with turfgrass, less is much more

“Our remaining prairies throughout the grassland region are vestiges of one of the mightiest ecosystems ever to grace the earth. Our prairie soils and grazing lands made North America into an agricultural powerhouse like nowhere else in the world. And what remain may be called remnants, but they are not artifacts, they are teeming with life—living laboratories of genetic resources that we cannot afford to lose. They are perhaps all the more precious because they are so scarce and so vulnerable”     Carol Davit, the Executive Director of Missouri Prairie Foundation in her opening keynote address at the Americas Grassland Conference

http://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Misc/2015-Americas-Grasslands-Conference_Proceedings-FINAL-070816.ashx

 

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Delighting in the Yellow Rain Lily fields at New Orleans City Park, NOLA

There are two really good models of naturalized, largely sustainable (perennial) meadows in New Orleans City Park, New Orleans, La. One model is the lush natural dark green stands of grass-like sedge meadows that exist on the south end of Scout Island – under the old Live Oaks there, just across from Goat Island (it is Leavenworth’s sedge mostly), and the other model is the Yellow Rain Lily fields that exist in the lawn areas surrounding Tad Gormley Stadium, just north of the Botanical Gardens. I have covered the sedge meadows previously in posts – here’s one post from a couple of years ago.

(https://marcpastorek.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/leavenworths-sedge-has-mind-of-its-own-makes-awesome-shade-meadow-in-city-park-new-orleans/)

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Its the Rain Lily meadows I wanted to share with you. They were all colored-up, really beautifully, when I was there recently (click to enlarge the pic). This lily field area (above) is located to the north and east of the corner of Marconi Avenue and Roosevelt Mall, which leads into the western entrance of the Park from Marconi Ave., just south of the Interstate 610.

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The tiny flowers of Zepharanthes citrina (identification via Scott Ogden’s Garden Bulbs for the South), above. Its a non-native naturalized plant I have found in several regularly mowed properties in different parts of Louisiana; in City Park New Orleans, and at the Chalmette National Battlefield and in many old home sites, some I recollect, in St. Francisville. This very tough, resilient plant takes sun or shade, wet or dry, but does particularly well being in the infrequently mowed understory of a Live Oak tree. This photo, shot when the Lilies were in peak bloom, two weeks ago, and should be in full seed about right about now if it hasn’t been mowed down. Tiny bright yellow Lily goblets scatter the ground over dark green threadlike tufts of Lily leaves.

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seeds of Z. citrina are ready when the seed capsule splits open

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little black wedges of Yellow Rain Lily seed are light as dust

The Park’s Cosmos color crops next door, are just coming into flower now. These provide brief displays of luxuriant color and double as pollinator-friendly nectaring-weigh stations for bee s and butterflies. The Rain Lily and sedge gardens are perennial, permanent and relatively carefree, while the Cosmos gardens need reseeding, replanting every few months. Color cropping is relatively easy to do and so fun to experience when in flower. There are so many more annuals to try though. The list is long for annual species to dabble with, both native and non-native species.

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the gardens are surrounded by wide mowed paths of lawn for access to the edge and some leading through the interior of the plantings.

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above, planting color crop meadows using annuals is a fun and really rewarding alternative to mowing turf grass for those who are adventurous and inspired to create big splashes in life.

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above, the general feel for what peak flower looks like. This type of garden can be a useful alternative in the design toolbox for developing strategies for fossil fuel reduction and for encouraging land managers to have a more delicate touch in managing large acreage land.




turfgrass transition!

Speaking of gardens that inspire, check out this photo of what used to be a severely boring lawn and is now a really significant prairie habitat garden and gene-bank preserve, containing numerous species and hundreds of thousands of flowers on a monthly basis on about two acres. The insect activity here is amazing, and species diversity and species richness in the vegetation is as remarkable. Superlative vegetation, produced from planting wild-collected high-quality prairie seed. Go figure.

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click on the photo to enlarge it.

