ball-of-fire scientist, horticulturist, Dr. Yan Chen gets things done

I checked in with Dr. Yan Chen recently at the Hammond Research Station Monday. We were discussing her upcoming seeding project with native grasses mixes and the results of some of the seeding work she and the Station’s staff have done lately with native wild flowers.

We looked at several species of grass seed and discussed our options. At this point she plans for three different grass mixes being used and different treatments for those plantings. This is super exciting stuff! The fine details of which are up to Dr. Chen to share and not me but soon enough we will see the results of the Station’s handy work on display, demonstrating horticultural techniques for designing and establishing gardens with these locally endemic, highly functional plant species.


the fridge at the Station’s lab is dedicated to native local-genetic seed


low growing prairie grasses mix a special mix of low-growing native grass species chosen for producing a low-height meadow effect


the seed of a Little Bluestem and Virginia Bluestem mix


sweet-smelling, aromatic Toothache grass seed lights up the senses


The rare Cajun Prairie genetics of Indian grass, Sorgastrum nutans. All of this seed was painstakingly cleaned by the Station’s diligent staff


I think this image aptly describes how excited I was to see the hundreds of milkweed plants in the AgCenter greenhouse. I was as happier than Jethro Bodine at dinner time!


These are the pots of Milkweed, Asclepias, either the species viridis or viridiflora. super excellent germination, huh?!


the extremely adaptable and attractive Pine Land Hibiscus, Hibiscus aculeatus seedlings of St. Tammany genetics


four inch cups of H. aculeatus


there were a few trays of Liatris seedlings coming on nicely. These are the species pycnostachya, from the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice. see


Lots of four inch cups of Rudbeckia texana are being grown! R. texana is such a garden great garden plant. Even though the only place it is found in the world is in the lowly Coastal Tallgrass Prairies of Texas and Louisiana, it has been used extensively by some of the most famous landscape designers in Europe for over thirty years (for more on this, see the amazingly informative garden design book Perennials and Their Garden Habitats, by Richard Hansen Friedrich Stahl, Timber Press 1981)


These are the Hammond AgCenter’s newly constructed cutting-edge sand gardens built for native grass trials utilizing some of the construction techniques described by (University of Sheffield Professors of Horticulture Technology) Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough in their rock-star-famous work with seeded wildflowery landscapes in Great Britain. Spaces between the sand boxes will provide for plantings without sand. We’re gonna learn some stuff, ya’ll.

check out this vid, kid, if you haven’t already. click on the link below on Hitchmough! Science rocks!!!

You can come by meet Dr Yan, other professors and researchers, the Director Dr. Regina Bracy, and all of the Station’s staff and see all of this and more at an Open House event being held Friday May 2. Tours of the gardens will describe the projects and plantings. Networking opportunities will be available with researchers, nursery folks and horticulturists from around the region


above: Dr. Yan Chen, center, and her associate Joey Quebedeaux, right, in Meaux, Louisiana, last October, pictured with cattleman Ben Blanchet of Brookshire Farm, in his nifty native grass field.  see the link to the open house for info


and finally a wild and crazy Wes Michaels photograph from two weeks ago of some of the Urban Meadows field trip attendees and yours truly in Discovery Green Park, Houston. I had a blast and learned a ton.  🙂

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!!!