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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 →

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 →

Garden News: Chrysanthemums help fill the gap

Photo provided by the LSU AgCenter -- Chrysanthemums are popular fall flowering plants.

Garden mums — or chrysanthemums — are among the most popular fall flowering plants. They fill the gap between the end of the warm-season bedding plant period and the true beginning of the cool season. Chrysanthemums are not a long-blooming bedding plant like some of the plants you may use in your summer gardens, says LSU AgCenter… Continue reading →

The grounds of Afton Villa remain an attraction years after fire destroyed home

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- A  statue of a beautiful young woman, surrounded by hanging moss from a stately oak tree, creates a vision of a time-gone-by in a section of the Afton Villa garden in St. Francisville.

— The gardens at Afton Villa are all that remain of one of the grandest homes in the Felicianas. They serve as a living tribute to the old home and two great Louisiana families — the Barrows, who built Afton Villa and established the gardens, and the Trimbles, who brought the gardens… Continue reading →

Garden News: New disease attacks boxwood

Photo by RAJ SINGH -- Boxwoods are showing damage, including dying twigs and light tan-colored foliage, from what's being called stem canker caused by a fungus.

A new disease that attacks boxwood shrubs has been showing up in south Louisiana the past few years. Beginning in fall 2011, plant pathologist Raj Singh, the LSU AgCenter’s “plant doctor,” began seeing an increase in calls about boxwood damage. “It actually started when I received four samples of plants showing damage,” Singh says.… Continue reading →

Couple guts, brings new life to old home in Abita Springs

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Lynn and Melissa Bridges completely gutted and redid their home, filling it with joyful colors and one-of-a-kind treasures.

Melissa and Lynn Bridges brought spunk and color to their quiet, older neighborhood when they completely remade their house. “When we purchased the house, we gutted it completely out,” says Melissa Bridges. “All that was left were the four outside walls.” Having both grown up just blocks away,… Continue reading →

Garden News: Mesa gaillardia named La. Super Plant

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS -- Plant Mesa gaillardias, a Louisiana Super Plant, in your yard this fall and get ready for a colorful show.

With fall coming, LSU AgCenter horticulturists are encouraging planting Mesa series gaillardias in September or October. If they’re planted early enough, gaillardias will begin flowering before Christmas. Also called blanket flowers, gaillardias are native Louisiana perennials. Although traditionally planted in spring, the versatile Mesa series are being promoted for fall planting, which allows them… Continue reading →

Couple looking to downsize their home wasn’t willing to cut back

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --  Melanie and Joel Safer relax  in the living room of their Jamestowne Court home.

Joel and Melanie Safer live in a home for two that accommodates more than 20. That was the only way Melanie Safer would agree to move some 10 years ago when the couple decided to downsize. With their blended family of four grown children and their spouses along with 11 grandchildren, they still wanted… Continue reading →

Garden News: Here’s a new insect to watch out for

Photo by STEVEN ARTHURS, University of Florida -- Watch out for Chilli thrips, which can cause damage on ornamentals, like this Indian hawthorne.

Homeowners should be on the alert for a small insect called chilli thrips, which feeds on the young, tender parts of many plants, according to Yan Chen, an entomologist at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station. A pest of tropical and subtropical regions of the world, chilli thrips first made an appearance in Louisiana on Knock… Continue reading →

Homeowners’ rock river garden design inspired by trip to Japan

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- René Nevils stands by the dry 'river' that starts with water dropping into a bowl, goes under a bridge and ends at the 'sea,' the area outside her courtyard.

René Nevils and her husband, Rick, built their contemporary-style home in 1978 with a putting green and a wooden deck in an enclosed courtyard at the front. “The putting green was like living on the beach,” René Nevils said of its sand trap’s insidious material that wound up everywhere. “We slept in sand. We walked… Continue reading →

Felicianas set to celebrate hummingbirds

Advocate file photo -- Hummingbirds beat their wings 80 times a second, and you can see them up close at the annual Hummingbird Celebration.

Get an up-close look at those miraculous little creatures called hummingbirds on Saturday, Sept. 13, in West Feliciana Parish. The Feliciana Nature Society and the National Wildbird Refuge is holding its annual Hummingbird Celebration, where you can see these tiny birds who dart about and fly backwards, beating their wings 50 times per second. Master hummingbird… Continue reading →

Garden News: Lichens aren’t bugs or disease

Photo by RAJ SINGH -- Hair-like lichens and crust-like lichens grow on a blueberry plant. Lichens are not harmful to plants.

When people notice lichens on their trees, shrubs and other plants, they become concerned that they have problems. But they shouldn’t worry, says LSU AgCenter plant scientist Raj Singh. “Lichens are fascinating creatures,” says Singh, who is often called the “plant doctor” and heads up the AgCenter Plant Diagnostic Center. “They constitute the most questions I receive… Continue reading →

Landscaping, neutral palete transform Pine Park ranch

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Katie Barber's family room is decorated in creamy neutrals accented with pale blues. Rustic textures and intriguing shapes keep the eye moving around the room.