This is what not quite three years of time after planting does to soil, with high quality prairie seed. A developing prairie garden blankets the earth in broad stroked patterns. Remember, 70% or so of the biomass of a prairie is underground so you can imagine 2 times as much rootmass underground, in biomass – roots going down maybe eight or more feet. That is prairie, mostly roots – deep, dense root highway systems that channel stormwater and harbor an array of undrground micro-fauna. Narrow Leafed Mountain Mint plants, Button Snakeroot, Black Eyed Susies, Bee Balm and an 100 other odds-and-ends prairie species grow with abandon in this natural meadow, demonstrating the character lost landscapes.

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A series of mowed lawn trails weave through this two-acre garden and serve a dual roll as fire lines for semi-annual prescribed fires.

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University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Hamilton Hall prairie habitat garden rocks campus

The Hamilton Hall prairie garden was planted about three years ago as a volunteer project, from seed gathered and nursery grown plants grown, using Cajun Prairie genetics, many provided by Pastorek Habitats.

* all photos courtesy of University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Facebook page ha

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Prof. Jim Foret, Jacob Delahoussaye, and Steve Nevitt and volunteers from the UL Horticulture Club got together and built the prairie garden at ULL, Hamilton Hall, on the northeast corner of the building. Its really taken off now, developing into a full fledged prairie sod, via prescribed fire management.

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above, architectural structure can be helpful when blending a wild garden design into the refined urban condition.

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fat and sassy Anole lounges on a prairie perch

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Coastal Prairie Coneflower (R. nidita)

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above, a Purple Coneflower flower is a happy place for a Skipper butterfly

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the delicate flower cluster Coastal Hibiscus, a native marsh edge plant

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the flower buds of Helianthus mollis, above

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Hibiscus mosheutos and a worker bee

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anthers and filaments of the Eastern Gamma grass flower

 

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a spent calyx from a Hibiscus flower

 

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Foxtail grass

 

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Button Snake Root

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Cassia fasciculata

 

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Coastal Hibiscus bud

 

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Rudbeckia nidita and passenger

 

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postage stamp prairies are doable! Three cheers for the ULL Horticulture Club!


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Fire, not for amateurs —

One of the most controversial – yet possibly the most important aspect of gardening for ecological recovery of fine-fuel prairie vegetation is fire, the prescribed fire. Fire is a natural condition that transforms landscapes through natural succession, an orderly natural process. Using prescribed fires is a science and a necessary tool. Considering humidity, wind speed and direction, fuel load, etc., you can develop a plan for successful execution of the burn and do it safely. Training and certification is a good thing or just find a forester who can do it for you. That’s my advice.

You can prairie garden without fire, too. Just prepare for the management you choose before planting is done.

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This borrowed photo captures a moment in time, a frame of a flame – at a prairie restoration about three or so years old – produced from Pastorek Habitat’s high quality prairie seed.    photo by Biologist/ Ecologist Matt Conn

Take a look at Matt’s blogpost on large-scale Chinese Tallow removal via helicopter. Matt’s experimenting and learning hands-on, via natural plant communities. Matt partnered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working directly with biologist Andrew Dolan, who is the Service’s private lands consultant, to prepare for and establish this small-acreage (I think a few acres) prairie garden. Andrew’s job focus includes guiding people interested in turning part of their property into wildlife habitat. There is someone in Andrew’s position in every state in the union so there’s a private lands coordinator somewhere near you. Get grass, people!

link to Mr. Conn’s Chinese Tallow article below

http://turtleboyandthebirds.blogspot.com/2016/04/invasive-tallow-udate.html

link to New York Times article on Matt…

 




 

Marc to speak at CPEX Smart Growth Planning Summit in November

Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) will host the 11th Annual Louisiana Smart Growth Summit November 1 & 2, 2016 in downtown Baton Rouge. The Summit has become the Southeast’s premier event promoting dialogue on innovative planning and exploring models for creating healthier and more resilient communities, making our streets safer while expanding transportation options, as well as examining the real estate market and development trends, and the important role of policymaking and leadership. Major sessions will hit on the big ideas that we hope will inspire our communities to move forward, as well as best practices and how-to follow-up sessions for our practitioner

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Lafitte Greenway 9-acre native meadow magic set to begin

The City of New Orleans’ newest City park, the Lafitte Greenway, a sixty-four acre public space designed by the Landscape Architecture firm The Design Workshop, of Aspen, Co.,  -built for biking, team sports, community gardens, and other forms of recreation – will soon see progress begin for the process of establishing authentic Louisiana prairie habitat gardens and Sedge-dominant wetland gardens, just under 9 acres in all, using our amazingly-viable local-genetic seed and awesome restoration technology.

