for Piet’s sake!

The Prairie Inspired Garden

In 2010, I was able to make a much anticipated trip to New York, New York, for a family wedding event. Tops on my list of places to see while I was there of course was the High Line, the internationally famous public garden, said to be “the most Instagrammed place on Earth”.

The High Line is exactly that, an old abandoned elevated industrial rail line on Manhattan’s west side that runs along the Hudson piers. As the rail sat unused for about 30 years, a self-seeded prairie-like landscape developed and became the subject of a photographer Joel Sternfeld’s creative interests. He spent a year photographing the many parts of the line, capturing a collection of images that would later be used to sell the idea of transitioning the rail to a linear public park.

A cracker jack team of designers and horticulturists was assembled to further develop the idea, including the very capable Netherlands based planting designer Piet Oudolf – he was most instrumental in choosing plant approaches and plant lists. The result is a garden that’s a hybrid between a natural prairie garden the English border garden. Oudolf used native prairie grasses and perennial wildflowers but he included many many horticultural selections of native species, and also some species that are not native to the Americas. Even the non native species look at home amongst the prairie plant drifts. The planting lists for the gardens are long, and made up mostly of herbs and grasses, with some plantings of small trees and shrubs, and vines and bulbs.

The design emphasis of the High Line is on low input, drought tolerant species that save on resources, something to consider when your garden is a mile and a half long.

The design approach is rather simple, using mass plantings of species that contrast in color, texture, and form  – species that are tough and hold their own in the landscape. By using so many different species, the designers planned for an unfolding landscape, month to month, much like the continuous interest a natural area relict prairie would provide. The result is simplistic, but rather beautiful, any time of the year. The substance of the garden design and its overall horticultural appeal is significant. It is said that 5 million people visit the High Line each year.

I visited during the month of January so I saw the gardens at their weakest. I was still very much impressed with them. I could still identify most of the plants.

Mr. Oudolf is a much sought after garden designer famous for his work with grasses and perennials. He promotes the perennial plant garden and points out that winter-frosted perennials and grasses have character, too.

He has designed the High Line gardens to mimic the American prairie, with grasses as bones of the garden, the cloth that the garden color is woven into. The gardens are perfectly attractive to pollinator species including butterflies, skippers, dragonflies, native bees and wasps, honeybees, and so forth.

Speaking from my perspective, grasses are used much like the evergreen shrub is in an English border garden; as a back drop for color, as a contrasting element – a whispy feature that highlights and refracts light, enhances and contrasts colors and textures. Grasses come in many shapes, sizes, and textures, but grasses are colorful, too. Switch grass may not be just right for every garden but there is no denying this plant has a bold presence. It starts off as a medium textured foliage emerging in late spring, subtle and unassuming. By mid-summer, its knee high – dense and robust. By fall, it is chest high, mostly rounded in form, and starting to produce its fine textured seed panicles, which crown the tops of the foliage mass with a smokey-mist effect. When first frost comes, the green linear leaves turn a clear crisp tan color, a very dramatic change that carries through the winter. Four different cultivars of Switch grass are used in the High Line gardens. Little Bluestem grass, a shorter, more vertically inclined plant is used extensively through the plantings. It has a contrasting blue foliage in summer and turns a reddish-ochre color in winter. The very popular and extraordinarily stylish Calamagrostus X Karl Foerster is another among the 30 different grasses that are used in the project altogether. Over 150 species of perennials accompany the grasses.

The practicality in using grasses is their sheer ability to sustain themselves with little or no care. Plant them and pretty much forget about them, though they generally need cutting back in late winter just before the new growth starts, generally in April or May. Grasses enable you to have twice as much garden with half as much care. If you’re planting the right grasses, they will likely last longer than you will – they’ll out live you!

Not all grasses are created equally. Some ecotypes (regionally local genetic strains) do not adapt permanently and can decline and fade from the landscape over a few years time. Try to source seed collected locally so the plants are more able to survive in our unique Gulf-influenced environmental extremes. After all, its best to be successful the first time around – unless of course you like failure.

The prairie inspired garden is becoming more accepted in horticultural circles. With so many species adaptable to this idea, the design possibilities are practically limitless.

Common Prairie Plants for Gardening in Louisiana

GRASSES

Little Bluestem grass
Yellow Indian grass
Split Beard Bluestem grass
Elliot’s Bluestem
Elliot’s Indian grass
Narrow Leafed Bluestem
Sporobolus junceus
Dicanthelium sp
Panicum anceps
Love grass
Winter Bent grass
Toothache grass
Purple Silky Scale grass
Aristida purpurascens
Tridens flavus
Triden strictus
Triden ambiguus
Eastern Gamma grass
Big Bluestem grass
Bushy Bluestem grass

WILDFLOWERS (perennials)

Baptisa alba
Baptisia nuttalli
Baptisia spherocarpa
Baptisia bracteata
Coreopsis linifolia
Coreopsis pubescens
Coreopsis tripteris
Coreopsis rosea
Coreopsis lanceolata
Tephrosia onobrychoides
Monarda lindhiemeri
Monarda fistulosa
Monarda citriodora
Monarda punctata
Pycnanthemum tenuifolia
Pycnanthemum albescens
Silphium gracile
Silphium integrifolia
Silphium laciniata
Scuttellaria integrifolia
Eryngium yuccafolia
Eryngium integrifolium
Tradescantia virginicus
Penstemon digitalis
Penstemon laxiflorus
Sabatia gentianoides
Callirhoe papaver
Rudbeckia texana
Rudbeckia grandiflora
Rudbeckia hirta
Rudbeckia subtomentosa
Bigelowia virgata
Liatris squarrosa
Liatris squarrulosa
Liatris elegans
Liatris spicata
Liatris acidota
Liatris pycnostachya
Erigeron philedalphicus
Erigeron strigosus
Boltonia asteroides
Eupatorium hyssopifolium
Eupatorium serotinum
Euthamia leptocephala
Euthamia tenuifolia
Lobelia puberula
Erythrinia herbacea
Physostegia digitalis
Rhexia mariana
Pityopsis pilosa
Solidago odora
Solidago rugosa
Solidago tortifolia
Solidago nemoralis
Solidago sempervirens
Echinacea pallida
Echinacea purpurea
Helianthus mollis
Helianthus angustifolia
Euphorbia colorata
Salvia azurea
Barrens Silky Aster
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Asclepias lanceolata
Asclepias obovata
Asclepias incarnata
Asclepias longifolia
Asclepias perennis
Asclepias rubra
Asclepias syriaca
Asclepias variegata
Asclepias verticilata
Asclepias viridiflora
Asclepias Viridis
Asclepias tuberosa

Where to Visit Prairie Gardens in the U.S

University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Curtis Prairie, Madison, Ws.

North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University, Picayune, Ms.

Where to Visit Prairie Gardens in Louisiana

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society, Eunice, La

Cajun Prairie Gardens, Eunice, La

Allen Acres B and B, Pitkin, La

St Landry Parish Visitor’s Center, Opelousas, La

Duralde Prairie Restoration, Duralde, La

Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve

LSU AgCenter Research and Gardens, Hammond, La

City of Mandeville Wildflower Conservation Area

City of Hammond – Chappapeela Park, Hammond, La

City of Monroe – Kiroli Park, Monroe, La

City of Covington – Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail, Covington, La

Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology, University of Lafayette, Lafayette, La

Hamilton Hall, University of Lafayette, Lafayette, La

City Of New Iberia, Mr. Al (the Live Oak) Prairie, New Iberia, La

*the list provided is focused on Louisiana natives – consider other endemics native to your locale when developing your own garden lists – though many of the species listed here are generalists and not site specific

For more information on educational classes regarding native grasses and wildflower identification and culture, contact Dr. Charles M. Allen at native@camtel.net

 

* this article written for December issue of Louisiana State Horticulture Society

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cool lawn color from Oxalis at a New Orleans’ Lake Lawn funeral home

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will work for prairie!

