Going Lawn-less in “Louziana”/ Native Grass Boot Camp Oct. 8,9,10


I am excited to be speaking back-to-back in my home town, New Orleans, on one of my fave subjects, native grasses and grass-like plants. The first presentation is to be held on November 12 @ 6:00 for the New Orleans Chapter of the Green Building Council, at City Park Botanical Garden. Its focus is on the artful use of grass dominant meadows to solve the problem of what to do horticulturally with retention basins, rain gardens, and bio-swails. The natural meadow is the perfect choice of approach to apply to these ecologically important, but often poorly designed garden spaces.

Titled: Groovy Wet Prairiescaping Ideas for the Coastal Rim

U.S. Green Building Council/ NO Chapter, click the link below. http://usgbclouisiana.org/events/event_details.asp?id=400703&group=


the awesome and most colorful Erianthus giganteum, Sugar Cane Plume grass, last week in my Mississippi meadow gardens.

The other is for the New Orleans Parkway Partners, titled “Lawn-less”. It has a similar focus but with an emphasis on grass dominant meadows in upland, typical garden conditions, as an alternative to (and in compliment of) exotic lawn grass. It will be held Decemeber 13th at 10:00 at the Parkway Partners facility on Baronne Street.


here’s the link, but it currently says someone will be speaking on Fairy Gardens that day. NOT!!! I will be speaking on the manly (okay, womanly) subject of grasses. 🙂


For those not particularly interested in the horticultural use and beauty of grasses, I say “buck-up folks!”. Its good to look into the functionality of these important horticultural and botanical not-so-showy elements. Grasses provide color, form, and texture in the landscape, anchoring the colorful, flowering plants. Most importantly, grasses provide cover for native critters, the good ones! Contrary to common belief, native critters are good, even in the city-scape, ya’ll! Some grasses are host plants for butterflies and skippers.

Everybody likes Butterflies, am I right?

Grasses also fill the function of helping water filtrate through the soil so that storm water run-off is lessened. This is the intended purpose of the rain gardens, bio-swails, and the retention basins, after all, to alleviate some of our negative impact on planet Earth.  🙂

LNPS field trip

I attended the Native Plant Society field trip in St. Francisville at the fab Dave and Tracey Banowetz gardens last Saturday. Had the great pleasure of not having to drive (yay!) since John Mayronne offered to take me. During the event, John and Rick Webb talked about the garden’s shrubs and trees and in the afternoon, Charles Allen and I talked a bit about the meadows that have been established in an old pasture area. We had a great group of folks attend, with many people of different interests in the audience. Linda Auld was there and she counted butterfly and cool insectiverous oddities. Linda has a third degree black belt in bugs.

This is Linda’s species list for the day. who knew!!?

Giant swallowtail, Zebra Swallowtail, Gulf Fritillary, Pearl Crescent, Red Spotted Purple, Tawny Emperor, Cloudless Sulphur, Little Sulphur, Sleepy Orange Sulphur, Gray Hairstreak, Checkered Skippers–( Mating Pair ), Dun Skipper, Fiery Skipper, Lacewing, Roadside Skipper, Least Skipper, Northern Broken Dash, Southern Broken Dash, Tawny Edge Skipper, Whirlabout Skipper, Yehl Skipper

Immatures:2 Sleepy Orange caterpillars on Cassia obtusafolia, 2 Buckeye caterpillars on Agalinus, 2 Large Spiny Oakworm Moth caterpillars on Oak, Polyphemus moth caterpillar on Oak

one Praying Mantis looking for lunch


above: Linda with the two large Spiny Oak Moth caterpillars, John Mayronne behind her. (click photo to enlarge)  see the article in nola.com about Linda’s Project Monarch at



above, Dr. Allen, in blue on right, makes a point while talking to David Banowetz, Little Bluestem grass in the foreground


above: Rick Webb talks shrubbery at the Banowetz’s nature farm

For those inclined to dig deeper into grasses, please look into Dr. Charles Allen’s Grass Boot Camp/Serious Workshop, held on October 8, 9, and 10th, in the Fort Polk/ Vernon District of the Kisatchie National Forest. see the link below for details

Click to access graminoid%20workshop%20Oct%207-9.pdf

see you, same time, same channel!


Chapapeela Sports Park looking mighty sporty!