We were so fortunate to have been chosen as The Design Workshop’s lead horticultural consultant during the time the park design was being developed and perfected, starting back in November 2011. We’ve since been actively working with the Landscape Architectural staff at the City of New Orleans, the Landscape Architecture firm Dana Brown and Assoc., and a slew of other specialists, to help hammer out the details of what will soon become the crown jewels of the Park.

Nose to the grindstone for three years, ya’ll!

link to the American Society of Landscape Architects Award for Analysis and Planning – 2013,  below

https://www.asla.org/2013awards/328.html

 

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The Greenway is a linear Park (the greenspace on a diagonal from top left to bottom right) inspired by a group of visionary citizens who saw an opportunity to develop what was once an old derelict rail road line (and before that, a navigation canal), into an viable and invaluable public space for the City. The Park serves as a green transportation connection between the French Quarter and the City Park area. All of the trees and garden areas in Lafitte are designed 100 per cent with native plants. All construction is mostly finished at this point but for the prairie gardens.

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at Galvez Street looking to the southwest – Lafitte Greenway at Claiborne Avenue/ I-10

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looking north to Lake Ponchartrain @ Lafitte Greenway at Bayou St. John/ Jeff Davis Parkway

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above, Volunteer-painted fence in background with one of our several storm water-bioretention gardens (foreground)

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Marc and Blue Hawaii Elvis hangin’ out at the Greenway!

Thank ya ver’ much!


Grow Cleome hassleriana from seed. Play around with this plant and you may get lucky and get a good crop of flowers. Cleome’s an annual plant, very short lived. Very easy. Blooms only for a month or so and then it makes lots of round, linear seed pods – that you can easily gather and grow!

I recently saw Cleome growing in sugar sandy beaches that are formed in the bends of the Okatoma Creek, in south Mississippi. But you can see below, its pretty common in Loosiana, yall (Allen and Thomas’ Vascular Flora of Louisiana).

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Cleome gets around via seed. Its a prolific seed maker.

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the leaf of Cleome resembles the leaf of Cannabis, which happens to be just next to Cleome in the book – same family –

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This little crop was a-buzz last week when I took an early morning walk about.

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Basils, easy to grow pollinators

Basil plants come in many shapes and forms. The typical culinary Basil, easily grown from seed is not only great to eat, it is a highly sought after plant by bees and other pollinators.There are many types, cultivars, of Basil in the horticulture trade. I’ve grown Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Opal Basil, Holy Basil, Purple Basil, and, this year I’ve tried for the first time, African Basil – and have enjoyed having it in the garden. Three words for Basil growers; simple, simple, simple. I plan to make some pesto soon with the African variety to try it out. I was excited to see a Hummingbird Moth on the African Basil patch in the middle of the day the other day. Odd since the moths, I think, are nocturnal. First time for everything, I guess 🙂   cool hummingbird moth on basil video, below

 

 


Natural Beauty in the State of Mississippi

Okatoma Creek near Seminary, Mississippi – one of my grandkids, little Asher Pastorek, jumps from a clay bar – canoeing in the red clay state w the young’ns. nice…

 

 


Save the Date! Competing meetings!

September 24th, 2016   Pollination Celebration – Hammond, La

a day long educational forum on pollinating insects and plants they utilize

b-zzzzzzzzzzzzz

https://tpmgblog.wordpress.com/pollination-celebration-2016/

 

September 24th and 25  Texas and Cajun Prairie Conference – Lafayette, La

Details are still in the making, but basically this will be a two day event with a night Social between (they are considering having a Zydeco Band for music so bring your dancing shoes). There will be an educational forum on Saturday and a field tripping caravan on Sunday.

keep a look-out for this event at cajunprairie.org and prairiepartner.org/

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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

central Gulf South Silphiums

Rosin Weeds are not weeds at all. They are really fine ornamental herbs that provide for substantial wildlife activity and add lots of pizzaz to a garden. Silphiums are some of the more shining, luminous jewels you can incorporated into your prairie-meadow if you’ve got one. Several Silphium species are native to our region and all are easily grown, adaptable, dependable, and extremely persistent garden plants. That is, if you can find them in the nursery trade available for purchase or …if can get some seed. Most all of mine were originally grown from seed.

