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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 →

Pitot House landscaper explains the geometric beauty of parterre gardens

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Anna Timmerman is the gardner for Pitot House, which features a parterre, or French formal style garden.

When Anna Timmerman was growing up on a Michigan farm, she would never have foreseen that she would one day become a specialist who restores historic gardens in New Orleans. But thanks to three master gardeners in her family, courses in horticulture at Michigan State and then in garden design at the Art Institute… 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 →

Forestry program teaches children the impact of trees on our lives

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --  Zefferino vonKurnatowski  explains to Cormac Whittington, left, and Daniel Watson, both 4, about how trees get water during a Biggz Kidz urban forestry class at the A.C. Lewis YMCA.

Standing beneath a gnarled Chinese tallow tree on a cold day, the small bunch of 4- and 5-year-olds were reminded that trees live, breathe and drink water. That tree’s broken branches had regrown, kind of like whiskers on a man’s face. “Plants are kind of just like us,” the children’s teacher, Zefferino vonKurnatowski told them… 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 →

Enduring Lutcher family tradition blooms around ‘Christmas Cottage’ on River Road

Photo provided by the Duhé family - Now dubbed

This is a story of a boy and a girl and a bonfire and a house and a promise made many years ago. Ronette and Kevin Duhé grew up together in the St. James Parish town of Lutcher. They knew each other since childhood and their relationship evolved as they grew up,… 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 →

French-Creole cottage in Brusly shares roots with family way back to 1835

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR --The Hebert House, the Brusly home of Walter and Lucy Landry, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lucy Landry knew she lived in one of the oldest homes in Brusly, but it was only after abstractor Drew Gaudet researched the origins of the home did she discover that her roots to it go back more than 200 years. The home, known as the Hebert House, was built about 1835 facing… 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 →

Bridgforths’ home meets simple needs: A garden for tending and a porch for entertaining

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Ernestine and Austin Bridgforth relax on their back porch in two wicker chairs from his family home in Virginia. The table is also from his family.

Austin Bridgforth has his own mini farm in his Jefferson Place backyard. “There used to be a huge oak tree in a prime spot in the yard,” said Bridgforth’s wife, Ernestine. “It was dying, so we had to have it taken out.” With the tree gone, Austin Bridgforth had enough full sun for a little… 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 →

‘Classic Homes’ tour to benefit Foundation for Historical Louisiana

On tour will be the home of Dr. Kurt Lejeune in Drehr Place

Six historic residences will be showcased at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana’s “Classic Homes and Cocktails 2014” benefit soiree on Dec. 12. The tour, which runs from 6-8:30 p.m., spotlights preservation efforts in recent years by local homeowners. Tickets are $40 in advance for FHL members, $50 for non-members via or $60 at the… Continue reading →

Twin Oaks Twin: St. Francisville couple finds just the right home to copy in nearby Natchez

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Belton and Dare Didier's home in St. Francisville is a replica of Twin Oaks in Natchez, Miss. It and three other homes are on the Friends of  West Feliciana Parish Library Christmas in the Country Tour of Homes Dec. 6.

Years before they knew what kind of house they were going to build, Belton and Dare Didier began collecting old beams, salvaged wood and bricks. They had the property — 80 acres just south of St. Francisville purchased in 1999. They just needed some house plans. “We went… Continue reading →

Four homes featured on St. Francisville tour

Photo provided by Yvonne Cappe -- The Carter home will be featured on the Tour of Homes during St. Francisville's Christmas in the Country, a three-day holiday festival scheduled for Dec. 5-7.

These homes in and around St. Francisville are being featured on the Friends of the West Feliciana Parish Library’s annual Christmas in the Country Tour of Homes on Dec. 6. Proceeds benefit the library. On this year’s tour are the homes of: Jerry and Ouida West — The two-bedroom home was built for retirement and… Continue reading →

Garden News: Take your pick of colorful poinsettias

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS - Careful selection and care will keep your poinsettias pretty through the season. More than 1,000 poinsettias will be for sale at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Dec. 5.

The holiday season means it’s time for poinsettias, and people can expect poinsettias to last well into 2015 if they give proper consideration to selection and care, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. Poinsettias are available in a tremendous variety of leaf — or bract — colors, including red, white, marble, pink and combinations of these colors.… Continue reading →

Adding on over the years, the Posts have doubled the size of their Fairway Drive home

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Bryan and Skipper Post, from left, enjoy entertaining family and friends in their large combination dining room-den, which is also open to their kitchen.

