Hello Meadow!

I visited a new client yesterday in the Abita Springs area Friday to consult on the idea of developing a plan for a prairie in her back yard. We waited until then to meet, so that she could let the “lawn” could grow-out this spring, with the hope of identifying a few good plants. As it turned out, we found a full fledged pine flatwoods prairie remnant, complete with all the bells and whistles!


looks like a typical un-mowed backyard, but there’s gold in thar!!!!


the illustrious Long Leaf Milkweed, in flower, Abita Springs, Louisiana

This back yard was chocked full of Asclepias longifolia, a cool pine woods Milkweed, indicative of a high quality vegetation! We found lots of Meadow Beauties, two species – alifanus and Virginica. There was the very delicate, clear blue flowering heads of Hoary Skullcap scattered all over the place. There were numerous species of Rosette grass, including the velvet leafed scoparium and the Bog-specific species, scabriusculum. This, I beleive, was a first for me, finding all my work done when I arrived for the first time on-site! whoopwhoop!!!

All I could do was to tell her to burn it, and she’ll likely see some Orchids popping in a few years. ahhhh, how do you spell relief!?



Hot Prairie!!!

Dr. Bill Platt’s LSU Entomology/ Conservation Biology 4017 students took part in the annual controlled burn at Chappapeela Park in Hammond, Louisiana last Tuesday.


White and Yellow Baptisias just before the controlled burn, above – click to enlarge photo…

The Park prairie gardens are perfectly designed for fire, with water on one side and hard surface asphalt on the other. Not easy for the fire to get out of bounds, easy to manage.


the students really enjoyed lighting up the landscape. They had done their two weeks of field work in the prairie garden, collecting different types of data for their Lab class project. We we grateful for the ten to fifteen mph wind, which helped us make the fire happen.




U.S. Foods Gardens, Flowood, Missississippi, a Trent Rhodes – Landscape Architecture design – the furture’s so bright, you gotta wear shades!


Blackeyed Susies used as a spring ephemeral annual nurse crop, adds a temporary splash of pizazz to the prairie garden areas at the U.S. Foods refrigerated transfer facility in the Industrial Park, in Flowood last week.




Its almost show time at the LEED-inspired landscape for the U.S. Army National Guard Readiness Center, Franklinton, Louisiana! 


The grounds are almost ready for native prairie planting, folks! We should be seeding late next week.


above, the wetland garden, with its new overflow drain


This will be my new playground for the next year or so. Boy, do I love my job! Thanks to Dufreche and Perkins Landscape Architects for letting me steer them with the prairie vegetation ideas! Go team!!

Carnivorous plants-a-popping at City of Covington, Louisiana’s Natural Park


The Yellow Pitcher plants, Sarracinia alata, has finished flowering and is now going to seed.


above, the very small Sundew species, capillaris, the most common one, mingles with Club Moss on the bare, fire-exposed soils of Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail


The larger Sundew, possibly Drosera brevifolia (via Charles Allen)


….and a tee-tiny mass of flowers of the meat-eating Bladderwort, Utricularia subulata (via Charles Allen). How sweet is fire for the natural open landscape?  🙂

Thanks so much to all of the folks who have made this project take off! Special thanks to Landscape Architects Priscilla Floca, Adam Perkins, and Johnny Mayronne – and author and naturalist Charlotte Sidenberg – Jane Sprouse – Skip Miller – and Leslie Ackle – all fellow board members of the very active group, Keep Covington Beautiful.

Spring blooming ephemeral annuals rock!

always so fun to play around with ephemeral annuals….


Most folks hate the most-lovely and productive native spring blooming annual Cirsium horridulum. Not only is it a perfect early flowering bee and butterfly plant, but you can eat it, too! Carefully cut and “clean” the stem by cutting all of the spiny parts off, and chew it, as it is sweet to taste. Yum-yum-scrumscious!


a Texas native annual ephemeral American Basketflower smells so good when in flower – and its big and showy – very pretty early pollinator addition to upstart prairie gardens. This one from the City of Mandeville roadside conservation planting at 190 and Causeway approach. It and tons of Monarda citiodora and Blackeyed Susies are just coming into color, as an ephemeral touch for spring.

Frisky False Indigos in my seed Farm field!


Baptisia sphaerocarpa has a typical rounded, shrub-like form.



It blooms a screaming-bright yellow… – that’s why famed plantsman Larry Lowman named his favorite selection Screamin’ Yellow.


Hundreds of White False Indigo, B. alba. litter the fields at my Farm in Mississippi. I used to dream of seeing this sort of thing years ago, as I was inspired by prairie folks’ work. Hard work pays off, ya’ll!


Yes, everything is bigger in Texas! This is a B. alba from seed from my prairie friend Botanist and landscape master Peter Loos – a Texas genetic strain that is a full feet in height. Some of these are even taller! That, my friend, is a tall Texan!

There are many natural crosses – hybrids – that has cross pollinated and developed over the years…


This is one, above, that seems to have alba and sphaerocarpa blood. Kinda looks like the cultivar Carolina Moonlight.


the coolest one I’ve found so far is this very special, unique one, an obvious cross between B. alba and B. bracteata. Notice the purple stems – nice work, bees!!!!! I have the temporary name on it, White Lightning, for now. perty perty.