Lots of fab stuff happening at the Ponderosa ..and beyond…

Processed precious seed Monday that I gathered from our family farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi. A righteous collection it was, on a beautiful September Sunday afternoon. Below, an old proverb says, a bird in hand is better than three or more in the bush, or something like that.

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the main focus of the effort was to get a bunch of Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindhiemerii seed, the large rounded seed head in the middle. This field has acres of the stuff, and fills the fields full of pink and white when they’re in bloom. The white seed heads, above, at bottom-left, are of the fragrantly aromatic White-Leafed Mountain Mint, a favorite plant of mine. At ten o’clock, tucked between my index and middle finger is a tiny cluster of grey-ish seed heads of the illustrious Narrow-Leafed Mountain Mint. At eleven o’clock is the elongated head of the distinctly Coastal Prairie species Rudbeckia texana (nitida). At high noon is the demure but mui grande, Rudbeckia grandiflora, and, next to that, Rudbeckia hirta, which is next to Ashy Sunflower, at 3 o’clock. All of these are needed in adding to seed mixes, when applicable. And all are originally from the dozen or so, Cajun Prairie remnants, found and preserved by Dr. Mac Vidrine and Dr. Chuck Allen and the other Cajun Prairie pioneers-volunteers, way back when. Go micro-prairies!

 

Go west, old man…

Loaded up the trailer with the home-made superlative spray rig onto the back of the Kubota for a trip west to do some Tallow-whacking. Spent a grand mid-morning with my soil-loving bud, King of the Cajun Calm, Jim Foret, who has, just recently, pulled off a regular coup by getting permission to develop a three acre prairie garden at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Cade Farm. Additionally, Professor (Generalissimo Jim) Foret and Cade Farm manager, Mark Simon, will prepare for and plant a demonstration garden of native-gene Switch grass, about two acres. They already have a two or three acre planting of Switch grass, but it is Alamo Switch, which is a cultivar with genes from up above the north Texas line somewhere. eeww!!!!!

The UL planting with be research based and all native; local genes.

 

Cajun Prairie Restoration site work, Eunice, Louisiana; Woody-plant slaughter! Oh, the humanity!!!

Did a day of spraying Tallows and other woody plants in the afternoon on Wednesday at the Cajun Prairie Habitat Restoration site in Eunice. I think I got a good dent done there. It was so fun. Hooray for mechanical equipment!!!!

 

Hangin’ out in Hackberry

Headed to Hackberry, Louisiana for Thursday morning, where I met and worked with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries folks, Louisiana Natural Heritage field botanists Chris Reid, Chris Doffitt and Sairah Jared at a very cool and mostly flat piece of ground on a private ranch, where only the hippest and happiest cows dine. Our objective was to accomplish an unforgiving slaughter of Chinese Tallow trees on what is a very large and biologically significant Coastal Prairie remnant. Chris says that this is one of the most promising of the restores he is working with in terms of the private land owners being open to the idea of restoring native prairie and going all-in on what is real, live, native prairie, complete with mounds. It was like walking on air out there; levitation. Okay, actually, it was like walking on air in a very hot open-air baking-oven; I felt kinda like a thanksgiving turkey. But other than it being a wee warm, it was very enlightening to see yet another one of these treasures, a landscape-scale coastal prairie remnant. This is third I have been invited to in the last year. Whoop-whoop!

Hackberry, is one of many places in Louisiana where the world ends, basically.

You can’t easily get there from here, as the old saying goes.

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We met at Brown’s grocery Store, where you can get Hackberry House Slippers (shrimping boots) (sometimes called Delcambre Nikes) in three different colors; the typical white, green-camo and pink-camo. Yea! Take that, Rodeo Drive!

I drove behind Chris Reid, who knew the trail to the prairie ranch site.

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miles and miles we went, across the idyllic fresh water marshes and this, a man-made road through Black Lake.

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it was pretty, ya’ll.

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…we went, and went and went, westwardly…. and then we went some more…

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We finally arrived at the ranch. Nice Mima mounds were scattered in the grazed-mowed fields, before we reached our final destination.

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you can see to the left of Ms. Brahma, a four foot tall Mima mound. Pretty things, both.

I was there to share the technique I have been working on, for killing Tallow trees, which are a problematic plant when it comes to restoring prairie. We were using a brand-name of herbicide called Clearcast. Last year I painted some full-strength Clearcast onto some Tallows with a paint brush, in the yard here in Covington. The stuff out-right killed the Tallows, dead as a door nail, no root sprouts at all, ya’ll. We have been using Clearcast at the restorations in Eunice because it is deadly as a foliar spray and mostly selective to Tallow, but the full strength basal application is a new approach with promise. whooo-hooo! Herbicides rock!!!! get some!

Chris Reid was interested in trying the technique, and so I did an application and safety demo. I got them all instructed and off they went into the Tallow groves on-foot. Instead of a paint brush, they used a back pack sprayer with Clearcast and a crop oil for extra penetrating-ability. Then I saddled up the Kubota for some mechanical spray acrobatics-aerobics. Its all in the wrist, ya’ll.

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mixing the backpacks with stuff. photo by Sairah Jared

I think we did some real good. Got ‘er done! You can get a feel for the landscape we were working in on the south end of the 110 acre site by looking at my you-tube video link, below. I was foliar spraying, gunning for Chinese Tallow. You’ll see the Tallows in green in the field edges and lots of four-foot-tall Hibiscus lasiocarpa, a fuzzy leafed, bold herb, odd and grey as it’s leaves are. Its common on the Mima mound prairie landscapes I’ve seen in southwestern Loosianner.

 

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after we worked, we took a pleasure ride to the north end of the prairie restoration area where its open. Chris Reid said that this north side is the higher end of the field and so there was not as much woody plant encroachment. What a treat, indeedy!

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Here, a nice specimen of Ovate Leafed Cacalia, a beautiful, tall-growing perennial that pollinators seem to relish, in the mix with Little Bluestem grass and the tiny bright yellow sparkles of Soft Golden Aster, on a sweet treeless mound.

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holding a panicle of Sporobolus pyramidatus, Whorled Dropseed grass, in a bare saline area near a pimple mound, my first time seeing this. you can make out a better image of the seed head- one is laying over at the very top of the image against darker color in the frame, very skeletal

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Narrow Leafed Bluestem, a Coastal Prairie and Long Leaf Pine understory endemic just up a foot or so from the base of a mound.

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The Mima mounds are plentiful here, and generally uniform, showing up in this image as green vegetation. “The woody plants are generally up on the mounds” Chris said. Here, a ten foot Tallow tree plays King of the Mountain. However, if Chris has his way, it won’t be king for long.

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…this mound, a four footer, seen here behind the group, was topped with Indain grass and Little Bluestem and had many Liatris acidota, Sharp Blazing Stars, just finished blooming, wrapping around the base of the mound. The mounds are wonderful little gardens with fantastical arrangements of flowering plants and grasses, taking advantage of the gradient with high and dry plants up top, wetter loving plants at the base and a mix between, all native. From left to right, Sairah Jared, Chris Doffet, center, and Chris Reid, on the right. Botonia asteroides/ difusa is the white and Flat-topped Golderod is the yellow in the foreground.

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the farm house area in Google-earth, with mowed and grazed Mima mounds, click on the photo to enlarge

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the prairie field of a little over 100 acres, and the trees, in green, we were working on

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Just south of the farmhouse = cool landscape

 

Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area trip

Took a quick trip yesterday to scope out a seed collecting prospect, at Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area. I’d been wanting to see the site for a few years or more. It was worth the time spent. Sandy Holler is a great natural Pine prairie site with really significant herbaceous vegetation, with not-particularly-significant woodlands.

