Iberia Parish’s Matt Conn makes New York Times with his wetland restoration project + 120 acres, dripping, oozing in wondrous herbicidedness + a holy-cow prairie remnant!!!

I was treated to the wondrous sight Tuesday of the project property where the mother load, 700 pounds, of wet-coastal prairie seed, seed that I have been collecting this summer, will be planted. The vegetation was nice and toasty brown, the color of awesome death. Yummy!! Boy did this make me (and my seed) happy. ūüôā

After all, why would anyone work so hard and stake so much investment in money, seed and time only to see in three or so years that it all was wasted because the right prep work wasn’t done? I would rather see the weedy vegetation totally-wasted, and my seed, so precious and rare, and so hard to acquire,¬†given a proper chance for survival. No, this seed deserves an opportunity for a long and healthy life.


above, looking west from the center of the property in southern Calcasieu Parish (click pic to enlarge)


above, looking north ……and into the bright future…

After the visit to the planting¬†site, I was then lead by¬†a good friend and mentor across the creek (the Calcasieu River) to see what he said was definitively “the most significant coastal prairie site in the state”. This coming from a fellow who at his early age, has just about seen it all. Pretty sure he was right with that claim, after seeing it with my own eyes. It was an old cattle farm property that had never been plowed, complete with monstrous pimple mounds, low prairie, and an occasional marias, all filled with premier prairie vegetation and very little, almost no, foreign invaders. On the pimple mounds were the high and dry species, some common in¬†the Looziana sandy piney woods. At the base of and surrounding the mounds were the heavy-soil low-land species. And in the marias were the marginal aquatic and aquatic species, all thick like hair on a dog’s back. We walked through dense vegetation. We worked for our reward since it was a good, hot day albeit a bit over cast and a long way to go. We¬†made a large loop with many smaller dipseydoodle-loops through what I’m guessing was about¬†ten to fifteen acres or more of land and saw only a small portion of what was there to be seen. When we were done, we were both dripping wet, soaked to our boots. Had a good work-out/ detox! Spent over¬†two hours ooh-ing and ah-ing. I am not sure who was more excited,¬†he¬†or¬†I. In April, he and his colleagues had used fire in the way of controlled burn, to breathe new life into this amazingly diverse prairie remnant, something it had not seen for many many years.

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My friend Chris in Little Bluestem grass, with tall, wiry spikes of Florida Paspalum in foreground. On right, the milkweed Asclepias obovata, with the foliage (above my hand) of Twisted leaf Goldenrod, Solidago tortifolia (click on pics to enlarge ’em, ya’ll)

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Twisted leaf Goldenrod just barely coming into color on left (it was stunningly electric), and the chalky blue of Andropogon virginicus var. glaucopsis, Blue leafed Broomsedge. Can you say drool?

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above, a sea of Solidago tortifolia and Liatris pychnostachya, and an odd-ball colored Pychnostach of thousands there, a lighter shade of pnerple!

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Chris, wading through the pycnostach, and the whiteness of Eupatorium hissopifolia on right (a pod of passion vine in my hand). num num!


Pinky-purple Muhly grass in color with a crispy-black skeletal remains of a juvenile wax myrtle in foreground/ right


the daisy-like Bidens aristosa, umbels of twisted leaf Goldenrod, spikey liatris and barely visible naked inflorescences of Florida Paspalum


above, yours truly in a marias pothole, about an acre in diameter. I went straight for the center where the Eliocharis quadrangularis was. How cool is this folks?!!!! Water was about six inches deep throughout the pothole.


dried up leaves of American Lotus,¬†amongst the dense, lush foliage of Panicum hemitomum. “Lotus in a prairie”, said the Zen master.


Chris and I agreed that we both had never seen anything close to this size of a stand of the delightful¬†mint, Hyptis alata, Cluster Bushmint. This is a highly significant plant, attractive to numerous nectaring insects. This patch was about two acres in size. Woah! We were both likes little kids in a candy store. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had found heaven on Earth.


I spotted an anomaly out of the ten thousand Hyptus plants, a double flowering form that stuck out like a sore thumb, above


Eupatorium rotundifolium, insect airport


Here you can barely make out a green mound on which Chris stands. A pimple mound that rose about six feet above the surrounding area, supporting unique vegetation. Dude.