Ducked in to check on the fine fuel meadows at Chapapeela Park today while in the Hammond area and was delighted to see the array of wildness there in all its glory. Of course the maintenance crew has insulted it quite nicely with herbicide spraying, but other than that, its looking pretty dashing for a less-than-two-year-old planting. Its amazing what the eradication of weeds on-site before planting does to jump start a meadow. I learned this concept the hard way. When I planted my fields in Mississippi 15 years ago, I didn’t do much in the way of prep only because we were only at the cusp of discovery back then and we didn’t know diddly. Through trial and error (plenty of error), we garnered some knowledge of how to speed-up the prairie process. This Chapapeela/ Hammond project directly lead to the City of Mandeville project, which we are currently doing prep work for with seeding to be done in November. The Mandeville project was designed by the same Landscape Architect and we’ve been working on it now for several months, polishing it up. Its about an acre or so of land in a very public and high-profile position, at a major intersection on highway 190. Sweet!


above is a photograph I took at Chapapeela today. The meadow, folks, is amazing in its diversity. I think its astonishingly beautiful. Notice how the maintenance crew has sprayed all of the best part away with round-up. I had collected Indian grass seed, had it propagated and grown off, then painstakingly planted those delectable plants all along the edge of the walking trail so that eventually the lowest possible plant would abut the walkway, and they have twice killed it all off. duh. A knucklehead is born every minute, ya’ll! :).

I met last week with Professor Jim, who teaches at ULL and happens to be one of the nicest guy on the planet. Good thing HE is teaching plant science, etc. Anyway, we had lunch and during our extended discussion, one of his students, Jennie, dropped in for an off-the-cuff consult on a project she is working on. The project is one I have visited on-site before, a large piece of property in the Lafayette area. We talked about processes and details, etc. As usual, the subject of using herbicides came up as a means of preparation. Yea, I know, if you are doing like natural landscaping, you shouldn’t need to use herbicides because they are bad for the environment. Right? WRONG! I suspect when there are no more wars and everybody loves one another and we all strive for serenity, we won’t need herbicides anymore. Only then. The fact is we have screwed up our Earth so badly in most of this part of the world, that trying to restore most landscapes ecologically means eradication of noxious weedy stuff. I think this is a good trade off. A few applications to help produce amazing diversity and substance in a feeble effort to save the Monarchs and other of God’s critters so that maybe our grandkids will have some wild things to experience and appreciate. Some spraying to totally heal a part of the earth forever. Not too shabby.

High Society Field Trip

I hope to see you at Ouida Plantation in St. Francisville Saturday for the Native Plant Society field trip hosted by Dave and Tracey Banowetz. I first did a small landscape for Dave and Tracey many years ago, about 1997-98, when they were in Baton Rouge. Bill Fontenot, the expert Bird-attraction-garden designer(see Nature Dude), had given them my name and we executed some cool work with herbs in stones an stuff. That was then.

Dave and Tracey moved to the country and started some work on a new and larger garden, converting an old pasture to awesome pasture. Back when they started, they were buying seed from the Cajun Prairie Society via Charles Allen (the grass dude). When the seed sales went from the Society to me, they purchased a few times from me and so they’ve added lots of seed over the years. This is a good approach, by the way. Keep adding seed and keep getting more of the good stuff. Its a pretty nice prairie restore these days. I saw it last year for the first time. They’ve been nurturing it by way of fire. Nice work, ya’ll!

John Mayronne, of Covington and Rick Webb of Amite, two leading figures in this region when it comes to designing with woody plants in general but native in particular, will be the experts leading the morning field trip at Ouida and Charles Allen and myself (lil’ old me) with do the prairie part of the day, after lunch. It should be fun and informative so come visit! I’ll see you there, maybe.



Johnny Mayronne (so shy and reserved) and my ugly mug at a client’s crayfish boil with the Hot 8 Brass Band in background, last spring. Its a shame we weren’t having fun that day.

for more on this go to the link,  http://www.lnps.org/index_files/TripsandEvents.htm and click on Sept 20 Ouida Plantation field trip      peace-out

a trip to Rick Webb’s Louisiana Growers Nursery = a day well spent

For about 25 years now, Rick Webb’s nursery, Louisiana Growers, located just east of Amite, Louisiana, has been a staple-source for native trees, shrubs and herbs that are either native or adaptable to this region. Rick is still doing this work after all these years, it is clear, because he loves what he does.

Walk through his nursery and he will matter-of-factly tell you as you are passing by a particular crop, what side of the road, in what creek bottom of what Parish or County the cuttings were “collected” from.

This is not your typical Liriope nursery. This is Rick’s World! A lush land off the beaten path where the bottom line comes in the form of a pick-up truck and trailer loaded to the gills with radical plant stock, headed out to a new garden somewhere.

Louisiana Growers is a regional source for good and native plants. Rick is a regional source of hard-tack knowledge about the inner workings of nursery production geared toward the cutting-edge plant market. There are no frills here. Just good nursery stock and any lagniappe information you might need to help you succeed in transitioning a particular plants into the garden.