I have a few Baptisia australis out there hanging on, even though they’re this close to the Gulf of Mexico – it was an experiment, ya know. But its working. They seem to like the sticky Gulf breezes – they’re northerners (bless their little hearts).


Here’s North Carolina Botanical Garden’s Rob Gardener’s hybrid of australis (this’ns not in my field), Purple Smoke…. not too shabby…

Baptisias are tough plants that will last longer than you and me put together. They are flowering with some of the earliest of the spring bloomers – and they finish up the same – they’re dormant by August, and leave tumble weed sized skeleton structures all of the field. Baptisias are for bees, an important plant for foraging pollinators. Get you some!!

Matt Conn making progress with his wetland habitat restoration, in New Iberia, Parish, Louisiana

check out Matt Conn’s blog site, his prairie section, below. Matt bought seed from me some three years ago. He’s developing a wetland property. Matt is an ecologist. A dude.





Landscape Architect Stites to discuss Park habitat restoration opportunities


above – click to enlarge



Kathleen Stites – Landscape Architect

Sunday February 21, 2016, 1:30 pm

Burden Gardens Baton Rouge, La.

5$ donation


Prof. James Hitchmough to visit Louisiana, spring 2015/ Kenyan Top-Bar groovy beehive constructed for our Covington bee meadow

I was super-stoked to hear recently the big news from my friend Professor Wes Michaels, LSU, that he has gotten a commitment from the most-amazing James Hitchmough to speak at L,S, and U this spring. Professor Hitchmough is Head of Department of Landscape- Horticulture Ecology, The University of Sheffield, Great Britain. He and his colleague Nigel Dunnett have done wonderful work, refining methods combining ecological processes and high horticulture to produce large-scale gardens that provoke deep and profound emotion. The Sheffield University work applies directly to the Urban Meadows class that Wes and I teach. We are looking for best natural practices and strategies for high-art urban meadows from seed for the central Gulf Coastal region and these folks seem to have succeeded in finely tuning that process for their geographic region.

I will announce the date of his talk here as soon as I am informed of it.


I saw Professor Hitchmough speak at the New Directions conference in New London, Connecticut last year. He was pleasantly outspoken and honest about horticulture and ecology in our world and in the U.S. He discussed his research with the process of selecting species and cultivars for his meadow designs and talked in pretty good detail about the several-year design and implementation of the gardens at the London Olympic Park. Super-cool third degree black-belt dude. click on the “watch on Vimeo” to see the video about the meadow at Oxford, England


I am looking forward to hearing him speak and hopefully meeting him again. Wes was asking where we should bring him to see sights. I was at a loss, honestly. That-there is a heck of a good question, my friend. Where do you bring someone who has seen everything? Ya’ll got any suggestions? No, seriously, anyone reading this who can suggest cool gardens of particular relevance in the Baton Rouge-New Orleans area, please do.

my Bee Meadow gets a hive

My friend Gail Barton calls her meadow area a bee meadow, mainly because it has a few bee hives on the edge of the meadow and because the bees obviously use the meadow for making honey. It was Gail, I think, who told me that the word meadow came from word mead, or visa versa. Mead, of course, is a honey and water concoction that turns to beer when hops and other beer flavorings are added. A potent concoction, mead is, ranging from 8 to 20% alcohol.

Anyway, I don’t know if I will make beer but will hope to harvest honey one day.

When I asked my buddy Jim  Foret, he told me that I needed to build the box first and hope to get a rescued hive of bees come spring time, when bee rescues occur. I have a plan, man. The other way was just buying a swarm and rescuing a wild swarm sounded more enticing to me. He said I could find videos on constructing one on youtube. duh.

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check it out, ya’ll. Took me about a day to do it. I had an old 12-foot 1 x 12 scrap Cedar board and some old heart Slash Pine Katrina-wood in the barn so I made the box of cedar and the comb supports of pine. the photo on right shows the entry point for the bees to come and go. cool thing is, the way I understand it, the bees use the comb supports to “hang” their combs and when you harvest, you just grab a comb and it comes right off from the rest and its the natural design that the bees make instead of a rigidly structured, more complicated hive.   -simple. The hive will be located in the yard in Covington and then I will build one or two for the seed farm soon.

Here’s the video I used to build mine.


Took a ride in My son-in-law’s awesome boat and saw and followed two magnificent grey whales off Dana Point California for Christmas while visiting the daughter and the Gelpi side of the Fam. That’s Catalina Island in the distance (son Doug and grand-daughter Taylor)

and a cool Dolphin video (below) with ten year old Taylor the next afternoon. We could see hundreds and hundreds of dolphins in every direction. A huge pod. It was a really wonderful, totally unusual experience! Life is crazy, no?