No need for me to dream tonight! (me and my grin, a selfie, through a fogged-up smart phone lens)

Folks!!!! check out The New York Times article on Iberian Matt Conn. Matt bought seed from us last year for part of his 60 acre wetland restore. A well-done article on a cool young dude with lots of ambition. see the link below. read it and weep.


also check out Matt’s blog ¬†¬†http://turtleboyandthebirds.blogspot.com/


central Gulf South Silphiums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


Compass Plant in flower and fruit, Eunice, Louisiana


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


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

link to cool photos of Compass plant



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

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


early growth of Silphium simpsoni, above

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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



actual flowers of Silphium


after flowering, seed setting


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


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


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

Click to access Campbell___Seymour_2011b.pdf



A Will Flemming Garden, proof that everything’s bigger in Texas!

Friday I was in Houston¬†with Professor Wes Michaels and a curious group of LSU Landscape Architecture soon-to-be-graduates, we ducked in to see a garden designed and planted by Will Flemming, horticulturist, garden designer, nurseryman, awesome human being. Of course we were treated to many horticultural¬†delicacies¬†throughout the visit. Will¬†fills his gardens¬†full of beautiful and useful plants that are not the typical run-of-the-mill garden variety. There is not much bare area¬†left when he’s finished planting.

I have been a big fan of Will and his work since my first trip to Brenham, Texas in 1993 where we were introduced to each other and first talked plants while standing in one of his creations: a particularly lush ground rock garden. Will is not only famous for his plants and plantings but also his rock work.

Will distinguishes between landscaping and gardening. He says one is not the same as the other. And to understand this one must see Willie’s gardens. And many of them. Each one is so uniquely different. Willie Flemming loves collecting, growing, using, and nurturing extraordinarily significant plants.

Willie gardens!!!!!

I consider myself a fairly well versed plantsman but people like Will, I am simply in awe of. Yet there is absolutely not a pretentious bone in his body.

He is not only very willing to share his knowledge, he shares his plants. ¬†…and his gardens. He and I have been sharing plants for some years. Some of my long-time, favorite pass-a-long plants originated¬†from him.

So many times over the last twenty years he has dropped¬†what he was doing to let me into his world, to see his gardens, so that I could experience them. After all, most of what Willie does is behind the gate¬†of a¬†private garden. Each time I’ve visited his handiwork, a burst of horticultural energy has been¬†tranferred, like an IV into the blood of my veins. It is so inspiring to see and study the work of the masters. I feel really lucky to have been able to bring the class to see his work. A treat it certainly was.

Willie’s client wanted to design a garden at a rental property they owned just next door. So Will took advantage of mature Chinese Privet growing on the fence line between the two properties and after rounding off the top, carved out an opening, making it the entrance “doorway” into the garden.


Wes Michaels, as he steps into a Will Flemming Rabbit Hole.


Landscape Architect Alex Ochoa steps up to enter the Garden


Landscape Architect Keely Rizzato checking out the hand-carved entrance ceiling


above: once through the entrance doorway, you’re hit with a forceful wave a foliage and effect that will stop you in your horticultural tracks.

The garden is arranged as a small terrace, a level, open surface adjacent to the back of the house, with a fairly steep slope that drops twenty feet into one of the dry drainage channels of White Oak Bayou. Large Basswood trees shade the slope from the south and the bayou channel has an otherwise volunteer canopy with oaks and cypress. There is only water running¬† in the channel in big rain events but¬†sometimes the water backs up and the water goes upslope toward the terrace, Will informed us. Hackett stone was used for the walkways and for the steps leading down the slope. Flemming built a dry creek-bed “sedge lawn” that¬†is designed¬†to stabilize the hillside base when water runs and channels down the slope face.

Much of the planting is done for function as well as beauty. Its wonderful stuff. Lots of different plants, and gardens everywhere except for where the paths cut through it. Will focused on using plants that stabilized the slope and they are obviously working well. He masterfully uses cool natives and heirloom plants to build gardens that are beautifully arranged plant collections.