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Big Bluestem grass is plentiful at Sandy Hollow, seen here in front of the blue pick-up. Its fairly rare to find it in Tangipahoa Parish. You can certainly get an idea of what vegetation looked like in the Parish by seeing this Pine prairie remnant.

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They don’t call it Sandy Hollow for nuthin’. Its sandy there. Bush Mint, a cool plant, yea, growing in a more dry condition than normal.

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Liatris sqarrulosa, Southern Blazing Star or Red-neck Blazing Star

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This particular seedling of Southern Blazing Star had really dark purple colored bracts, and stood out among the others as superior in form. Really nice.

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I saw lots of Swallow Tails out there. This one, I think, a Giant Swallow Tail, but there were some Spice Bush Swallow Tails a’nectarin’, too. Some happy, smiling butterflies a-flutterin’ around in the sun.

 

Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects – Built Environment – Merit Award – goes Repentance Park Landscape Architecture design team – Go Micro-prairies!!!!

Repentance Park, Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Landscape Architect:  Reich Associates

Pastorek Habitats, LLC consulted on the Indian grass slope meadows at Repentance Park, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We also provided the seed for, and contracted the growing of the 3500 Indian grass plants (thanks Gail Barton!) planted as a natural meadow garden. We worked through Reed Hilderbrand, Cambridge, Mass., who, with subconsultants Reich and Associates, and Suzanne Turner Associates, of Baton Rouge, collaborated to provide construction documents and planting and management strategies for this steeply-sloped garden at the City Hall/ Old State Capitol/ Convention Center area. Other collaborators were the City of Baton Rouge and the landscape construction contractor, George Francise Landscapes.

LEED Project Army National Guard facility in Franklinton, Louisiana contract ink is dry!!!!!!

We will start on the preparation for construction of natural meadow-prairie grass areas at the Franklinton Readiness Center, a National Guard construction project, with the first herbicide application planned for this week. We are the designers of the meadow areas, in collaboration with Dufreche-Perkins Landscape Architecture. Go Army!

THIS JUST IN!!! HITCHMOUGH VIDEO OF PRESENTATION AT LSU, APRIL, 2015!!! Thanks, Landscape Architecture Prof. Wes Michaels!  and thanks Dr. Hitchmough!

http://coadmediasite.lsu.edu/mediasite/Viewer/?peid=34967c0816f14433ac5dd36ce335030f1d

 

Crosby Arbo event/ February Prairie Gardening Conference in Louisiana

Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University event!

This Saturday July 11 is the day of the annual Aquatic plant sale (and gardening talks) at Crosby Arboretum, in Picayune, Mississippi. The Arbo has been doing this sale for many years and the staff works hard to propagate and find, cool plants to offer for sale for your water garden. I will be leading a field walk along the “pond journey” at 10:00, discussing the delights of having marginal aquatic plants in the garden and how to grow many of those we see from scratch.

Eileen Hollander, of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society will talk about propagation of the endemic, treasured Louisiana Iris at 11:00.

http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/july-calendar

February Prairie Gardening-Restoration Conference in Louisiana

I was asked by Bud Willis, the president of the La. Native Plant Society to help put together an education program focused on prairie gardening and restoration. With the help of Charles Allen, Beth Irwin and Rick Webb, I have succeeded in doing that, I think.

We have put together a single day of prairie presentations by seven of the most knowledgeable folks I know. Mark your calendars, Feb 5-7th, 2016 in the Alexandria, La. area.

Beth Irwin will speak about her work with her prairie gardens at Kalorama Nature Preserve and with Rector Hopgood’s amazing prairie in Mer Rouge Louisiana.

Charles Allen will speak on prairie dynamics natural succession

Malcolm Vidrine will speak of his work with building prairie gardens and will touch on prairie ecology.

Tree hugger and dirt lover Jim Foret (University of La, Lafayette) will speak of his home prairie garden.

Jessie Johnson will speak of her prairie gardens at Caroline Dorman’s Briarwood Nature Preserve.

Larry Allain of the National Wetlands Center will speak on prairie restorations he’s worked with and maybe share some insights into his many years of study of prairie pollinators.

Jim Willis of Cat Spring, Texas , co-founder of the Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), is a prairie gunslinger like no other. He has helped re-establish over 40,000 acres of prairie by way of his wonderful work with the WHF. Jim is a master of the farm implement when it comes to building grasslands.

Bring your questions. You’ll most likely get them answered at the conf. See the article from the Houston Chronicle on Jim and the WHF, below. how lucky we are to have him visit with us from so far away.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/science-environment/article/Prairie-landowners-replant-to-make-room-for-quail-5928426.php

It should be a great day with lots of information shared.

Cucumbers with Character

On to horticulture in the garden…..

I have been working like a Turk over the years, trying to bring in a cucumber crop on a steady basis through the summer. Around here, you can grow cukes from April to November and you should. I try to put in a new crop every couple of weeks or once a month at least. This insures a steady stream of them. I’m on my fifth crop right now. Just planted seed yesterday.

I can’t stand a store bought cucumber. They are pretty to look at but not so good to eat. yuk!

Grow your own. Its so darned easy.

Okay, sometimes things go horribly wrong but heck, that’s farmin’, folks.

Its when they go right that matters and if you do a crop each month, you’re gonna enjoy reaping the benefits of your work. Go organic, dude. Yee who tries sometimes succeeds.

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My planting yesterday of cukes. Last week I took a shovel and turned the soil in this spot. came back yesterday and turned again, opened a slight linear trench with my shovel head, and sowed seed. I stepped on the seed to press them into the ground, and then barely covered them by busting a few clumps of soil with my hands over the seed trench. Then I stepped on the trench again to double up on soil-seed contact.

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a garden planted June 15th with a row of squash in the back and two rows of cukes in the foreground, left. I built two simple structures out of scraps for the vines to climb onto.

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this is the same garden yesterday. I build leaning trellises so the cukes hang away from foliage and are easier to find.

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I love to mulch with cardboard. these were planted a couple of weeks ago, just tied up yesterday, onto the cross-rope with little strings. I use the same technique of stringing that I learned at the tomato farm where I worked when I was just a whippersnapper. Tie the string in a boland knot so it doesnt sinch down and strangle the stem and then go up to the cross-rope and tie off. Each week, I assist the vines up the string by wrapping the vine around the string, just like at my old friend Lee Smith’s farm! Cardboard is so cool to work with, and its like, free! You can see the old cardboard (behind, in white) from last year, still suppressing weeds. Working overtime!

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looking north, Monty the Labradorian prairie dog chillin’ next to the Cucurbitaceae patch. On the left going up my hog-panel dragon sculpture is the wild and crazy Cucuzza squash vine, just getting started. In the center of the image is my heirloom White Chayote vine, down here we call the Merletons (we say it Millitons). French, I guess. I got this from friend, Bonnie Bordelon. Thanks Bonnie!

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You can see in the foreground here, my mulch job with all the recycled paper I collected from our office last week. saweet!!!

Verbena-on-a-Stick, Verbena bonariensis, great plant for nectaring Lepidoptera

Most garden folks know the common weed Verbena Braziliensis. Its a weed you can find all over the Gulf Coast; not so pretty, but a Butterfly magnet. Most folks don’t know V. bonariensis, a bad-ass plant for garden color with a long, long bloom time and an ability like few, to attract so many kinds of Skippers and Butterflies, flies, wasps, bees and such. Real nice.

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I grew about 250 of these last year from seed. Spent ten bucks and ended up with lots of plugs, which I planted and gave away. I used to grow this years ago just for the flowering but I would say it is a solid 10 when it comes to pollinator attraction. It didn’t like it in the areas I burned but it loves to grow, most places that are sunny. Its not a stellar perennial but if you plant several they will hang on for some time; years. I found a stand of this plant with Charles Allen once in Newton County Texas at an old home site where the home was gone and the soil sandy and that is likely why it persisted so many years. Howabout dat.

