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35th Annual African violet Show and Sale set to bloom

African violet

More than 150 African violets, including the nationally award-winning CAJUN, will be in bloom this weekend. The 35th Annual African Violet Show and Plant Sale, hosted by the Sundowners Club, will be held from 2-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday at the Baton Rouge Botanic Garden Center, 7950 Independence Blvd. Admission is free.… Continue reading →

When the Gaudets caught kitchen fever, they combined modern appliances with touches from the past

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Hannah Heltz, who is chairing the Junior League of Baton Rouge's Warm Welcomes Kitchen Tour, and homeowners Drew and Tina Gaudet are ready to welcome guests for the March 29  tour.

Tina and Drew Gaudet have had a five-year case of “kitchen fever.” In that short time, they totally redid the 1960s-vintage kitchen at their Steele Place home and added a modern outdoor kitchen in the backyard. The Gaudets’ two kitchens are among those in six homes to be spotlighted March 29 on the Junior League… Continue reading →

LSU AgCenter Garden News: Easier to grow spring tomatoes

Photo by RICK BOGREN  It's tomato-planting time. Visit local nurseries and garden center to find flats of various tomatoes, from heirloom types to modern hybrids.

Tomatoes are a great crop to grow in the garden now through the fall. And different types are appropriate for different times of the year. “Generally spring tomatoes — nonheat set — are planted after the last frost,” says LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot. In south Louisiana, that’s generally after March 15. These include all… Continue reading →

Hilltop Arboretum sets Spring Fling Plant Sale

Ready to turn your garden’s winter brown to spring green? The Spring Fling Plant Sale can help. And if you’re wondering where the turtles go each winter, come back to LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum on Sunday to find out. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the arboretum, 11855 Highland Road, a large variety of… Continue reading →

St. Albans Masonic Lodge opens up for Jackson Assembly

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The St. Albans Masonic Lodge, in use by the Jackson Masons for 166 years, is featured at this year's Jackson Assembly Antiques and Art Show and Sale.

Local Masons have taken votes in the historic St. Albans Masonic Lodge building for 166 years, including a unanimous vote during the Civil War requesting that the Grand Lodge of Louisiana bar “from all rights and privileges of Masonry” the hated Union Gen. Benjamin Butler, whose troops were occupying New Orleans.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Know your hardiness, heat zones

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter -- To get the most out of your garden, be sure to check the USDA Hardiness Zone map.

As we move from our cool season into the warm season, many gardeners start thinking about weather conditions, such as the dates of the last frost and freeze, and consider whether it’s safe to plant any particular plant or seed. The average date of first freeze in East Baton Rouge Parish in the fall is Nov. 20-25,… Continue reading →

Meeting to help turn rose petals into beads

How did rosaries get that name? Because they were originally made of rose petal beads, which release the fragrance of roses when held by warm hands. At the March 26 meeting of the Herb Society of America-Baton Rouge Unit, members and visitors will learn how to make rose petals into beads, and will make beads to… Continue reading →

Retreat Plantation: Respectfully updated 200-year-old Weyanoke gem highlighted on Audubon Pilgrimage

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The columned porch is the original part of Retreat Plantation, with the addition to the left. The home of C.B. and Mary Cleland Owen will be on tour during the Audubon Pilgrimage,

C.B. and Mary Cleland Owen always knew they would come home to West Feliciana. After years of living in different parts of the U.S. and in Europe, the Owens purchased Retreat Plantation from a cousin in 2002 and began a restoration under the guidance of two noted preservationists — New Orleans architect Frank… Continue reading →

Spring Garden show in bloom

Look for gorgeous blooming plants at the Baton Rouge Spring Garden Show this weekend.

The 13th annual Baton Rouge Spring Garden Show is set for Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15, at LSU’s John M. Parker Coliseum on Highland Road in Baton Rouge. The show will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days and include local nurseries and other vendors selling plants and garden wares, including tools, pots, ornaments… Continue reading →

LSU AgCenter Garden News: Beauty, flavor together in one plant

Photo by ERIK MEYER -- Plant borage this spring. It's good to eat and great for attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden.