Silphiums are no minor player when it comes to garden boldness. My friend Gail calls them “tall boys”, and puts them in the same category as Joe Pye Weed, Iron Weed and Big Bluestem. All are adaptable, long to establish but long-lived, and permanent plants that almost never need care.

They’re exquisitely beautiful organisms. Excellent garden plants, no doubt. They have a huge capacity in the landscape for specialized ecological function. They feed good-weird bugs and stuff (they’re highly attractive to butterflies and other very specialized pollinators, y’all).

I’ve heard some of my northern gardener-friends say that they are weedy, but I have not had that kind of luck yet. In the fifteen years or more I’ve grown Silphiums, I have never had enough show up via re-seeding and they have rarely become prolific in a planting, only somewhat, maybe. But they seem to be more than prolific above the Mason-Dixon line. Dumb luck, I guess.

Rosinweeds are for royalty. They are for refined gardens and wildscapes, too! They are horticultural clout. Vertical botanical bling! Some of Europe’s most visited gardens have American Silphiums in them. The Brits Dunnett and Hitchmough use them in their famous wildflower work. And where we live they are tame, yet seductive.

Most Silphiums grow as large-leaved herbaceous plants, big leafy rosettes with tall terminal stalks laden up-top with big butter-yellow ‘ray and disk’ flowers. In the best conditions, during the best year for rain, the tallest ones, the Compass Plant and Prairie Dock, both can grow flower stalks to eight or ten feet tall.

Who wants an eight foot tall herb in their garden? Me, that’s who!!!!

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above: a single flower of Will Fleming’s awesome “curly leafed” Rosin Weed, almost five inches across. not too shabby.

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Actually, Rosinweeds are just foliage clumps in the landscape for months in the spring and early summer until the plant prepares to bloom, sending stalks skyward. The photo above,(click it to enlarge it) taken by Jovonn Hill, of the Pulliam prairie landscape in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, with Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum, just emerging in April, after a controlled burn. Cool thing is you can see right through the stalks of Silphiums when they bloom, like, the stalks almost become invisible.

Here are the Silphiums I have grown for some years now, in my gardens.

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above: Silphium laciniata, the Compass Plant, emerging after burn in spring in the Covington garden. 🙂

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Compass Plant in flower and fruit, Eunice, Louisiana

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Gail and UWA student Colton stand amongst hundreds of ancient Compass Plants at the oh-so-amazing Epes, Alabama chalk glade.

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above: seedling of Compass Plant from hand-harvest seed from Epes, growing at the Black Belt Prairie Garden, University of Western Alabama, Livingston, Alabama, May, 2014.

link to cool photos of Compass plant

http://www.missouriplants.com/Yellowalt/Silphium_laciniatum_page.html

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S. gracile or Slender Rosin Weed’s distribution range, above, a plant found both in Pine forests and Prairies in Louisiana. Lush rosettes, entire leaves, high-oil seed makes for an excellent wildlife plant. Gracile is a real southerner with a red-neck attitude, often kind of slouchy and grinning. No, really, its a very plant with a good attitude. Niche Gardens, a specialty native plant nursery in Chapel Hill, N.C offers this species for sale.

S. simpsonii, Simpson’s or Tall Rosin Weed is a non-Louisiana Native given to me by Texan nurseryman Peter Loos in the mid 1990’s. Good-naturalizing, adaptable, seed excellent for wildlife. Looks very similar to gracile.

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early growth of Silphium simpsoni, above

S. integrifolium, Prairie Rosin Weed, is found associated with inland prairies of Louisiana and the Jackson Belt prairies of Mississippi. Its a Rosin Weed with conspicuous leaf arrangement. A vertically attractive course-textured plant.