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I know you have been waiting to see my life-size carboard cut-out Blue Hawaii Elvis so I placed him, for scale, in front of the Verbena bonariensis in the garden. Thank you ver’ much.

I posted a youtube vid with the Gulf Fritillary that was hangin’ out at the garden yesterday. There were lots of different Skipper Butterflies working the flowers.

 

 

the MD Anderson-Mays Center and Steve n’ Jake pocket prairies

Pocket prairie is a term used for describing small prairie gardens.  By small, I mean postage stamp size to a few or more acres in size. You can find pocket prairies all over the place. Two really good ones that I saw this week are the M.D. Anderson, Mays Center prairie garden in the Medical Complex area in east Houston and the Steve and Jake Pollinator Habitat Garden at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

Both of these were planted just a couple of years ago. Both are stellar examples of backyard habitats in high profile locations.

The two-acre Mays Center garden is located in the heart of a huge complex of medical centers and is a natural area where not much else is natural. Dominant in native grasses but full of colorful flowering prairie plants, the gardens are a quiet area for contemplation. Its an outdoor park with a focus on native grassland vegetation of the Houston region.

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From above, the prairie areas are in darker green color, mostly to the left of this googleearth image.

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nice lines are made, with turgrass meeting prairie

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a couple of interpretive signs speak of the flora, fauna, and historical content.

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the Mays gardens were controlled burned last year

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American Bachelor Button is a fun plant to play with. It is easy from seed as a winter annual and it very showy and very fragrant (above). They close up in the afternoon (left) and open in the morning time (right). click to enlarge

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a wallow was created to quench wildlife’s thirsts.

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a nice Carex sedge, maybe an esculentus, odoratus relative

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Yellow Indian grass beginning to flower

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The Texas Blue Bell and Button Snakeroot were planted throughout. I understand that the seed for planting this prairie came the recent grass-roots-acquired-preserve; the Deer Park Prairie. Jaime Gonzales, who worked on this project via the Katy Prairie Conservancy and the Coastal Prairie Partnership, also help to spearhead the purchase of Deer Park. Deer Park is a wonderful prairie remnant that was slated for destruction, construction. The People took action and raised the money to purchase Deer Park and prevented its demise. What a happy story.

The Steve and Jake Garden at the University of Louisiana,  Lafayette, is a great contrast to the Mays Center garden. It is one that people all around the region can emulate, right in their own front yard.

The Steve and Jake Garden is at the northwest entrance to Hamilton Hall on the UL Lafayette campus. From what Professor Jim Foret told me, Steve Nevitt and Jake Delahousseye got seed and grew plants and planted them all in the two areas on each side of the walkway leading into the doorway area. came out nice, guys. Did ya’ll have some help? I hope they’ll comment here.

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Maestro Jim Foret stands in front of the Steve n’ Jake garden at Hamilton Hall, ULL, Lafayette.

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opposite the garden is an Oak that Maestro Jim’s Daddy planted back in 1952. Cule.

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looking west at sprawling Eastern Gamma grass reaching out to touch passers by.

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There’s a really classy brick edge that’s really wide wrapping around the garden edge. Behind is a bench-like architectural structure, which edges the backside very nicely.

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a cacophony (dat’s a lot, ya’ll) of floral color, including the erect, beautifully blue leaves of Yellow Indian grass (above, right).

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click on this photo to enlarge it, above

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Hibiscus large and small

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and Sunflowers…

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a large Mamou plant has an island unto itself

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and then we took the State prairiemobile to see the State highway planting demonstration plot for Department of Transportation along highway 90. Ryan Duhon, with DOT has been diligently spraying and prepping the site. Jim and Ryan were able to get a plan together a year or so ago for planting a cool prairie near the large Live Oak that was saved by DOT from destruction, Mr. Al, the Live Oak Tree. Al looked great and so did the prep work so far! another pocket prairie, to be seeded in November.

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Highway 90 east of New Iberia, Louisiana (the Berry) will be the new home of a demo Cajun Prairie, near the famous but modest Mr. Al, the Live Oak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

wheels on new Louisiana Children’s Museum design, rolling

Several, okay many, wonderful things happened this week in the life of Pastorek Habitats, the business. But best part of the week, as always, is like yesterday, when all the work was done and I made an early-morning break for the Mississippi state line; Pearl River County, that is, for some George W. Bush-like rest and relaxation (only in a Murica!).

Down on the farm its always like heaven on Earth for me. I got a chance to do some spraying in what is to be a new experimental planting area, getting ready for planting next year. Got to walk the prairie gardens. Lots of butterflies, everywhere. Go Micro-Prairies!!

One of the most exciting things to happen this week work-wise was my phone meeting with Architects Debra Guenther and Christian Runge with the firm Mithun. Mithun was chosen for the design of the new Louisiana Children’s Museum which will be located on eight acres in City Park, New Orleans, near the Museum of Art and the Botanical Gardens. Mithun has offices in San Fransisco and Seattle and they’ve been working with the Children’s Museum on the development of the idea of a new facility for several years.

Mithun is an interdisciplinary firm of architects, landscape architects and interior designers, providing integrated design of all those services on the project. Biohabitats’ roll is that of water resource ecologists for the project and Pastorek Habitats as the native plants and soils ecology. Its a real honor to be included in this short list of team members.  🙂

The design process is in full swing and should be finished, with working specifications completed within the next ten months or so.

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above, a few of my favorite things; a cool Prairie Parsley stand, down at the farm in Mississippi. Lots of different insects using it- fun to watch.

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click on the photo to enlarge. in the foreground, is the spring fluff of the extra-fine mass of inflorescences of Winter Bent grass, Agrostis hyemalis, a very common and abundant disturbance-oriented perennial winter-grass that is finishing up now in the natural landscape. Behind it is Sweet Coneflower, Rudbeckia subtometosa, the dark green in the center background, with course-textured Velvet Panicum, Panicum scoparium on the left and the bluish leaves of Switch grass, Panicum virgatum on the right. This is in the garden, at the house in Covington, Louisiana.

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Before I knew what Winter Bentgrass was, I called it Mississippi Tumbleweed because I lived my early adult years, 26 years, in Pearl River County, Mississippi and I always saw it collect on the fence rows in cow fields. The stem of the inflorescence, breaks, becomes detached, and floats away-rolls away in bundles, in the wind, often collecting in large windrows at the field edge. Its a beautiful thing, Winter Bent grass is. Its motional. It moves in the landscape and then around the landscape.

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cool pic of the flower of Mottled Tuberose, Manfreda variegata (foreground), with my son Cale’s “tornado pot” and my ceramic sculpture “Family”, on yellow pedestal. The Tuberose is such a great garden plant, a native of Texas-northern Mexico. I got my start many years ago from Texas nurseryman and radical garden designer Will Fleming. The flowers are all stamen and really unusual but its all about the foliage of Mottled Tuberose. Its like a giant Manfreda virginica, but with dark green leaves that are strap-like and often, 12 to 18 inches long. The rosette of leaves grows low and flat to the ground, no more than a few inches tall; perfectly prostrate, covering a circle of ground and eventually making pups that pop-up from the root. Coolest plant ever? Maybe. Best plant ever? Probably.

Mr. Fleming selects for the really mottle leaf forms since the seedlings vary greatly from heavily mottled to nearly mottless. He likes to put those showy ones in his gardens.