For gardeners with minimal time, energy and funds to use toward making their vegetable gardens look pretty this spring, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kiki Fontenot suggests considering growing borage. Borage foliage has several culinary uses. It commonly is mixed into salads or used as garnish. The leaves have a mild but somewhat cucumber-like flavor. Some kitchen artists… Continue reading →

Other architects wanted to level the McArthurs’ sloping lot, but they found one who’d embrace it

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Frank and Kathy McArthur relax on their balcony overlooking the Country Club of Louisiana golf course.

What Kathy McArthur really wanted was a new sofa, but husband Frank had other ideas. He wanted a new house. In 1995, they built their house overlooking the golf course in the Country Club of Louisiana. “I knew it would be a beautiful view,” said Frank McArthur, who had eyed the overgrown hilly property for… Continue reading →

Herb Society hosting tea-tasting event

Is your palate as refined as the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s? Find out at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, when the Herb Society of America-Baton Rouge Unit puts taste buds to the test. Four teas will be presented, with information given about each. Participants will taste each, then match the tea to the description.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Whip winter weeds now with herbicides

Photo by MARK CLAESGENS  A good-looking lawn requires attention throughout the year, including winter weed control.

Dollarweed and clover are common perennial weeds in lawns during the cool season. They can be difficult to control consistently, especially dollarweed, says LSU AgCenter turf specialist Ron Strahan. “You need to know how to control them, but you also should know why these weeds are present in your lawn,” Strahan says. Both dollarweed and clover are… Continue reading →

Give and take: The Sims blend their wants in a cozy home in the woods

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Brent and Ramsey Sims love their home, which is situated at the end of a street and surrounded by woods.

Marriage, they say, is all about compromise. That’s what Ramsey and Brent Sims have discovered, and it all started with location, location, location. When the couple married, Brent Sims owned a house off Hoo Shoo Too Road. “That was just too far for me,” she said. “I had to get Brent over to this side.”… Continue reading →

LSU AgCenter Garden News: Think roses for Valentine’s Day

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS -– Thinking about giving roses for Valentine's Day? Instead of long-stemmed blooms from the florist, why not give some for the garden, like these Easy-Tea Tahitian Sunset roses.

Valentine’s Day is a time when many people consider giving roses as a gift. Most of the time, we’re thinking about the long-stem roses from a florist. But roses also can make a great gift for the garden. If you’re contemplating planting roses, you have many choices. You can select from several different categories or… Continue reading →

‘Fine Art of Dining’ event set for BR

Two Baton Rouge-area groups will produce “The Fine Art of Dining,” a unique event combining flowers, art and table settings. Scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, and noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22, the event will be held at the Baton Rouge Garden Center, 7950 Independence Blvd., Baton… Continue reading →

The Gunns’ house is designed for efficiency, liveability

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Tim Gunn and Marshall Gunn, seated, looked to architect Cindy Stewart, right, to design them a home that would be flexible and filled with light.

Marshall and Tim Gunn knew what they wanted, and more importantly, what they didn’t want when they built their home off Highland Road south of LSU a decade ago. “My last house had the master bedroom off the kitchen. Those were the only rooms we used,” said Marshall Gunn, a retired anesthesiologist. “We wanted to… Continue reading →

Garden News: Now’s the ideal time to plant Louisiana irises

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS  Now is a great time to plant iris, like this Blue Louisiana iris.

It’s not too early to plant Louisiana irises in your landscape. They grow well in south Louisiana and add an elegant touch to any yard. You often see these for sale later on — when they’re in bloom. But if you find Louisiana iris this early in the season, this is a really great time to plant… Continue reading →

Stop and smell the camillias Feb. 14-15 at annual event


Make time to stop and see the flowers at the 44th annual Camellia Show on Feb. 14-15. The Baton Rouge Camellia Society and the American Camellia Society are joining to host the free event at the Rural Life Museum’s Visitor’s Center, 4560 Essen Lane. Hours for the show are 1-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-3… Continue reading →

'A house for grown-ups' and 4,500 books: Baton Rouge authors find open floor plan inviting

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- This large room to the left of the front entrance features a contemporary wood and metal staircase, a built-in bar and a grand piano, which Mike Rubin, a former professional jazz pianist, plays every day.