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above: the burly-tough rigid stem and leaves of Silphium integrifolium

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above, Silphium integrifolia in full-glory, Harrell Prairie Botanical Area, Bienville National Forest, Scott County, Mississippi

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S. terebinthinaceum, Prairie Rosin Weed (above), is not found naturally occurring in Louisiana and is only found in one county in Mississippi and one in Alabama. Its at the southern end of its range here in the GS. The largest leafed Silphium, by far. Awesome. Tony Avant of Plant Delights nursery in Chapel Hill grows and offers it for sale. Mine hasn’t bloomed yet and it is at least five years old but the leaves are very large and showy without flowers. It may have a lot to do with the seed coming from clay-specific soils to acid soils here in Covington, duh.

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above: S. perfoliatum, The Cup Plant, is an uncommon plant in Louisiana, with records in only one Parish. More commonly found in much of the eastern U.S (minus Texas), this guy has the distinction of forming “cups”, where water collects where the ‘perforated’ leaves join the stem. Bold and strongly structural architecture.

S. asteriscus, Starry Rosin Weed, is one I have only grown for four or five years now. It seems to be very floriferous and a bit shorter than most other species.

Silphium (origin, Will Fleming) is a curly margined form of a yet-unidentified (um, I forget) species with a distinctive leaf form. I’ve grown this plant for five or so years. A worthy ornamental.

Propagation of these species is fairly easy if you have some good, viable seed. Just sow the seed in a good soil mix and barely cover the seed, enough to keep it moist. Germination will come pretty quickly unless its the dead of winter. Field grown Silphium seed is a horse of a different color. Seed I sowed of laciniata, in 1998 and 99 didn’t show up for several years, being out-competed and beat-up by unwanted competition. So eliminate competition in the field before sowing and maybe save yourself some years of waiting and wondering.

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actual flowers of Silphium

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after flowering, seed setting

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The oily seed of Silphium is covered by a wafer-like coating

 

Get down, get tall, get Silphium, and get with it, folks!!!!

 

the link below is the short version of the Flora of Pulliam Prairie paper.

http://www.bluegrasswoodland.com/uploads/Campbell___Seymour_2011b.pdf

 

 

UWA Campus Wildflower Wonderland, Black Belt Prairie Garden, coming to a rolling boil

and first, you add a roux..

Its been a full year since I’ve had a chance to visit the University of Western Alabama Black Belt (BB) Garden. And what a wonderful thing, to walk these floral collections, with my good friend and prairie-partner-in-crime, Gail Barton. Gail and I started our study-work here many years ago, when we’d organize annual trips into the Black Belt Prairie region to ride the backroads, hunting for remnants of this ancient complex vegetative system, trying to learn the characteristics and the quirks of its plants. We would drive til we saw some prairie indicator plant and then slow down the truck to determine weather the spot was sufficiently loaded with cool plants to stop and rustle around. The most interesting thing we saw in all of our trips may be the Cemetery just north of Livingston on highway 39 that has a prairie all wrapped-up in headstones…. We’d originally started doing this many years before in and around Gail’s old stomping grounds, near the city of Starkville Mississippi, where she was raised. One of our frequent stops was the MSU Entomology Department’s Osborne Prairie, a leased piece of land with a high quality natural area just east of town. We ended up spending time studying in the Sumter County Alabama area too simply because it was closer to Meridian (Gail’s home) and because it had lots of available remnants. We didn’t realize just how much prairie was in Sumpter County til’ we were awarded the opportunity to build the BB Garden. Most people in Sumter County don’t realize that there is prairie in their county but I am here to tell you, there’s plenty still of it left. Sumter County is rich with natural flora. It just hasn’t yet been destroyed.

We were contracted to design and develop the prairie garden using only species found within the county lines of Sumter County. Dr. Richard Holland, President of the University, concieved the idea of the Garden and brought us aboard to assist him with this effort. We executed the work for the garden, beginning in June 2012 and ending in Early 2013.

For nearly a year, each month, Gail and I would meet and spend a day or so with Sam Ledbetter, the Horticulturist at the Garden who happens to be a life time resident of the County. We would have a growing season to scour the county, hunting for species to collect seed or cuttings from. Our goal was propagating for high conservatism, providing a prairie landscape high in species richness and species biodiversity.