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Here’s a garden with Mottled Manfreda that I planted five years ago in the native garden area at City Park Botanical Garden, New Orleans. It was budding-up a couple of weeks ago when I visited. Mexican Primrose, the pink carpet surrounding it, in spring full-glory.

a very revealing story in this paper written by my friend and mentor, Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, at below link

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1076&context=napcproceedings

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above, for more on the story of our need to protect the health of our watersheds, streams and rivers, is this book by Dr. Vidrine

Also, a notice for the Tall Grass Prairie Center’s -2015 Iowa Prairie Conference: Working Prairies in July via Dr. Bruno “Tee-Bru” Borsari, in Winona, U of Minnnesota – see link

http://www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/2015-prairie-conference

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHERS ON THIS, MOTHER’S DAY, AND ESPECIALLY TO MY BEAUTIFUL MUM, JANE PASTOREK! (…and to Candi, my wife)

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Crosby and Kisatchie Bog-Baygall trips, May 16th/Lipkin Hill Botanical Area-Old River WMA trip a near-complete success!!

Dr. Wayne Morris will lead a group of wild plant enthusiasts on a field trip to the Crosby Hillside bog and to the Steep Hollow natural area. As far as I know, this is the first trip Crosby has offered the trip to the Steep Hollow site, a place I have wanted to see for many years. Should be a great day, with many folks filling the pews. Be a part of this fun and informative field day. Turn off the computer and TV and get some nature in, ya’ll.

25th Annual Bog and Baygalls Field Trips with Dr. Charles Allen

For 25 years, folks have been meeting for the Bogs and Baygalls event in Kisatchie National Forest. For the last 15 years, this event has been based at the home of Charles and Sue Allen, who live on a property that joins Kisatchie, with the Ouskachitto River in their backyard.

Charles has worked for many years building and managing gardens focused on butterfly attraction. Charles is one of the the leading authorities on Bogs and Baygalls and he has been involved in this fun weekend of events since its started with the help of the late Robert Murray.

I haven’t decided which of these bog events I will attend, but I’m sure they will both be well attended and will be fun-filled days.

Old River WMA Lipkin Hill Botanical Area trip was a success!

We met for the annual field trip at my prairie seed farm Saturday. It was a light crowd, smaller than usual but we were also getting predictions of 60% rain for the day. As it turned out, we finished the four hour event with perfect weather, just as the rain began to come down.

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You know you’re getting close to Lipkin Hill when you start seeing the Indian Pinks,  Spigelia marilandica,in the leaf litter, above, and Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia.

We missed the Native Camellia, Stewartia malacodendron, in flower, by a day, or maybe a couple of days. Two years ago, when we made the trip last, we were a single day late, finding only clusters of stamens on the plants, and petals of the spent flowers on the ground. A rain had come the night before and beaten the flowers off.

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a tight bud of Native Camellia, a giant at fifteen feet tall and wide. The only blooms that occur are way up high where the branches reach for precious sunlight. A thick canopy of old growth trees covers this north facing slope of this River bluff

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above, a baby Stewartia, a foot or so tall, may be as old as twenty or forty years.

I have been going to Lipkin Hill since 1983. The Stewartias look the same as the first time I saw them. These are ancient plants. My good friend, Dorothy “Dot” Burge, who lived only 500 yards from Lipkin hill since 1945, said that they have stayed the same since she first saw the in the late 1940’s. No telling how old these plants are.

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above, an old Magnolia grandiflora with old native Vitus, muscadine vine, lovingly attached.  Rick and his wife Susan were, at one point, only thirty or so feet away and I could barely make them out, the woods are so dense there.

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above, here everything reaches upwardly. Rick Webb found the prize du jour, the Pyramid Magnolia in bloom. Here he bends the branch over for this photo of heaven right here on Earth. The flower’s about a foot across in size.

To get to Lipkin Hill, we walked a mile or so into the woods until suddenly the trail drops dramatically off the bluff, into the Pearl backwater.

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above, looking west into the beautiful Pearl River backwater, standing on the old logging rail spur bed that was cut into the slope, you see a fine second growth of buttressed Cypress-Tupelo-Water Hickory bottomland forest. In summer, when the floodwaters recede, the backwater ground plain fills becomes a mud-flat filled with White Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias perennis, and Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

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Looking up the trunk of one of the many fifty foot tall Cowcumber Magnolia trees, Magnolia Macrophylla, that fill this west-facing slope of Lipkin. Susan Webb pointed out giant flower petals on the ground that had fallen from the sun filled tops of the Cowcumbers.

Photos of the Week

Coreopsis nudata, found in only one Parish in Louisiana, St. Tammany, on a highway in the south part of the parish, in a pine flat.

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This Coreopsis is an obligate wetland species, not common in the landscape, especially here at the very western edge of its distribution range. click to enlarge photos.

 

 

Mac Vidrine speaks/ and 6 thoughts on I-55 for MS and LA DOT

See below, an hour long presentation by one of my major mentors, Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, biologist-naturalist-prairie ecologist. You will enjoy this if you are a friend of the soil. Its a How and Why on Butterfly gardening and Monarching in Louisiana…..   Malcolm practices his Black Belt form on camera!

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click on the above pic,  and see Asclepias viridis at the Bogue Chitto, Mississippi exit on Interstate-55, looking north at 7:30 a.m.

State highway mowing-management in Louisiana and Mississippi needs advice from the perspective of an ecologist or three

I did some 70 mph botanizing, on my trip for work to West Monroe, La. Monday. I made a few stops to photograph and to do some brief on-the-ground botanizing as well. On the way back, I rode the part of Interstate 55, from Brookhaven, Ms. to Hammond, La for the second time that day. There was some stark differences in the landscape, between the Loosiana side and the Mississip side of I-55.

I made a few observations.

1. Why does the State mow this early along the highways?

The Mississip side of the state line, from above Brookhaven to McComb, was just filthy with Green Milkweed. There were thousands and thousands of plants, some of the most beautiful stands I have seen in a single day’s time; mile after mile of it. The Louisiana end, from Hammond to MacComb had been mowed about a month before. It was mostly void of flowering plants; thirty miles of Milkweeds swimming in species richness vs. thirty miles of no Milkweeds and almost flowering plants.

The Louisiana end looked like a golf course rough, and if you blurred your vision, it looked like a golf course fairway, a really slick lawn. The Mississip side was chocked full of flowering splendor. There were painterly sweeping strokes of the bright golden yellow of Coreopsis lanceolata, the Lance Leaf Corepsis, Coreopsis tomentosa, The Hairy Coreopsis, the clear-white of Erigeron Philidelphicus, the Showy Daisy Fleabane. There were possibly hundreds of millions of tiny purpley Verbena rigida and tenuisecta flowers, and most definitely hundreds of millions of umbel-buds of Sinecio tomentosus, Wooly Golden Ragwort, one of the prized and cherished, most beautiful of the perennial wildflowers in our fair state, especially in those numbers, the populations are phenomenal.

Crossing from the Loosiana border across to the Mississip border, I felt like Dorothy stepping into Land of Oz.

The mowing in late March of the Louisiana side brought the vegetation down to six inches, which triggered a vegetative reaction (new growth). It also exposed the soil to direct sunlight, which heated up the soil early-on, which totally shut down the groovy vegetation and spurred the growth of things that will come much later, on the Mississip side.

The sad part is its just a matter of a week or so before the mowers hit I-55 Interstate systems. They’ve just been held up by our persistent rains. I saw them working in full force on I-20.

2. the argument for mowing the highways (and I have heard it from the horse’s mouth), is that it is a safety concern/hazard because of the height of the vegetation. Right now, the only species that is at all tall is an occasional Thistle, maybe one or ten thistles every ten acres. Does a thistle every now and then constitute an entire mowing of ten thousand acres? Probly not.

I agree with the idea of mowing in late May or June, but right now, the vegetation where it hasn’t been mowed is only about six inches higher that where it has been mowed. I say bully bully. I say wait until the Milkweeds are done fruiting before mowing commences. This will likely benefit the Milkweeds, no?

3. The DOT needs an ecologist muscleman on staff or as a consultant, to guide their management strategies. DOT is the largest manager of land in the state and should be run as such, with an ecological approach hammered into the program.