I recently made two back-to-back trips to visit Rick to pick up some goodies for my experimental meadows here at the home place. One plant I loaded up on was ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod, a selection of Solidago rugosa that was introduced to the nursery trade by my good friend Ken Moore of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, way back in 1993. Niche Gardens actually was first to grow the plant for sale. In trials at the Chicago Botanical Garden ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod was rated number one of all the Solidagos tried. The plant, as Mick Jagger would say, is a gas, gas, gas!

Get you some, cher!

Another trip I made was for the very trendy dwarf grass, Tripsicum Floridanum, or Dwarf Fakahatchee grass. This is a plant of promise for natural landscaping on the Gulf Coastal plain. Drive around South Florida and you’ll see it just about everywhere, growing along roadways, in cottage gardens, and in cut-outs of parking lots in shopping malls. It is a really clean and neat plant, tight in growth yet robust in appearance. And dwarf. Folks like grasses to be dwarf, ya’ll. Its said that the plant has less than 500 specimens remaining in its native habitat however through wise nursery production(and locally, through Rick), it is quite available to use in the garden. Yip! This plant has no serious pests is known not to become a pest but it is an adaptable, persistent and long lived plant with lots of character and functionality.

Rick is a self described ‘Woody guy’, meaning he likes growing woody plants like trees and shrubs but he has lately been working with herbaceous plants since there has been a demand for it.

Rick has an eye for cultivated plants. He sees plants in the wildscape that are beautiful and grows cuttings of them for eventual sale. He is a plain-spoken plant connoisseur with a green thumb and nursery full of stock to prove it!

How has his nursery successfully made it through these hard economic times? Probably through shear perseverance, a little blood sweat and tears…. and a lot of love of and dedication to his work (oh, and a little help from his best friend, wife-and occasionally accountant, Susan).

Rick grows lots of native shrubs including several selections of Lyonia. He grows Arrow Wood, Cyrilla, Yaupon, and Possomhaw Holly. How many folks do you know do that? Very few. Maybe his mentor down the road, Margie Y. Jenkins, perhaps (Rick and Ms. Margie trade plants regularly)

Spruce Pine, Evergreen Sweet Bay, American Hornbeam/ Ironwood, Parsley Hawthorn? Ricks’s got it!!!! Plums? Red Cedar? unusually special Oaks? Got Virginia Willow? what a great plant. I have planted many selections of this wetland wonder from Rick over the years.

Need some stuff grown for an up and coming project? talk to Rick. He is one of many dedicated nursery-type-folks who doesn’t let dust settle on his shoulder. Rick works, and he produces lots of leafy gems for stellar gardens.IMG_3019

Rick with ‘new crop’ trees healed-in in a pine bark pile back in February


Landscape Architect Blake Guidry searches at Rick’s for just the right stuff.


A crop of Cyrilla seedlings showing genetic diversity in late Winter.


above: a dwarf gene was prominent in this Cyrilla seedling


a nice red-foliaged Leatherwood…


Long Leaf pines in grass-stage, for the taking!


a sweetly nurtured crop of Cajun Prairie genetics of Big Bluestem grass grown by Rick via contract for a cattle forage project in southwestern Louisiana (summer 2011)


Rick, with the assistance of horticulturist Gail Barton, grew Indian grass plugs via seed from Cajun Prairie genes. (summer 2012)


massive trees dug and loaded from Rick’s field, by Rick himself! (2012)


after twenty five years of making his name growing woody trees and shrubs, he may be famous one day for spotting this herbaceous genetic anomaly of Manfreda virginica that I have named Manfreda virginica var. marginata ‘Rick Webb’. Its a plant that he spotted in a crop of Rattlesnake Master that he grew for me and identified it as ‘unusual’. He pulled it to the side for safe keeping and gave it to me later. Good eye, Rick!

thanks for all the good plants!  🙂


Rick’s Louisiana Growers serves the wholesale nursery market.


Louisiana Growers website


Louisiana Growers availability list

Click to access avlapr14.pdf









high horticulture in Hattiesburg

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


Callicarpa japonica (Japanese Beautyberry), a tiny berried species


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


possibly Iris ‘Cherry Bounce’ in background, left


possibly ‘Moi Grande’ Hibiscus, gowing to seed


Halberdleaf Rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis)


a wall of Moi Grande and Flowering Maple ‘Vesuvius’


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


dwarf leaf leatherwood (Cyrilla)


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


The seed capsule of Coastal Hibiscus (Kosteletskya virginica)


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


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


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


Weeping ‘Traveler’ Red bud doing its thing.


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


Lollie Jackson, a bit blurred


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


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


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


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


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


Yellow Berried Deciduous Holly ‘Finch’s Golden’


Coral Berry (Symphorocarpos orbiculatus)


a tiny grove of Paw Paws


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


Rosa ‘Dutchess de Brabant’, a refined garden plant


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


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


Silver Aster (Aster concolor)


Native Beach Rosemary (Conradina canescens)

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


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

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