We have succeeded in creating gardens that are incredibly diverse, ones that tell a story and that touch the emotions. Its a great garden, no doubt.

The famous Wiggins, Mississippi native and 1930’s baseball Hall of Famer “Dizzy” Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it!”

Well, I am here to tell you, these are the best restored prairie gardens in the state of Alabama. They are loaded with species very uncommon in gardens, and some, rare in the county and state. Most importantly, they contain the genetics that when you walk by, scream out at you, “hey! I’m Sumter County, Alabama, Black Belt Prairie! Just sayin’!”

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above: the garden can be seen in the google earth shot above as a triangle in the center of the frame, sectioned by paths. click on it to enlarge it.

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Me (Ed Norton) on left, with Gail Barton, Sam Ledbetter, and UWA BB Garden Director Steven Liverman in the garden, June 2014

There is a super-duper collection of Blazing Stars here. We found species we had to get identified. And all of the Silphiums known to exist in the county are here, present and accounted for. There are seedlings of Silphium laciniata, the Prairie Compass Plant, scattered across this one acre landscape. Seedlings of Echinacea pallida, too. Gail and Sam grew these from seed.

The most special plant found would be the Side Oats Gramma grass. Gail got just a tiny population in one location along the Tombigbee River. She got a fraction of a handful of seed and grew seedlings to transplant.

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above: at left, just after final seeding in November 2012.  right, June 2014

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above: large clumps of Black Belt prairie grasses form dense textural patterns across the garden.

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looking south…

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above: Liatris, Blazing Star

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a legume member propagated from an Epes, Alabama prairie. I forget the name, but its a high conservancy species sometimes found in large numbers near chalk outcrops.

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a monarda, possibly a fistulosa X punctata hybrid?

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Eryngium, Button Snakeroot

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Spiral Orchid

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Narrow-Leafed Mountain Mint

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Indian grass and smaller Little Bluestem grass

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Looking west in the southeastern-most prairie patch

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seedlings and blooming Compass Plant, Silphium laciniata, are scattered about

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above: the fuzzy, full foliage of Helianthus silphioides just before bolting to bloom. Thanks to Dr Brian Keener for the ID on this plant which was a riddle to the rest of us.

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Gail shows off her man-made chalk out-crop, inspired by a commercial development filling with chalk soil fill. She simply asked to borrow some.

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Looking south from the Campbell House, the outcrop in the distance on the right

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Big bluestem grass growing large above mass of Little Bluestem grass

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Monarda and Grey Coneflower in some areas are quite colorful

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Little Bluestem grass sod and Compass Plants at my feet, growing in the Garden with Sumter County blood.

It looks like our collecting at Mr. Miller’s prairie hayfield just up highway 80 from the college paid off since tens of thousands of adolescent little bluestem and Indian grass plants cover the ground, in some places forming a thick dense sod. The grasses are as thick as thieves. They make up a dominance across the ground plain that is to me divine.

Most people would overlook the garden as a place to be mowed, but I understand that it is being used for biology classes.

It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to help in preserving and nurturing these fine and numerous plantings.

If you get a chance, check in when you’re going through Livingston. The garden is five minutes from the Interstate-20 Livingston exit, thirty minutes east of Meridian Mississippi. Come see the ‘organized wildness’ we’ve created!

Pastorek Habitats’ science mentioned in Landscape Architecture magazine!

I am a big fan of the mowed lawn. No, seriously, I am. I just think we have enough of it, is all. The latest estimate is that there are 50,000 square miles of lawn in America. Thats an area the size of the state of Louisiana. 50,000 square miles of lawn with an estimated additional 600 square miles coming on line annually. Holy cow! Thats a lot of mowing, ya’ll.

The latest issue of Landscape Architecture magazine features an article written by Thomas Christopher titled Turf Trails: Grass that needs less mowing and water is a project for scientists across the country. In it, Tom discusses new up-and-coming ecologically logical options to the American obsession with the clipped lawn. Tom is a horticulturist who lives in Middletown, Connecticut and runs a business called Smart Lawn. He specializes in sustainable lawn design. Go figure.