The reason there is not an ecological approach to highway management is that the DOT would have to change their activity schedule and reduce mowing. They’d have to give up spraying their unwise herbicide use and if they didn’t mow, they’d hear it from Senator such-and-such and all the other mow-happy folks in the state via telephone or email. I am told DOT people get a lot of flack from folks when they don’t mow so its a quandary.

I am all about safety and federal guidelines on the Interstate highway system but these folks are seriously misguided and have very big guns (budgets). They know that if they reduce their management, they’ll loose money and all state departments always want more money.

4. Reduce herbicides in the landscape

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above, When they spray over the railings on steep slopes, they are causing dead vegetation and excouraging soil erosion. This costs money to fix.

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Miles and miles of herbicide sprayed along the Mississippi (Milkweed) side of the border. It is simply bad planning, in my opinion to install the protective rails so close to the highway edge. This makes for an unsafe environment for highway workers and a difficult zone to manage, so close to the highway. It should be placed in the middle of the median. Bad form on design, MDOT. And the herbicides just kill perennial grasses and forbs and encourage weedy, tall annuals. Any horticulturist knows that. You’re making the vegetation more weedy by spraying.

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above, the beauty of Verbena rigida and Senecio tomentosus, near McComb, Mississippi. click on the photos to enlarge ’em.

5. Engineers know engineering, Landscape Architects know landscape architecture, but do either know that this is a beautiful natural garden that does not need mowing this early in the growing season?

Apparently not.

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above, the very beautiful but highly invasive Cogon grass, on I-59, south of Picayune, April 22, 2015. The seed of Cogon grass is maturing and about to float away on its journey to find bare soil to connect with. Spraying now is easy for crews to do since it is now that it is so highly visible. Ideally it should be sprayed just before seed heads mature to this point (four or five days ago, every year).

6. Cogon grass, our worst invasive plant, a horrible offender, a grass that is moving more rapidly across Louisiana now, as it did in Mississippi, since the mid-1990’s, will be impacting the economy of the Louisiana (as it has in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi). The state has a resonsibility to be vigilent in its efforts to contain it on their rights of way. They are the stewards of our roadways and they should be focusing on Cogon when it is just about to fruit, right now; spraying the dickens out of it. After all, this is the only time a crew of sprayers can identify and shoot at it to kill. Our roadways are the corridors that the fluffy travel-for-miles-seeds of Cogon grass moves. Put the crews out spraying Cogon instead of mowing our lovely wildflower gardens. Get productive, DOT!

I think I’ve said enough.

totally artificial, but perfectly natural!

I did a short presentation for Dr. William Platt and his LSU Conservation Biology Lab class yesterday on prairie landscaping. After I was done, we discussed the work I do and how the students could build their experiments around the previous class’ data collecting and research results at Chappapeela Park in Hammond. Dr Platt thinks highly of the vegetation there. He said that my work with prairie is “totally artificial, but perfectly-natural”. I thought that was a awesome. So true, Doc!

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K-9 Conservation Biology Lab Teaching Assistant Kimber makes her rounds while Dr. Platt’s discusses experimental possibilities with his wiz-kid students.

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take me to your leader! cool rendering of the new sculptures going into Lafitte Greenway, NOLA in November

I attended the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Water Challenge function Monday to see if our design would be the chosen one, but we were won-out by the really cool, spinning, night-lighted, sound-generating scuptures concieved by artist Michel Varisco’s “Turning”. We were sad to lose but this was honestly, a good choice. Its beautiful, kenetic modernistic artsy stuff. The sculpture’s going to be the first art installation installed along the Greenway. Maybe more to come from what I hear! Thanks to Jen Blanchard for inviting me be on the team of designers who collaborated to conceive and produce a great finished design proposal. see the winner Ms. Varisco in the articles below. Next competition, Jen!!!

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2015/03/water_challenge_entrepreneur_w.html

http://nolavie.com/variscos-turning-wins-first-living-with-water-arts-pitch-10847/

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above, a borrowed drone photo from Facebook of the play fields/ native grass areas, one of many along the Lafitte Greenway. In all, about ten acres of native grass, prairie, and wetland sedge-meadow gardens will be established. The meadows are the major features besides the trees and turfgrass in the landscape design. Meadows will  help capture stormwater runoff from the Park site. We designers had a timely meeting this week finalizing the details of the Greenway planting plan. We’re now three and a half years of design work with another two and a half or three years of establishment and management left to finish. It will be a unique Park for New Orleans, for sure.

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At North Broad Street and Lafitte Greenway. Doing last minute detail study before the big meeting. Saweet!!!! The wetland-retention ponds are constructed and most of the final grading is done. Ribbon cutting ceremony in June or July, ya’ll.

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above, a photo taken by Dawn Allen McMillian in April last year at the Cajun Prairie Society’s meeting. This year, along with prairie restoration and garden tours, we are presenting the first “native prairie seed auction”, a fund-raiser event planned for the business/ lunch part of the meeting.

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Dr Charles M Allen in 2012, while planting the third “grid garden” at Duralde Restoration site. The second was done just across the road from this one in 1998 or 99 or so. The first, earlier than that. We disked this area for two years before we planted, in November 2012. I collected the seed. Charles and I designed it, and a wonderfully spry group of volunteers planted it.

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Jackie Duncan, Greg Trahan, Sara Simmonds, Margaret Frey, and Linda Chance, laying out the grid

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October 2014 mowed paths, the crop-circle look. The south side of the road has been burned this past winter so it should be glorious wildflower viewing for all who attend.

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Charles’ description of the design.

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Charles’ recently produced prairie map for Louisiana. Cool, huh? It is to be published in the new Handbook for Prairie Restoration in the Southeast, By Jovonn Hill, et al, Mississippi State University, due out this summer.

I got to see the amazing Dr. Sara Mack of Tierra Resources speak at the Water Challenge event. What a treat that was to hear about her work with Wetland and marsh restoration and water-minded collaborations in Louisiana. She is a force. She’s a Louisiana hero.

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Dr. Sara Mack, Entrepreneur Week Water Challenge past-winner and speaker at Water Challenge 2015

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Second meeting in a week with the BREC, the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks folks. They run an amazing model for urban Park management. Everyone should see their management guidelines. They are to reach a goal of reduced mowing over time, going to a more sustainable model. This is the Bluebonnet Swamp meadow area we discussed Tuesday. Last week I was with horticulturist Brett Autenberry at the Baton Rouge Zoo.

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Bluebonnet Swamp is delightfully sublime.

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Cypress knees

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Lizard’s Tail covers the marginal bottom of the swamp preserved by BREC at Bluebonnet.

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I am proud to be working with such a game-changing group of folks such as BREC!!! I’ll be meeting with the new Conservation Specialist on staff at the BREC Conservation Department, Matthew Herron on the idea of doing a meadow planting at Independence Park in Baton Rouge in the next couple of weeks.

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above, “the falls”  at Clark Creek.

If you haven’t ever been to Clark Creek Natural Area in the Woodville, Mississippi area, try to go. There’s a filed trip hosted by some great botanists and naturalists with the Capitol Area Native Plant Society.  they say……..”Also…this area is quite rugged (for our part of the world haha), so if doing some up and down walking is not your thing, this hike isn’t for you. Make sure to bring some water and a little bug spray (for possible ticks and chiggers), and there is a small ($5 or less) fee for vehicle access. If you’d like to meet us there, the address is 366 Fort Adams Pond Rd., Woodville, MS”  fun starts at 8:45 9:00 tomorrow

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adios amigos!