Authors Mike and Ayan Rubin needed “a house for grown-ups.” And for more than 4,000 books. “We moved 4,500 books and gave away a thousand,” said Mike Rubin, a well-known local lawyer. The Rubins are both writers who collaborated on “The Cottoncrest Curse,” a mystery thriller published by LSU Press in 2014.… Continue reading →

LSU AgCenter Garden News: Ready for winter-flowering trees to bloom

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS  Late-winter flowers provide a colorful display on an Oklahoma redbud in the azalea garden at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station.

We’re fortunate in south Louisiana to enjoy several winter-flowering small trees, including redbuds and flowering cherries. And now is a good time to plant them. The most common redbud species, the Eastern redbud, is the one we primarily plant in Louisiana. They usually start flowering in mid-February and continue through late March. But don’t confuse redbuds… Continue reading →

Master Gardeners offer basic gardening series

East Baton Rouge Master Gardeners kicks off its 2015 Basic Gardening Series on Thursday, Feb. 5. This year’s gardening series has expanded offerings in five East Baton Rouge libraries, according to publicity chair Donna Montgomery. “Programs will include topics such as vegetable gardening, turfgrass, blueberries, citrus, making a raised bed, pet-friendly gardens, ferns, shrubs,… Continue reading →

How Baton Rouge’s Pam Westbrook transformed a shed into a knockout art studio

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Pam Westbrook works and teaches art classes in her studio she created from a prefabricated shed.

Local artist Pam Westbrook took a prefabricated shed and created a knockout art studio in her Capital Heights backyard. It’s a place of her own. “There are things you can’t do in somebody else’s building,” says Westbrook, who had been working and teaching at a studio with other artists on Choctaw Drive, miles from her… Continue reading →

Garden news: Now is the time to plant Irish Potatoes in Louisiana

Photo by KIKI FONTENOT -- It's potato-planting season, so get them in the ground before the end of February to enjoy the harvest.

We’ve begun the season for planting Irish potatoes in Louisiana, with prime planting days from now until the end of February, says LSU AgCenter vegetable expert Kiki Fontenot. The best way to plant potatoes is to dig a shallow trench about 4 inches deep, place sections of seed potatoes about 12 inches apart and then cover… Continue reading →

Miss. plantation opens for Magnolia Mound’s Petite Antiques Forum

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Old live oaks frame the plantation house at Holly Grove, located just across the state line in Wilkinson County, Mississippi.

Landon and Connie Anderson collect old houses, so when a New Orleans Realtor told them about a 200-year-old plantation house for sale in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, just across the Louisiana state line, the retired orthopedist and his wife couldn’t resist adding another property to their collection.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Arbor Day highlights planting trees

Photo by SONYA GORDON -- Eight-year-old Tessa Gordon, of Baton Rouge, left, helps her friend Ze-Xuan MA plant a tree during last year's Arbor Day celebration at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden. Ze-Xuan is the daughter of Chang-Le MA and Jing Li, of China, right. If you cant plant a tree in your own landscape, you can plant a tree at the Arbor Day festivities at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17.

Arbor Day in Louisiana is the third Friday in January. That’s today. And one way to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a tree. Trees are a long-term investment, so select the correct tree for your planting location and purpose. During this time of year, the soil remains warm, encouraging vigorous root growth, and trees will… Continue reading →

Hilltop Arboretum symposium planned Jan. 24

The Friends of Hilltop Arboretum’s upcoming symposium “Louisiana Garden Heritage: A Lavish Hodgepodge of Design and Plants” will be held at the LSU Design Auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 24. The event, set for 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., will feature speakers whose topics were inspired by Chene Vert, a Highland Road garden restored by Wayne and Cheryl… Continue reading →

The Levys’ garden in Glenmore Place now runneth over

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Robert and Judith Levy enjoy a few minutes of shade from a large live oak in their front yard.

At the very back of their Glenmore Place property, Robert and Judith Levy found the unexpected beginnings of what would become their citrus orchard. The previous owner had stored several citrus trees in plastic pots, planning to bring them to his duck camp on Pecan Island. He never got around to it. “They… Continue reading →

LSU Hilltop Arboretum symposium to highlight ‘La. Garden Heritage’

Advocate file photo -- Chene Vert is the inspiration for the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum's Jan. 24 symposium.