Skipper Post was a young architect in 1964 when he and his wife, Bryan, bought a lot off Fairway Drive for their first home. Over the decades, the Posts’ home has grown right along with their family. “I designed this little house, but we couldn’t spend more than $20,000 to build it,” Skipper Post recalled.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Good time to plant beets, spinach seeds

Photo by RICK BOGRENLSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot says dinosaur kale is a 'fun' plant to grow and makes great kale chips.

Just about any time of year is a good time to plant vegetable seeds in Louisiana. “If you’re just itching to plant something now, try beet and spinach seeds,” says LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot. “And you can sow seeds of kale, mustard greens and leaf lettuce.” Dinosaur kale is a “fun” plant with… Continue reading →

Southern AgCenter plans workshop

Growing nontraditional vegetables, learning about edible landscapes and microgreens are some of the topics that will be covered during the 2014 Southern University AgCenter’s Fall Garden Workshop. The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday in room 191 of A.O. Williams Hall,… Continue reading →

Magnolia Woods home gives the Foils room to experiment with gardening

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The encore rose is one of Judy Foil's favorites.

Judy Foil is a lifelong gardener who turned her large yard in Magnolia Woods into a natural paradise and her laboratory for experimenting with different varieties of plants. “We bought the property for the trees,” said Judy Foil, who with her husband, retired Court of Appeal Judge Frank Foil, built their home there in… Continue reading →

Garden News: Ornamental kale, cabbage add to winter landscape color

Photo provided by Allen Ownings -- Ornamental cabbage can be a background plant to viola and pansies in the cool season landscape.

Along with the pansies, snapdragons and other cool-season flowers we enjoy during winter, another nice addition is ornamental types of kale and cabbage. Ornamental kale and cabbage are becoming increasingly popular as fall bedding plants for Louisiana, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. These plants have feathery leaves of robust colors that make them well-suited… Continue reading →

A look inside the Barbers’ Baton Rouge home: 108 newly planted trees, a workshop, garage, completely new wing

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Architect A. Hayes Town's original design of the home of Marianna and the late Aubrey  L.  'Buck' Barber remains, even though the Barbers added on extensively.

When Marianna Barber and her late husband, Aubrey “Buck” Barber, purchased their home designed by architect A. Hayes Town, they thought they wanted a smaller home on the quiet street off Perkins Road. “It just didn’t work out that way,” says decorator Patrick Tandy. The Barbers ended up removing an old swimming… Continue reading →

How do you know it’s fall in Baton Rouge? Hint: Look out for camellias

ShiShi Gashira increases the number and visibility of Camellia sasanqua in early winter. Technically, ShiShi is a Cameilla hiemalis which is lumped into the sasanqua group (Photo provided by the LSU AgCenter)

When Paul Mezo sees a camellia sasanqua in bloom, it tells him one thing. “It’s how you know it’s fall,” said Mezo, a horticulturist at Banting’s Nursery in Bridge City. “It’s the one sure sign that we’ve moved out of summer and are heading toward winter.” Sasanqua camellias bloom earlier in the season than… Continue reading →

Garden news: Heads up, Baton Rouge! Cold mornings a reminder to winterize your outdoor plants

Photo by DAN GILL  Before bringing any outside plants indoors for the winter, be sure to thoroughly clean any pots and check for and remove any snails, slugs, ants and other bugs.

A couple of recent cold mornings are a reminder that it’s time to start preparing to bring tender tropical plants indoors for the winter. But before you start bringing them in, decide which ones you really want to protect, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. It might not be worth the trouble to bring in plants that… Continue reading →

It’s Halloween, so LaDonna Woolley’s yearly tribute to her favorite holiday is aliiiiiiiiiive!

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- A grave robber does his work in LaDonna Woolley's Halloween cemetery.

Beware of ghosts and evil spirits running wild in Lakemont Place. They are most surely from LaDonna Woolley’s home. Halloween is her favorite holiday, and she does it up big. Her front yard is a cemetery. Her living room is a funeral parlor, and her den is a witch’s haven. Beginning in… Continue reading →

Garden News: November best spring bulb-planting month in La.

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter  Narcissus Grand Primo has deep green foliage and pure white flowers and reliably blooms year after year.

We’re getting close to the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs in our gardens. November is really the best bulb-planting month here in Louisiana, and we can plant bulbs as late as early December, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. Spring-flowering bulbs are those that generally bloom in our climate between February and April. They may be categorized as… Continue reading →

Georgia antiques dealer collects and restores houses

Photo by Rodney Collins -- Furlow Gatewood used exterior shutters salvaged from a New Jersey demolition on the interior of 'The Barn,' just off his dining room.