 

 

Eunice prairie demonstration gardens tour, April 4

The Cajun Prairie folks will hold their spring wildflower tour on April 4th, celebrating the prairie, lead by the two pioneering biologists who started the Eunice Prairie Restoration garden nearly twenty eight years ago. In my opinion, this is one of the top 3 public garden destinations in the state of Louisiana. Society members burned the site for the first time in two years this February and we had an intense fire as a result. It is always a beautiful site to see the prairies during the first week of April, at peak spring bloom; not much created by man in these parts compares. Imagine ten acres of the most beautiful garden you can conceive of and thats pretty much what you’ll see at Eunice in April. Remember Dorothy and friends in The Wizard of Oz walking through the poppy fields? Well, its much better than that. Heavenly, hallowed ground it is.

From this site, this planting, much of the research on seeded prairie landscaping in the Gulf South has been garnered. Many scientific papers have been produced via this single experiment. And many prairies have been produced with seed from it. This is a preserve managed for the conservation of Louisiana Tall grass prairie genetic ecotypes. (click on photos to enlarge, photos by Dawn Allen McMillian and myself)

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sensitive briar, Mimosa quadravalvis

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Phlox pilosa color variations

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awesome rare wild onion, Allium mobilense

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blue eyed grass

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Cardinal on a burnt twig

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there are tens of thousands of Baptisia in the ten acre Eunice Restored Prairie, many of them unique, rare, natural hybrids

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Praying Mantis

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white false indigo, Baptisia alba

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Baptisia bracteata

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Gulf Fritillaries on passiflora vine

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The tour will begin at the Duralde restored prairie, a 350 acre prairie collaboration between the the Cajun Prairie Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lacassine NWR. There you can see lots of acreage of natural coastal Tallgrass prairie seeded in 1995-6 and transplanted with rescue plants over many years from the now extinct Frey prairie remnant, just south of Eunice by the Society and other volunteers. There you can walk through seeded experiments and demonstration gardens planted as a research project in 1998. There’s also the two-acre demonstration garden designed by Dr. Charles Allen and myself, which will is unique to the southeastern U.S., an individual prairie species garden with 10 x 12 feet rectangular plots for all of the conservative species of the prairie to be managed in a mowed- grid form. This area was burned this year, first time in a few.

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The 2-acre Duralde demo garden, November 2015. At two years old, its just a pup.

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Dr. Charles M. Allen, biologist, horticulturist, Sept 2014

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Dr. Malcolm F Vidrine, left, biologist, horticulturist, April 2014

Program for Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society Spring Meeting and Tours-Saturday, April 4, 2015

8:00 AM: Tours of Duralde Restored Prairie. Directions: Take LA 13 north out of Eunice and after crossing a bridge, go about 1.5 miles and turn left onto La 374. If coming from the north on La 13, about 6 miles south of Mamou, just past the Fire Station, turn right onto La 374. Follow La 374 west and it will take a sharp right then a sharp left. After straightening out from the sharp left, go about 0.5 miles and turn left at the first double intersection.  You will be turning left onto a gravel road that is Navy Road.

Navy Road is about 2 miles from La 13. Follow Navy Road and it will take a sharp right and then will start a sharp left but you will not turn at the left but drive straight into Duralde Prairie.

10:00 AM: Eunice Restored Prairies; meet at the corners of Martin Luther King and East Magnolia and enjoy the best restored prairie in the United States. This site is north of U.S. 190 and east of La 13. For those of you coming from the north on La 13, turn left (east) at the first paved road (East Magnolia) to the east after you cross the railroad tracks in Eunice. Go a couple of blocks and the prairie is on your left. For those coming from the east on U.S. 190 turn right (north) at the first red/green traffic light and follow Martin Luther King Drive for a couple of blocks and the prairie is on your left. For those coming from the west on U.S. 190, follow U.S. 190 through Eunice and after crossing a railroad track, go to the next red/green traffic light and turn left onto Martin Luther King Drive (See above). For those coming from the south on La 13, when you reach the stop sign, turn right onto Maple Ave. Follow Maple for about 3 or 4 blocks and at the 2nd four way stop sign, turn left onto Martin Luther King Drive. Follow this street across U.S. 190 and see above.

12 noon Lunch at Rocky’s Restaurant located at 1415 E Laurel Ave, Eunice, LA 70535 (337) 457-6999. and

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society meeting.

And the presentation

“Bring Back the Monarchs” by the Bug Lady, Linda Auld of New Orleans

 

For more details about the meeting and or tours, contact Dr. Charles Allen 337-328-2252 or email native@camtel.net.

 

 

 

horticulture-worthy strains of native grasses for Gulf-influenced landscapes

One of the best things to happen to me in my working career is to have been influenced by a bunch of keen plant people who appreciated and promoted genetic diversity. This influence has helped me see the plants in the landscape with a more discerning eye.

By having the gift of spending time in natural areas, I’ve come across some noteworthy strains of plants that I believe have horticultural promise. Some are genetically unique individuals like you and I and some are entire populations of a single species in a particular location, noticeably different than the typical. Some are just normal, run-of-the-mill.

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Pioneering prairie ecologist Dr. Charles Allen and myself at Chapapeela Sports Park last Sunday in Hammond, Louisiana, checking out for the first time, the lushness of frosted-awesome prairie seeded two years ago in November. Without Charles and his side-kick Dr. Mac Vidrine (and other concerned Biologists), this, and other fabulous prairie gardens around the Gulf Coast region could not have been conceived. photo by Jeff McMillian

Here are a few Central Gulf Coastal plains species and strains worth mentioning:

Switch grass– Switch grass is highly variable in the landscape. Often, when you see lots of it, you’ll see short and tall, upright and rounded, narrow-leafed and wide bladed, blue-leaved and green-leaved. You’ll see variations in color and texture in inflorescence (flower), too. I have a nice dwarf one in my garden that grows about three feet tall in fruit. cule. the old timey selection, Heavy Metal, has been a commonly available cultivar (genetic anomaly) in the hort trade since the mid-1990’s. Northwind, a selection from up above the Mason-Dixon, is an upright and tall form that stays at attention, like a soldier. Cloud Nine is another I’ve grown for many years, getting my first plant from Niche Gardens in the late 1990’s. Its a big sucker, nine ft tall (Get it?) about that wide, too. Dallas Blue I’ve had for several years now and its of course its blue foliaged and decent in that it doesn’t flop and kind of rounded in form and medium texture. A decent plant. I think the perfect Switch for gardens is a fat-fat leaved one about three feet tall and wide, but I haven’t come across it yet. Gail Barton of Meridian Mississippi found a killer selection of Switch on Highway 45 south of Brooksville, Mississippi a few years ago. It is a beautiful grass, a beautiful plant. Its steely blue foliage with a large form about five feet, in inflorescence and a nice fine textured effect when in fruit. The cool thing about Switch grass is you can do large areas from seed really easily. We offer a mix of Switch seed from populations in the Cajun Tallgrass Prairie of Southwest Louisiana. In two years time, you can produce acres of Switch in robust, nearly mature stands.

Little Bluestem grass is said to be (or used to be) the most common sun-loving grass in in uplands(out of the wet) in East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It is a high-conservative species, worthy more ornamental use. Northern climate American are and have been selecting for this plant for many years and because of that, people are using them and making economic benefits in horticulture and commerce. We down here in the South are contemplating the matter still. This is an vertically inclined plant plant, its prolific and the beauty of it is more obvious in numbers. You wouldn’t plant a single Bluestem plant in a garden. You’d plant twenty or forty at a time, for effect. There’s strength in numbers, you know. You use Little Bluestem en masse as a element in the landscape. I prairie ecology, little Bluestem is a climax species, providing copies amounts of plants that proliferate in the landscape and when managed well, become a sod. Foliage and stem characteristics are where Little Blue got its name; Blue stems with red nodes and sometimes, the blue color is absent and shades of green dominate a stand. Sometimes the blue color is so intense it looks silver colored. In November, after first frost, Little Blue turns Little Red, and late in winter turns Little Tan. The functional value though is where Little Blue captures its niche. It provides ecological services abound. An interesting note is that Little Bluestem, below I-10 in the Cajun Prairie is associated with facultative wetland species. Normally it is considered a non’-wet loving plant but obviously genetics have adapted to wet ecotones.