When I spoke at the NDAL in New London in January, Tom came up to me after to pick my brain about lawn alternatives for the southern U.S. He and I had a few more conversations during the course of the conference and that lead to him mentioning our uber-cool work with a Gulf Coastal version of the low-mow lawn, in the article.

This is a big deal for a little business like ours, getting mentioned in such a prestigious design mag. Aren’t we something! Ha, I will try not to let it go to my head.

Main thing is, there’s a revolution of sorts occurring in the US of A. It gives me comfort when I see the young folks involved in horticulture and conservation doing work to change our ‘industrial complex’ complex. There will always be, I suppose, those who have a need to mow every inch of their property. But I feel sure that time will heal this affliction so prevalent among us. There’s hope for the future, folks!

Wish I could post the article Tom wrote here but there’s that there copy right thing…..

Anyway, to change the subject, I saw some cool wildlife stuff last week. really cool.

So I am photographing Silphium perfoliatum in the yard the other day just after a good rain and I could hear the frogs in the background making their noises. One group would announce, “shallow, shallow!” and the the other group would respond by saying “deep, deep!”. That idea struck me just about the time I heard a confusing noise behind me. I turned around in time to see what was clearly the back end of a hawk flying away from me, just twenty feet away. When I saw it, it was just taking flight, a few feet off of the ground. I couldn’t see if he or she had caught anything or not but I haven’t see that cute little bunny rabbit that’s been my garden buddy every day for the last few weeks since the hawk fluttered away into the sky. hmmm. awesome.

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Silphium perfoliatum is a robust, large leafed thing

 

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gets its name from the perforated leaf joint. My friend Gail Barton says birds will drink water collected in the perferated “cup”

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If you don’t know of Silpiums, take a gander, since they are excellent ornamental herbs and fantastic wildlife plants. There are many native species in this region. I have a collection of the regional species in my home meadow. The seed of Rosinweeds are high in oil content, which is like caviar to birds.

Was at City Park in New Orleans Tuesday mowing the meadow there so we can over-seed it next week. While I was mowing, I noticed a hawk fly down, and obviously got a bite to eat. Up into a big oak it flew. Lunch of a field mouse or something very small. This continued for a couple of hours. That bird ate up some vittles, ya’ll! At one point, he or she was lighted on a branch of a Hackberry tree about ten feet off the ground. I decided I would ease over to get as close as I could so I could get a pic. So I did. I would make long turn-arounds and swing by closer each time. The hawk just sat there watching me each time. I made my final pass within 15 feet of this incredibly wild bird and it didn’t flinch. Just kind of gave me a “thanks for dinner” nod and when I swung back for an even closer attempt, it flew off and went back up to the safety of the big oak. Being anything but a birder, I was able because of my repetitive passes to visually lock-in its color characteristics and when I got home and did some research, I, by process of elimination(and guesswork) determined that it probably was a Red Shouldered Hawk. What a beauty it was.

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ole’ fat and sassy Red Shoulder showing off fine plumage and upstanding character (click on the photos to enlarge them)

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swooping away, it went back up to the open space in the big oak

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the meadow, ready for seed

Get out and enjoy this last cool snap because, like, next week it’ll be hot as Hades and it’ll probably stay that way for a long while.

Hope to see you all (all three of you) at the field day at the seed farm this Saturday. Be there or be square!   http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/pages/calmay.php

 

LSU Hilltop Arbo tours Crosby, Hammond Station, and Meadowmakers Farm

The Hilltop Arboretum will be hosting a tour of three significant gardens in southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi(both sides of the Pearl River) on Thursday, April 10. It promises to be a fun and informative event. Hope you can be in that number!

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above: Pitcher Plant flowers Sarracenia alata

Click on the link below for details.

http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/hilltop/spring-garden-road-tour/

growing grass!

LSU’s AgCenter at Burden Research Station in Baton Rouge and The Hammond Research Station have just installed some new plots of native grass plantings using seed from a Texas source (yea, I said Texas) and local-genetic seed from Candi and I. I was thinking the other day how comical it’ll be if the Texas seed out-performs than the Louisiana seed. I kind of doubt that that will be the case. But we shall see.