In the late 1940s, a 30-something Furlow Gatewood started renovating a carriage house on his family’s property in Americus, Georgia. After decades living in New York and dealing in antiques, he retired to the former carriage house and lives there today. Now 94, Gatewood developed the property to include four main buildings plus fanciful accessory… Continue reading →

Use caution with lawn winterizer

Photo by JOHN WOZNIAK -- To maintain a healthy lawn through winter, avoid applying nitrogen fertilizers after August.

Winterizer lawn fertilizers are heavily promoted and are in stores now. People often ask if they should use them. “The truth is, most winterizers sold are not really designed for southern turfgrass species such as St. Augustine grass or centipede grass but are perfect for Kentucky bluegrass or other northern ‘Yankee’-type grasses,” says LSU AgCenter turfgrass specialist… Continue reading →

Jealous of the Holloways? They have indoor, outdoor kitchens; brick fireplace in pool house

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Derrick and Tessa  Holloway enjoy their pool house, which contains a large brick fireplace, several seating areas, a modern kitchen and a marble-topped island with seating on one side.

Derrick and Tessa Holloway started with the idea of adding an outdoor bathroom by their pool so their two little boys wouldn’t have to come into the house in their wet bathing suits. By the time they finished, they had a large pool house with both indoor and outdoor kitchens, a brick fireplace,… Continue reading →

Renovation the right choice to keep Rolfses in beloved Hundred Oaks home

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Emile and Susan Rolfs have lived in their Hundred Oaks area home for 36 years, but a major renovation made it infinitely more liveable for them.

Susan and Emile Rolfs simplified their lives when they added 1,700 square feet to the 3,000-square-foot-home they have lived in for 36 years. “We added rooms we use,” Susan Rolfs said. “We live in the 1,700 square feet.” Having all of the bedrooms upstairs worked fine when their three daughters were growing up.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Create attractive, edible landscape with blueberries

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS -- Besides providing tasty fruit, rabbiteye blueberries can create an attractive display in the landscape.

The LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Super Plant program is introducing an edible plant for fall 2014 — rabbiteye blueberries. “Several gardeners have asked about adding information on good vegetable and fruit plants to the Louisiana Super Plant program,” AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings says. “In response, we’ve selected rabbiteye blueberries.” Rabbiteye blueberries got their name from their pinkish… Continue reading →

Hilltop tour boasts variety of planting styles

Photo provided by Hilltop Arboretum -- Betty Whitt's garden, featured on the Oct. 26 LSU Hilltop Arboretum tour, is a showcase for native plants.

The LSU Hilltop Arboretum will hold its fall garden tour “Eclectic Fall Gardens in Old Baton Rouge” on Sunday, Oct. 26.… Continue reading →

Walnut Hills home gives Selsers all they wanted — after a renovation, of course

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --The Selsers' kitchen, which overlooks the back and side yards, is designed for entertaining with an antique farm table providing plenty of room for gatherings.

Investment banker John Selser and his wife, Kyler, moved about 15 times before they returned to his hometown of Baton Rouge and bought an older home in Walnut Hills. Locals call this area of town, east of South Acadian, “Pill Hill” for the number of doctors who built houses there in the years following World War II.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Fall, winter are for planting – make plans now

Photo by RICK BOGREN  Now's the time to think about planting your landscape, which can give your home a beautiful look as well as make outdoor spaces function usefully, as seen at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.

November through February is prime time for planting trees, shrubs and ground covers in Louisiana. So now is an excellent time to assess your landscape situation and begin to make plans, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. Planting a tree, designing a flower garden or planting beds around a deck are good do-it-yourself projects, Gill… Continue reading →

BR to host Southern Region Master Gardener Conference

Gardeners from 13 states will converge on Baton Rouge on Oct. 21-24 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel to learn from gardening specialists, tour local sites and learn how to cook and feast Louisiana-style. This is the first time that the biannual Southern Region Master Gardener Conference has been held in Louisiana and will be… Continue reading →

Camilla Pugh finds Spanish Town home just the right size

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The living room in Camilla Pugh's Spanish Town home contains the original dark-stained woodwork. On the  floor In front of the Oriental rug is a scene of Paris made in the boxed  in area created when an old floor furnace was removed.

Camilla Pugh originally thought she would make her Spanish Town home “cute and funky.” “It turned out to be prettier,” Pugh said. “It kept telling me, ‘I’m prettier than you think.’” She and her late husband, Gordon Pugh, were very interested in living in the downtown area. After his death, she kept looking but never… Continue reading →