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A Day in the Prairie – Part I

Two weeks ago I spent the day touring prairie remnants near Forest, Mississippi.

The outing was sponsored by the Mississippi Native Plant Society.  Heather Sullivan, our fearless leader, is a Botanist and Curator of the Herbarium at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.  So.. we were in good hands.

Our primary goal was to visit Harrell Prairie Hill a 160 acre tallgrass prairie preserve to view the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) display.  Harrell Prairie is part of the Jackson Prairie Belt which is a type of Black Belt Prairie.  The site is located in the Bienville National Forest.

I’m going to try something new with this blog post.  It will mostly consist of pictures and captions.

Here our whole group wanders through Harrell Prairie.  The sky always looks so large in a prairie!

We quickly found purple coneflower in bloom along with purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea), white prairie clover (Dalea candida) and yellow prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).

Monty had more fun than anyone.  He paused for a brief moment in the photo above to pose with New Jersey (Ceanothus americanus) tea in full fruit.

Speaking of fruit – I have never seen a deerberry (Vaccinium staminium) with so much fruit.  Every one of these huckleberries that we encountered in the prairie was loaded.  But… unfortunately the fruit was not ripe.

Rosepink (Sabatia angularis) was blooming throughout the prairie.  I hope my Latin name on this one is correct.  At any rate, this plant is a member of the gentian family and is an annual that comes back from seed every year.  It is very delicate in appearance but tough as nails.

I was having such a good time  and finding so many interesting plants that I decided to continue the field trip after the main group headed out in search of ac and cool beverages.  Many might describe them as the “smart ones”.

Luckily I found three other diehards to accompany me.   I will post Part 2 of the Prairie Trip tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

A Visit to the Cajun Prairie

Welcome to the Cajun Prairie Restoration site in Eunice, LA.

Saturday, I visited a couple of prairie sites in and near Eunice, Louisiana.

The tours were part of the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society meeting.

I have been a member of this group for many years and am totally humbled by the wonderful things they have done.

The Cajun Prairie Society formally started in 1989.

The two main movers and shakers were Dr. Charles Allen and Dr. Malcolm Vidrine.  These two had begun exploring tallgrass prairie remnants in south Louisiana.

White false indigo and bee balm mingle with dewberries and grasses at the Eunice site.

As a group they were able to obtain a lease on a piece of wasteland adjacent to an abandoned railroad track and a low income neighborhood.

They quickly began seeding and transplanting prairie plants to the site.

The society was eventually able to buy the land and over the years has installed a pic-nic shelter, sidewalks, signage and benches.

It is a grand place to visit.  The best time is at one of the society’s two annual meeting.  The first is in late spring – usually late April or early May and the second in late summer.  I just attended the early meeting.  The benefit of a meeting and not just a self-guided tour is that you can walk the site with Dr. Allen and Dr. Vidrine.  What a treat!

It may seem that you are lost in a sea of gamma grass and bee balm until you notice the adjacent houses.

Blooming highlights of the Eunice prairie were masses of white false indigo (Baptisia alba), bee balms (Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindheimeri), early rosin weed (Silphium gracile) and black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta).

There were scattered hot pink rose gentians (Sabatia campanulata), pristine white butterfly gaura (Gaura lindheimeri) and magenta sensitive briar (Mimosa microphylla).  The first of the narrowleaf mountain mints (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) were starting to turn frosty white.  Later two other mountain mints will bloom along with two species of obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana and P. intermedia).  The perennial hibiscus or rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) sported buds and button snakeroot (Eryngium yuccafolium) looked like a robust blue yucca just waiting to burst into flower.

The grasses were beginning to assert themselves – soaring upward.

We wandered through the prairie pausing to graze on dewberries lost in the tallgrass.  We seemed to be miles away from civilization but a glance at the horizon showed houses in the distance.

Today’s blog post will consist mostly of pictures taken at the Eunice site this year and last year at the May meeting.