I don’t know the intricate details of the projects other than to say that they are comparing genetic strains for seed viability (how well the seed grows). I will very much enjoy following the planting’s progress and I am hopeful that these trials will help promote the use of these wonderful native plants, locally. I am also hoping that they will be kept permanently since I believe the trial period for the project is two to three years and this is about how long it takes to get them fully established. They will just be getting started at that point.

Candi and I provided two different mixes for these plantings. I will step out on a limb here and say that, knowing the mix from the Texas source and knowing the two mixes we provided, I put my money on Louisiana seed, which is well-adapted to our Gulf-coastal influenced weather conditions. The Gulf of Mexico brings tropically generated rain and extreme high humidity for our very long summers here to Louisiana. This is  not something you’ll find way-west of Houston, the origin of the Texas seed.

One of the mixes Candi and I provided is a particularly delightful association of low-growing native grasses not common to the State where everything is supposedly bigger. I hope to one day see this special mix marketed commercially as a local substitute for a “low-mow” turf, one that is more friendly to our environment. I would like to see it called Tiger Turf.

In the upper Mid-west and in the Short grass prairie region of the U.S., they already have a “low-mow” turf mix. We, on the other hand, don’t. My hope is that we can change that. Lets hope Dr. Keuhny’s work reveals the quirks, the problems and the successes toward this endeavor.

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above: Jason Stagg and associates just after planting the LSU Burden Station’s trial plots. (click to enlarge photo)

I know that one of the planting methods for the trial originated from Dr. Susan Barton, Assistant Professor of Plant Science, University of Delaware. She has worked with roadside plantings with the Delaware State Department of Transportation. She did her Doctoral thesis on this topic.

I talked to Dr. Barton recently about another, much larger native grass project that I am helping develop at the Hammond Station. She told me about a method she has used for establishing home-landscape-scale Indian grass meadows using saw dust mixed with the Indian grass seed. This recipe is mixed (by way of front-end-loader on a tractor, or by shovel for smaller projects) and is then spread across the planting area an inch thick using hard-rakes. The saw dust helps in suppressing weeds and assisting with the Indian grass seed germination. Dr. Barton told me that this method works very well. She told me the story about a planting she had done in the spring this year, that has become very well established with very little weed presence as of October.

These are the kinds of ideas (those that have been successful in other parts of the country) that need to be studied so that they can be utilized in establishing field trials for landscape gardening with meadow projects here in the Deep South. This will give us the tools to help us become more pro-active about the needs of our environment, building natural habitat in our own backyards (and front yards) since this need is clearly evident. This is the sort of thing has been done (and is still being done) by some of the Louisiana Coastal Prairie prairie researchers for the past twenty five years (this is the 25 year anniversary of the beginning of the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project, Eunice, Louisiana). The work (the Cajun Prairie work) was done for the purpose of understanding more about how the many intricate parts of restored prairies work, here in our unique climate, so that we could learn how to better restore them. The work that was done with prairies over the last eighty-plus years in the Mid-west was the basis for this earlier work in Louisiana. If you are interested in this Mid-western work, purchase a copy of The Tall Grass Restoration Handbook, a very useful reference. Many of the techniques used by the folks above the Mason-Dixon apply to us, here, down in Dixie.

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Three of my most significant mentors in the eco-restore field have said that “understanding the parts of the prairie ecosystem and how they work is the only way to learn how to restore prairie”. I have found this statement to be most significant and true.

I believe that this idea is also true about the use of native grass meadows in the landscaped garden. I suspect that this core idea is true with all fields of work too, but the changes and progressive stages of prairie restoration are so very subtle that they need constant field observation and study to really be able to discern and grasp them. That is why we prairie enthusiasts have a constant need to be in the field. We need to observe as often as possible, the few pieces of the puzzle that are left, to help us transfer that idea into planting projects, via seed. This is true with all aspects of prairie restoration. I am sure it applies to the landscape-garden-oriented work that I hope to see incorporated into our regional nursery-landscape industry one day in the near future.

Dr. Jeff Keuhny, director of Burden, is heading these two native grass projects, with the help of his graduate student, Jason Stagg and others. They should be commended for their interest, their insight, and for their efforts.

Go Tigers!

…………..

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.

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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)

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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!

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click photo to enlarge.

enjoy!