolerant shrubs) including Mt Airy Fothergilla, Summer Bog Azalea (Rhododendron Viscosum), Chipola Pink Cliftonia, Florida Anise, Elliot’s Blueberry, Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Royal Fern, and Dwarf Palmetto

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the entrance door is flanked by Hydrangea and Palmetto, distinctively robust and contrasting in form, color and texture. Perhaps not attractive to all but I think the homeowners love it.

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The northwest corner of the house, just near the front door is a room for attracting and viewing songbirds and Hummingbirds. Its chocked full with flowering perennials that return each year to feed the birds. There’s lush growth, tightly placed trees shrubs and perennials.

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Malvaviscus drummondii ‘Pam Puryear”, a Greg Grant hybird introduction with pink flowers, has established a ground cover over the last four years. An old Red Bud tree is joined by Toothache tree, Southern Sugar Maple, Wafer Ash, Ash’s Magnolia, two forms of Rick Webb-propagated Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) from Florida Parish genetics, Two selections of Virginia Sweetspire, Flowering Maple, Mexican Plum, Black Cherry, and Southern Magnolia; all topped with towering Long Leaf pine canopy

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Shelby County, Texas horticulturist Greg Grant has contributed many wonderful plants to the southern nursery industry. Pam Puryear is I think one of his best contributions. Most Hummingbirds agree with me! Its a hybrid between the species arborea and drummondii.

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Kru takes a pic of me next to the very young and yet very awesome toothache tree bark. Its pointy-scaley-like and its a bad-to-the-bone Swallowtail butterfly host plant. We planted two about five years ago.The yard guy was cutting one down thinking it was a weed when Kerry saw him in the act and ran to save the other one just in the nick of time.  Lots of happy Swallowtails, with the Toothache tree and the Wafer Ash and the other citrus family members in the garden.

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Looking out from the bird watching room, your view is of a canopy above, and layers of different foliages. A five year old ‘Lollie Jackson’ Salvia mexicana struggles a bit for nutrients but she’s holding her own for five years now in the bird garden. This plant grows to be big and beautiful things when manured and blooms a true blue. In the background, at the property edge, is a Pomegranate that Kerry planted, adorned with a couple of big rounded fruit.

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Lollie Jackson, a bit blurred

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Lyonia, Southern Magnolia, and yellow passion vive camouflage a bluebird house in the bird garden.

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A nice four year old Mexican Plum in the central lawn space

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Two Chinese Fringe Trees are the central features of the lawn. They are just getting a running tart now. Both will eventually touch over the entrance sidewalk.

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further down the eastern fence line past the driveway, the diverse green screen continues on both sides of the substantial fence, and ornamental plant beauty rules.

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A huge Swamp Rose greets you when you pull in the drive. A Kumquat tree hides just behind. And the Cedar Wax Wing attracting Burford Holly is to the left.

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Yellow Berried Deciduous Holly ‘Finch’s Golden’

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Coral Berry (Symphorocarpos orbiculatus)

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a tiny grove of Paw Paws

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Zouzhou Fushia, a once favorite of J.C. Raulston, of the purple leafed Loropetalums, in the background with dark purple leaves. Arrowood Viburnum to the right and Coral Bean to the left with the dormant Rudbeckia maxima in foreground.

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Rosa ‘Dutchess de Brabant’, a refined garden plant

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Georgia Holly (ha, also Louisiana Holly, Ilex longipes)

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Satsumas in Hattiesburg! they are protected from cold by the tall pine canopy

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Silver Aster (Aster concolor)

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Native Beach Rosemary (Conradina canescens)

The dog garden is where my battery died in my camera. Ha. til next time!

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Kerry, Kru, Chewy and I can’t remember the other dog’s name, in the backyard before my camera died. Ha!

see awesome link about John Fairy’s Garden!   and if you are ever an hour north and west of Houston, near Hempstead, made a reservation to see the gardens at Peckerwood. And check out Yucca-do Nursery next door.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/garden/a-texas-gardener-looks-to-mexico-for-inspiration.html?pagewanted=all

New Orleans Native Plant Symposium, October 11, 2013

Hi, plant folks!

Mark your calendars for a one day native plant-packed educational symposium. On October 11, 2013, at Delgado Community College, with a field trip and afternoon social event hosted at the lush atmosphere of Longue View Gardens

Doug Tallamy, Phd., will visit with us and share his wisdom. Dr. Tallamy is an entomologist, Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He is has written the highly acclaimed book, Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Its a book that no gardener should be without. In fact, every patriotic American should read this wonderfully insightful and well written book. It will change the way you see your natural world. Doug is brilliant scientist, a much sought-after lecturer and an all-around good guy. This symposium is sure to be a great forum for learning more about designing with and using native plants. And I am so very happy to say that Dr. Tallamy is the symposium key note speaker.

There will be a stellar list of other local and regional experts who will fill three panel sessions, with the topics of native plants and their relation to water management. There will be three experts leading groups to three different native plantings in the immediate area in the afternoon, after the educational sessions.

The symposium is being hosted by Colleen Morgan and the Bayou Rebirth crew, a very active local non-profit group who will join with Delgado Community College Horticulture Department to graciously sponsor this event

click on the link for more!

http://www.bayourebirth.org/native-plant-symposium-october-11/

Hope to see you there!

Marc

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