Malcolm Vidrine explores a mass of yellow false indigo loaded with seed pods.

One day I hope to visit the site when the yellow false indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) is in full bloom.  This is usually in late March.  Last weekend they were loaded with seed pods as far as I could see.  I can only imagine what a spectacular thing it must be to see them in full bloom.

Another goal is to make it to the prairie in late summer to see the gayfeather in flower.  The tall stately Liatris pycnostachya is a lovely thing and this site it full of it.  Two other species of gayfeather (L. acidota and L. spicata) bloom earlier in the summer.

If you want to learn more about the Cajun Prairie, I highly recommend Malcolm Vidrine’s wonderful book, The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History.

 

Coming Soon to North Mississippi

I am growing 'Tangerine Beauty' crossvine on a pine in the front garden - very easy!

I will be giving a talk at the New Albany Home and Garden Show this Saturday, March 31.

The garden show is held at the Union County Fairgrounds.

My presentation starts at 10:15.

I will speak on “Easy Garden Color”.

My goal is to highlight ways to add color to the garden without planting high maintenance annual beds.  I will emphasize my favorite small flowering trees,  old fashioned shrubs, bulbs, antique roses and wildflowers.

Hope to see you there.

 

Wildflower Groundcovers

The Louisiana phlox really is a perfect backdrop for the purple gazing ball by my front door.

I’ve got to admit that most of the mainstream groundcovers seriously annoy me.

Asiatic jasmine is very aggressive.  It forms deep dense mats and constant pruning is required to keep it in bounds.

English ivy will climb and strangle a tree.

Liriope and mondograss have better manners but are somewhat boring.

Out of necessity I have developed a short list of wildflower groundcovers that I use in my design work and around my own place.

The criteria for this group of plants is simple.

First, like traditional groundcovers, they must be low growing – usually no more than two feet even in bloom.

The Louisiana phlox was mingling with the atamasco lilies on our wildflower field trip yesterday.

Second, they must have interesting foliage even when not in bloom.  It is really nice, or course, if they are evergreen.

Third, like every other plant I buy or recommend, they must be relatively free of pests and easy to maintain.

The star of my garden right now is the very lovely Louisiana or woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata).  It is planted throughout the garden in shade or partly shaded situations.

This phlox has done remarkably well in my front flower bed on the shaded north side of the house even though the soil is abysmal.

The plants have attractive fine textured leaves all winter.

The cool icy blue blossoms are lovely right now.  In fact they have been blooming for almost three weeks and will probably continue for three more.

What a champ!

This lovely mass of woodland phlox was even more beautiful in person.

Yesterday I went with the Mississippi Native Plant Society to see wild Easter lilies a.k.a atamaso lilies (Zephyranthes atamasco) in bloom.

Our site was low, wet and shady.

The woodland phlox was in bloom there as well.

So there you have it – my wildflower groundcover in its natural habitat covering the ground in a swamp forest.

I had been to the site before but this was the first time I caught the phlox in full flower.

Still – maybe that’s where I got the idea!

The Most Fun I Had All Day

Boona likes to help me collect flowers.

I am in the middle of a house renovation.  It’s exciting but exhausting.

My mind is always going lickety split from one idea or task to the next.  What color should I paint the bedroom?  How much money have we spent?  Did I pick the perfect faucet?

This evening, however, time was suspended.  I wandered around my six acres and just looked and gathered flowers.  I compiled them into a bucket along with stems of foliage and fruit.

I collected native grasses, sunflowers, black eyed Susans, ironweed, beautyberry, mountain mint, devil’s walking stick and Joe Pye weed.

I will assemble these into a wildflower arrangement for our Mississippi Native Plant Society Meeting tomorrow at USM in Hattiesburg.

Stop by and check it out if you’re in the area.


 

Thera Lou’s Field

Daffodils carpet the ground around a 113 year old pecan.

The 'Incomparabilis' daffodils were in full bloom.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to ramble about looking at daffodils for a few days.