Broomsedge/ Virginia Bluestem – since Little Bluestem has been so devastated, Broomsedge (not a sedge at all) is now probably the most common sun-loving upland grass in Louisiana. Its an early succession plant, moved out (in a restoration) by late succession species, Little Blue, typically. However, Broomsedge has some relevance as far as landscaping and horticulture is concerned. It can be managed in perpetuity if done with some skill. It has a most colorful presence in the landscape in the winter; an unusual reddish tan colored foliage, different than Little Blue, and of a slightly different texture. Its easily distinguished by its flattened stem nodes.

Split Beard Bluestem –Split Beard is very similar in habit and form to Little Blue until it blooms and fruits. When in fruit, the trained eye can pick it out of a line-up from a couple of hundred feet way. On I-20, if you happen to catch it in fruit before the mowers come, it creates a cottony, visually-dazzling landscape, whipped by the wind of the semi trucks. The fruit persists for a month or two. A cool, cool plant for horticulture and wildlife.

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above: Split Beard Bluestem in fruit and in the field. click on photo to enlarge

Dwarf Elliots Bluestem -Elliot’s Blue is rarely, if ever, dwarf, but there is a stand of a dwarf strain that I have been closely monitoring for two seasons, now, at a restoration in Louisiana that has horticultural promise for the Gulf coastal plain since most of our Bluestem species get really tall, especially in a garden soil with no root-space competition. An interesting thing is that when you see either Split Beard or Elliot’s, you generally see the other in close proximity. Elliot’s Blue has a similar habit to Little Blue until it blooms and fruits. Its really obvious when the fruit is on board. Fruits are wrapped in an elongated three inch sheath, something quasi-similar to a jack-in-the-pulpit arrangement. A very distinctive identifiable trait. No Bluestems look like it. The dwarf strain is obviously different than typical, and everything else around it is of normal height and form. This is obviously a strain that comes true from seed, hence the size of the stand (presently about 30 x 50 feet).

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above: Elliot’s Bluestem in fruit, and the dwarf stand, about two feet tall.

Dwarf Indian grass -Indian grass is a great prairie garden plant. It is a runner of sorts, but politely so. Again, like with most native grasses planted in a garden situation with loose soil and no root competition, the height and width can double or more, compared to the normal competitive-prairie size. In the competitive world of the prairie, Indian is polite and docile, and only grows a tuft of grass about a foot or so high, with nearly invisible floral stems to six feet, topped with highly attractive and colorful infloresnces. Yellow Indian grass is the common name for this plant since the flower heads are bright and yellowy, robust and unusually large considering the stem diameter. Indian is highly variable genetically with a variety of genetic strains coming from a handful of seed. Often there are steely blue colorations of foliage and differing leaf forms and sizes.

Dr. Susan Barton, U of Delaware (http://canr.udel.edu/faculty/barton-susan/) has made some wonderful discoveries conduction planting experiments with Indian grass. She told me about how she preps the planting area by spraying herbicide repeatedly and then mixes Indian grass seed with saw dust. Then lays the sawdust-seed mix across the ground an inch thick and voila! Instant Indian grass prairie!!!!!

Dwarf Indian in my seed field -years ago, a friend, Gail Baron (yard flower.com), gave me a few cups of Indian grass with origin, as I recall, from somewhere in Mississippi. I planted it out and it has proven to be a particularly dwarf strain. Nice.

Love grass (there are many species) – Love grass should be a good marketable plant just because of its name. It is a very short-statured grass, much wider than its one foot height. Work should be done on this plant simply because it has such a short overall height. And it comes up readily from seed.

Three Awn grass -Aristidas are feathery, fine textured and rather attractive native grasses that create puffs of color and texture in the landscape. Some come up readily from seed. These are relative to the Wire grass, Aristida strict, so common and dominant in Florida and Georgia pine lands but absent from west Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Generally dwarf in size, most often, about a foot high, wispy and vertical; moved by the slightest breeze. Purty. The best one for horticulture is A. purpurascens.

Narrow Leaf Bluestem – a most promising garden plant and lawn substitute, Schizachyrium tenerum has a short and rounded form with needly-thin leaves, growing about a foot high and 30 inches wide. Its distribution range is a fairly small area, the central  Gulf coast, mainly, with some disjunct populations, east, in eastern Georgia and North Carolina and west to Corpus Christi, Texas. Narrow Leaf Blue is unique in that it is one of the species in the Coastal Prairie of Louisiana (Cajun Prairie) that separates the Tall grass prairie of the midwest from the Tallgrass prairies of the Gulf Coast region. It has something to do with the Gulf influenced coastal pine lands intergrading with the Tallgrass prairie. Its a true Southerner.

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above: Distribution range of Schiz ten

Pineland Dropseed, Sporobolus junceus -what a beautiful and very useful grass this plant is! A favorite of mine. It graced my prairie seed catalogue cover years ago. Prairie Dropseed casts a wide net horticulturally for the potential it has for use in gardens, home and urban prairie landscapes and especially for the no-mow or low-mow native lawn. This plant is so petite, a tiny thing, that gets about six or eight inches in height and maybe a little less wide. The inflorescences are erect barely visible, they’re so thin and fine in texture. Very interesting. Its a clumping tuft with fine textured foliage and is delightful to find en masse in the wild. Am presently working on plantings of it for demonstrations for the last couple of years.

Brownseed Paspalum -Brownseed is a great early succession nurse crop for strarting a prairie garden since it comes on early in dominance and stays until competition moves it out to a lesser roll in the prairie landscape. A good wildlife plant but not much on the eyes. Most folks would say it looks like Bahia grass but it is quite different, actually. Much thinner inflorescences and fruit clusters. Its another Gulf coastal species mostly, with reach into northern area outside the coastal plain. Adaptable from Texas to the Carolinas.

Side Oats Gramma (or Side Oats Grammaw grass)– Boutaloua curtipendula isn’t supposed to be in Louisiana but Botanist Chris Reid showed me a killer naturally occurring stand last year in Cameron Parish, a stone’s throw from the Gulf. He and another expert told me that that is an anomaly and that that stand is probably something that came from seed sowed for forage. I dunno. However, its growing like a weed in the Louisiana coastal Parish of Cameron! That’s big news folks. Big potential there in that genetic strain. I went to collect some seed and or plants last year and it had just been nuked by the Highway dept. or county road crews. Bummer, dude. This species (and for us, this strain) has incredible potential for low-mow, no-mow lawns and is a great garden plant. The closest place to find it naturally near us, other than in Cameron Parish stand is in the Black Belt prairie region where it is not common at all, rare. These Black Belt genetics have potential for trial also, in heavier, higher Ph soils like New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Eastern Gamma –is a big, big plant. Its a large textured, pale green leaved, rounded plant with flower spikes that radiate outwardly and above the foliage in all directions, from the center. An ancient relative of the corn plant, if you suck on the seed a bit, you’ll see it even tastes like corn. Voted a better plant for bio-fuel than Switch because of its higher sugar content, its also an ornamental plant of note. It can be grown easily from seed but is not as fast as say, Switch grass. But in three years time, you can easily grow several acres by seed and save tons of plant costs while creating large swaths of grassy landscape. Super good fire generator and an excellent wildlife food and cover plant. Also, ook into the use of its far-southern first cousin Florida Gamma grass, rare in the wild but common now via conservation, on highways and shopping mall parking lots in south Florida, Miami area. Cool beans. I have a nice stand of about fifty maturing plants in my home garden here in Covington, trying it out. It seems to be tough as its cousin for me so far.

Go! Micro-Prairies!!!!!