Will brought us here to show us his use of the sedge meadow, since our class focused on designing and building Urban Meadows.


I only met the cat casually, didn’t get a name, as he / she was walking through the cushiony bed¬†of Leavenworth’s sedge, Carex leveanworthii. Bronze¬†Fennel and Bee Balm¬†in the background, just prior to bloom.


above: The sunny part of the garden. On the right, St Joseph’s lily in foreground, the spikes of Manfreda variegata, sedge and Cardoon in background.


the bold grey leaves of Cardoon, Cynara cardunculus are ultra-velvety soft-to-the-touch.


a really tightly compact Sedum Will told me¬†was native to the Czeckoslovakia region of Europe(didn’t get the species name), with the fat-strapped leaves of Manfreda x Agave ‘Macho Mocha’, aka Mangave, a cross between Manfreda and Agave, a Yucca-do Nursery introduction.


St Joseph’s lily in red, the green of salvia on the right and a dwarf, blue form of Eastern Gamma grass (a Flemming introduction) in full inflorescence.


Leavenworth Sedge is cool stuff, folks. Get you some!


Lindhiemer Muhly grass, Muhlembergia lindhiemeri arches over a path. This grass does exceptionally well¬†in gardens here in Louisiana and I’ve never seen a seedling, so not invasive yet.


“the silver form”, Will said, of Saw Palmetto, Serenoa repens at the far end of the gardens, as compared to the “blue form” which he said, is more common in the nursery trade. Eyelash Leafed Salvia, Salvia blepharophylla is on left foreground as a ground cover with Inland River Oats, Chasmanthium latifolia on the far side of the Saw Palmetto, punctuated¬†at-top¬†with Crinum and Leavenworth’s Sedge.


stone paths lead the way in the garden, with Rain Lily hybrid Zepharanthes¬†“Labuffarosea”¬†(a super duper garden plant for Louisiana), occasionally lining the edge


Stone craftsmanship by the Flemmer!



the delicacy of Prairie Phlox merges with the rigidness of natural stone.



Prairie Phlox in the foreground, Bear Grass, Nolina budding-up for flower, and Meadow Rue, Thalictrum just beyond.



steps leading down to the base camp


A trademark plant of Will would be the old world Cardoon Cynara cardunculus. These are herbaceous with velvety silver leaves. They were huge.


Mottled Tuberose, Manfreda variegata¬†flower stalks just before blossom, lunging upwardly, reflecting the verticality of the building’s architecture. Mottled Tuberose is¬†an excellent garden ground cover for us in Louisiana for shade or sun, adaptable to most garden soils.


Saw Palmetto, River Oats, and Spiderwort all work hard to keep erosion from occurring.


Wes Chats with Will at the summit



Will Flemming exits the garden through the Privet doorway.

What’s taking Garden Design magazine so long to find this guy?

a meeting of the minds, ….and me

Yesterday was a very big day for ecological restoration and natural landscape design in the great state of Louisiana.

As I may have mentioned, I am assisting in the slightest way, with two classes at LSU in Baton Rouge: Urban Meadows: Contemporary Planting Design with Native Grasses and Wildflowers, with Wes Michaels and Conservation Biology Lab 4015, with Dr William Platt.

After yesterday’s Meadows class, Wes and I walked across campus to Dr Platt’s office for a planned meeting. We’d all been talking about this for a while. It was very informal but quite productive. It was the first of many that I suspect will come in order to put in place, demonstrations gardens of¬†natural meadows at LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum. At the same time, Hilltop will receive a rather hefty jewel in its crown: a complex representation of Louisiana herbaceous flora. Best of all, everyone’s excited about the idea.

This will put Design and Biology in a common project goal of providing a regionally unique outdoor classroom of reconstructed native herb-flora gardens, Louisiana prairies/savannas, in the most-visited public garden in the City. The gardens would be managed with controlled burns which are essential to their survival. Paramount to all of this is the telling research that will result from this work. And the gardens will certainly become inspiration for designers and ecologists alike.

How exciting! What a good thing for Mother Earth. ūüôā

yes, ¬†….yesterday was another Earth Day of sorts.