I toured some lovely private gardens but on Wednesday evening I visited two public displays in Louisiana.

First I toured Caroline Dormon’s home, Briarwood.  I promise to write more about Briarwood one day soon.

I then traveled on to Thera Lou Adam’s wonderful daffodil planting near Winnfield, LA.

Isn't this a lovely Louisiana scene?

Thera Lou’s field is a memorial to her husband Nelton Adams.

For 51 weeks each year, Thera Lou works to maintain the site.

On one weekend, the planting is open for public viewing.

The H. Nelton Adams Daffodil Field is quite stunning.

Tomorrow is the last day it will be open for viewing this year.  If you live in the area, make the effort and get out to see the fruition of Thera Lou’s efforts.  Click on the link above for more information.

I know that I will remember my visit to Thera Lou’s for quite some time.  I’ll end this post with a quote from William Wordsworth

“… For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”


 

Sustainability Thoughts

I am happy to see Barrett Browning every spring.

In order to prepare for a talk, I researched the meaning of sustainability and found that it means the “ability to endure”.  Heirloom daffodils certainly meet those specs.

Yesterday I discovered my first ‘Barrett Browning’ daffodil bloom of the season.  I was delighted to photograph it with my new camera – Yip!!!

‘Barrett Browning’ was introduced in 1945 and named for two famous lovers.  It is a member of ADA Division 3 which includes the small cupped daffodils.

I think that the cup on this one is not so much a small cup as it is a short cup.

The cup is flared and ruffled around the edge and is an intense orange red color.  The petals are a creamy ivory.  ‘Barrett Browning’ is a gaudy little thing.

I’ve had this gem growing in my back yard for over 15 years.  I enjoy wandering around the backyard trail and picking it for my vases.

It thrives under my giant (100’+) white oak in a place that would be too shady for most daffodils.  Still ‘Barrett Browning’ perseveres and offers me a lesson in sustainability each spring!

I’ll be talking at the Gaining Ground Sustainability Conference in Hattiesburg, Mississippi at 1:00 this afternoon.  If you’re in the area come check me out.

For more info check it out at http://yardflower.com/?p=2517


 

On the Road

I'm looking forward to speaking at this Sustainable Living Conference.

I’ve got a couple of speaking gigs coming up.

For those in the Jackson, Mississippi area, my plant propagation workshop at Millsaps College in Jackson was rescheduled when I got sick with a stomach bug.  The new date is Saturday, February 12. You can find more details or register by going to the Millsaps Winter Enrichment Classes site.

The following weekend, I will speak in Hattiesburg, Mississippi at a Sustainable Living Conference.  If you’re in the Hattiesburg area, my talk will be on Saturday, February 19 at 1:00 p.m.

I love the cool campy flyer they made.  I look like a giantess in my bee suit.   I am taller than the trees and yet am dwarfed by the bean sprout!  I will speak about “Gardening with the Woods and other Sustainable Garden Ideas”.

For more information about the Sustainable Living Conference check out the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute website.


 

Back to the Classroom

I will bring along a few copies of my book "Basic Gardening - A Guide for the Deep South".

This spring I am going to leave the garden for a day or two and go back to the classroom.

I am teaching two continuing education classes at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

On Saturday January 29 I will teach “Make More Plants – Plant Propagation Techniques”.  This will be a hands on Plant Propagation class.   We’ll plant seed, take hardwood cuttings, divide perennials.    I will also talk about collecting seed and setting up a small backyard nursery space.   As an added incentive, each participant should leave with some plants!

On Tuesday evening March 15, I will present a slide show about how I use native plants in my garden.  Then we will discuss “Native Plants and Wildflowers in the Garden”.

You can find more details or register by going to the Millsaps Winter Enrichment Classes site.

This is my first time to teach at Millsaps so I am the new kid on the block. Please register early (ideally by January 25) so that we can assure that both classes will make.

Hope to see you in Jackson!


 

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