Neil Diboll in New Orleans next week

Meeting up with my prairie friend Neil Diboll and his life partner Reen for a four full days in the Crescent City this coming week. Neil’s a pioneering prairie design and construction guy, he’s a prairie seed producer and nurseryman who owns Prairie Nursery in Westfield Wisconsin. He’s one of my prairie heroes. I was fortunate so far to visit Wisconsin three times and saw the Leopold and Green prairie and forest restorations each time and once got to see some of Neil’s projects. I met Neil by at least 2002 when a bunch of us Cajun Prairie folks went to the North American Prairie conference in Missouri. Over the years he and I have become well acquainted and really, friends. He’s been a big help with an occasional business question or two. He’s brilliant. A whiz-kid, as Gail Barton would say. Plus, I’ve seen him dance. He knows how to make it fun. Candi and I are looking forward to hanging out in south Louisiana with the two of them, he and Reen.

Neil and I both worked on the Mississippi River on tug boats for a short period of time as young men, we both work with prairies and he’s got relatives in Lafayette Cemetery in uptown area of New Orleans where my family owns the old Schloegel tomb, so we will go visit the family burial tombs, say hello to the folks-past and then walk across to Commander’s for a bite to eat. Ghastly, ghostly!


left to right, Me, Reen, Neil, and my my sweety Candi atop the Colorado Monument in August 2014

like I said, life is crazy. I am blessed.









Monty the Dog Goes to the Farm!/ awesome new LSU Hilltop meadow planting-planning/ City of Mandeville-La DOT pine prairie planting completed/LSU Hilltop Arbo Symposium speakers finalized, announced



Monty the Wonderdog, captured in digital form, on his way to the seed farm in Mississippi the other day. Monty likes fetching sticks and smelling-out deer and other wild critters in the native grass fields. Most of all, though, he likes to stick his head out of the window to get a sense of the neighborhoods along the route. That’s what he’s best at, plus the fact that he’s a certified therapy dog and all. He’s not an amateur dog, he’s a professional! He was pleased with the day overall, he said.   (click on the pic and see him up close. He’s funny.)

I just got the notice for details for speakers for the Hilltop Arboretum’s winter Symposium and what a great line-up it is. I will, of course, be speaking on grass landscapes (duh) for the home garden and the urban environment. The symposium is geared to gardens and garden plants rather than ecological landscapes. It sounds like it will be a fun time with a speaker’s get-together the night before, so I’ll be able to catch up with a few folks I haven’t seen in many years and some I’ve never met. here is the link to the Hilltop Symposium announcement. There’ll be more info coming soon, I’m sure.


Yesterday, Doug Reed was in Baton Rouge to discuss the new prairie natural area being designed for the Hilltop Arboretum. Doug is an nationally recognized landscape designer, an LSU grad, principal partner in the firm Reed-Hilderbrand, LLC, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Doug and I collaborated 3 years ago on the initial design phase of the Hilltop prairie when it was just an idea and we worked together on the super-sleek Repentance Park project in Baton Rouge shortly after that. I hear that I will likely be involved in the final horticultural details and if I get lucky, provide the seed for the actual plantings once the construction of the prairie meadows begin. I was invited to be present at Doug’s presentation to the Hilltop board of directors but am too busy with planting right now to pick my head up. Gotta make hay while the sun shines. Peggy Davis, the Director at Hilltop, organized a field trip to Crosby Arboretum and to my seed farm last summer to get a hands-on feel for what a real restored prairie is. A bus load of people connected to Hilltop visited and walked the Meadowmakers prairie paths. They must have liked what they saw since the project to create real biodiversity via constructed natural areas of meadows is still on! whoot!

Once completed, this planting will provide an outdoor classroom and research area for landscape design and biology students right in the heart of Baton Rouge.

The City of Mandeville’s wildflower conservation planting has been completed as of last Friday. I met with the very capable Herb Piller, a landscape designer with Louisiana Department of Transportation that day. He was interested in the planting process and took a few photos, asked a few questions.

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above, top: the western most planting in Mandeville at the intersection of Highway 190 and Causeway Approach Rd, and below that, the eastern most planting. All complete and ready for seed to stratify! I will be managing these gardens for two years as part of the installation contract. Really nice Long Leaf pines from Louisiana Growers! go Rick!

The burn team got together and did some controlled burning at the seed farm in Mississippi yesterday. It was perfect conditions for a wild fire and thanks to our dedicated volunteers, we got two major sections done without burning the neighborhood down. These were two areas, about four acres altogether, with two years of fuel built-up and the humidity was really high with lots of grass present so we had some really spectacular visuals and adrenaline rushes from the leaping, flaming vegetation. Lots of poppin’ and crackin’ in the low, wet areas between the hill slopes. It was quite the event, ya’ll (don’t try this at home kids)!


above: My good friend Jim McGee uses the awesome-Terry-Johnson-devised/ Terry Johnson-built, Kabota-mounted, PTO-powered spray rig, to douse the flames as they work into the fire lines at the Meadowmakers seed farm and genetic preserve, Carriere, Mississippi, December 10, 2014. Terry is a old-time good friend, who grew up on a farm in Iowa. He is a farm-taught mechanical engineer who can build and fix anything. He and Jim both have a heart of gold.


a good burn was had by all, ya’ll 🙂