An early 19th century style garden is the inspiration for the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum’s upcoming symposium “Louisiana Garden Heritage: A Lavish Hodgepodge of Design and Plants.” The event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 24, and will feature speakers who were inspired by Chene Vert, a Highland Road garden restored by Wayne and Cheryl Stromeyer. Components of… Continue reading →

Garden News: Lettuce thrives in the cold weather

Photo by KIKI FONTENOT  Red leaf lettuce and other lettuces can thrive in Louisiana winters.

Cool days and chilly nights are just the kind of weather lettuce enjoys. Lettuce is easy to grow, and any gardener should consider it. Because Louisiana summers are way too hot for lettuce, it’s a cool-season crop for us here, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. January is a great time to plant seeds directly into the… Continue reading →

LSU AgCenter Garden News: Prune crape myrtles the right way

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS -- Properly thinned crape myrtles are much better for canopy structure and flowering than those given a 'crew cut.'

Winter is when people think about pruning trees, and one of our most commonly pruned trees is the crape myrtle. And it’s usually pruned incorrectly. Crape myrtles need only occasional pruning, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. “An unfortunate trend in crape myrtle pruning is to lop off the tops, which results in a crew-cut appearance.… Continue reading →

The Royal Tour: BR sisters visit ‘Downton Abbey’ site Highclere Castle

Los Angeles Times photo by CATHARINE HAMM --- What would it be like to live at Highclere Castle, where  'Downton Abbey' is filmed? A couple of south Louisiana women, Pat Alford and Judy LeBlanc, got a taste of the posh life on their recent tour.

The fifth season of “Downton Abbey” doesn’t begin airing until Sunday, but Pat Alford and sister Judy LeBlanc already know what happens. They caught the first episode when it aired in London in the fall. They also got an exclusive tour of Highclere Castle, where the PBS Masterpiece hit is filmed. And, to paraphrase the… Continue reading →

Living green: The Simmons’ Baton Rouge house was built for energy conservation from the ground up

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Architect Lionel Bailey stands outside the environmentally friendly home he designed for Joe Simmons and his wife, Tricia Day.

Joe Simmons and Tricia Day are living the green life. The couple’s contemporary-style home was built with environmental preservation in mind.“Energy efficiency is what this house is about,” Day said. Electricity is provided by solar panels working with backup batteries. “The system is so well planned that the… Continue reading →

Garden news: Make gardening a part of New Year’s resolutions

Photo by RICK BOGREN  A good resolution for the new year is to visit a public garden, like the LSU AgCenter Botanic Garden at Burden, once a month to llearn which plants are in bloom at different times of the year.

The end of the year often leads people to reflect on the past 12 months and look ahead to the coming year. And that frequently results in traditional New Year’s resolutions. It’s a good time for gardeners and homeowners to think about their landscapes and what they may want to do in 2015. Here’s some suggestions from… Continue reading →

Garden News: Force paperwhites for blooms indoors

Photo by RICK BOGREN  Paperwhite bulbs for forcing should be planted in pots with the tips of the bulbs just above the top of the soil.

Along with amaryllis, paperwhite, also called narcissus, is a spring bulb popular for “forcing” during winter. Forcing bulbs means growing them to bloom earlier than they would under normal landscape conditions. Paperwhite bulbs are commonly available now, and forcing them to bloom during winter is not difficult. And the results are beautiful, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan… Continue reading →

Garden News: Treat Christmas trees as cut flowers

Photo by RICK BOGREN  Many Christmas trees are cut well in advance and shipped in, so choose carefully when shopping for a tree.

When you look around, you’ll find Christmas trees for sale in a variety of places — on lots, in nurseries and at big box stores. With so much emphasis on the Christmas tree as the centerpiece of holiday decorations, choosing the right tree is important. Fraser firs are quite popular these days. They have blunt needles… Continue reading →

Garden News: Holiday cactus provides long-term enjoyment

Photo by DAN GILL  Holiday cactuses provide vivid color with gracefully drooping flat leaves.

Thanksgiving cactuses and Christmas cactuses have been hybridized with each other to the point that we now group today’s varieties together under the catchall name holiday cactus. They bloom from November through January. If your holiday cactus begins to drop buds when you bring it home, there is little you can do, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen… Continue reading →