Katie and Jeb Barber moved into the “eyesore of Pine Park” in 2010. “The outside was gold and maroon,” said Katie Barber, who teaches third grade at Episcopal. “The yard itself would have made someone walk away.” “The front had nothing but two six-foot sago palms,” said Jeb Barber, a landscape designer and owner… Continue reading →

Garden News: Controlling weeds in late summer can be tough

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter -- Virginia butonweed is taking over lawns and is very difficult to control at this time of year.

“A thick healthy lawn works a lot like mulch in a flower bed, suppressing the growth and weed establishment,” says LSU AgCenter turf specialist Ron Strahan. “Unfortunately, our lawns have been recovering from a very difficult winter and are thinner than usual. Advantage: weeds.” Weeds are opportunistic and have taken advantage of less-competitive lawns, Strahan says.… Continue reading →

Japanese garden brings solace to Prairieville couple

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- A focal point of Lisa and Quinn Rainwater's Japanese-style garden is a stream that cascades into a shallow pool surrounded by rocks and plants.

Lisa Harrison Rainwater turned to nature and art after the sudden illness and death of her 25-year-old son, her only child, in October 2009. In her grief, she transformed a small rock garden in a front corner of her backyard into a complete Japanese-style garden and her Prairieville home into a studio and gallery for… Continue reading →

Garden News: Low-hanging branches also cause problems

Provided photo -- Although low-hanging branches may not be touching the roof under normal conditions, the high winds of violent storms or hurricanes can cause trees to bend and branches to flail around considerably. These branches can cause extensive dam

Most of us are aware that dead limbs and branches, as well as weak trees themselves, pose a threat to roofs during hurricanes and other storms. But even low-hanging branches can cause problems. Although low-hanging branches may not be touching the roof under normal conditions, the high winds of violent storms or hurricanes can cause trees to… Continue reading →

Beauregard Town double updated to open floorplan

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Mary Catherine Johnson uses one whole side of her double shotgun house in Beauregard Town as a combination living room, dining room and kitchen.

Mary Catherine Johnson had never heard of Beauregard Town until her Realtor took her there to see a 1920s-vintage house. “I had rented forever, but my rent was going up,” said Johnson, 29. “I got lucky to find this little gem.” The double shotgun, which she purchased at the end of 2013, was… Continue reading →

Garden News: Now’s a good time to edit garden

Photo by DAN GILL  Even good-looking beds can hide problems. Look carefully to identify any plants that may not be performing and make notes for next year.

Now, in the heat of midsummer, is a good time to see which plants are well-adapted to your landscape and which may not make it. “Other than tropical plants, which we all know have problems with freezing temperatures, it is often the late-summer heat rather than the cold of winter that takes its toll here,” says LSU… Continue reading →

Simien family’s move to Garden District not without deliberations

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- The Simiens' keeping room and living room open to a  porch and patio at the back of the home.

Husband-and-wife lawyers Eulis and Tammy Simien needed a “family negotiation” to move from their modern house off Bluebonnet to an old home in the Garden District. “When we’re living in Bluebonnet, Tammy hits me with, ‘I want an old house,’” Eulis Simien recalled with a laugh. She liked older homes, but she also… Continue reading →

Garden News: Some bedding plants can thrive in the heat

Photo by RICK BOGREN  Warm-season bedding plants are available in local garden centers now for late-season additions to flower beds and pots.

Weeks of heat and humidity have put quite a bit of stress on summer flowers. “Our long warm season, which lasts from May to October, is longer than many annuals can stay attractive,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. “After months of blooming in your garden, these plants can just run out of steam in late… Continue reading →

Get your garden on at plant sale, garden expo

Whether you’re looking for fresh herbs to spice up your next offering from the kitchen or roses to set the table just right, you’ll find them at the 15th annual Summer Plant Sale and Garden Expo from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9. The sale will be held at the Botanic Garden, 7950 Independence… Continue reading →

Acadian cottage has deep ties for Ford and Genny Thomas

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Ford and Genny Nadler Thomas enjoy the East Feliciana Parish home they purchased in 2012 and are in the process of restoring.

— Ford and Genny Nadler Thomas’ move to the Felicianas was serendipity. The couple had already talked about retiring there when a friend told them about an old house on 12 acres near Jackson. “Genny had to convince me to take a look at the property,” Ford Thomas said.… Continue reading →

Garden News: It’s not great year for crape myrtles

Photo by RICK BOGREN -- Lichens growing on crape myrtles are a sign of poorly drained soil and low soil fertility.

Unusual summer weather has caused crape myrtle trees to behave unusually. In most years crape myrtles start blooming between mid-May and early June and continue flowering for 90-120 days, depending on the variety. This year, however, some crape myrtles aren’t blooming well. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings offers some factors to consider:

BR couple looking for healthier lifestyle gets back to nature through gardening

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Roger and Jan Shaw regularly dine on the fruits and vegetables of their backyard garden.

Roger Shaw’s garden started with a detached retina. “You have to lie on your stomach for a month,” he said. “You have a lot of time to think.” To help pass the weeks, Shaw, a local optometrist, brought in a massage table with a face hole and rigged up his laptop and a flat-screen… Continue reading →

Garden News: Possible answer to fig problems

Photo by J.S. PARK, La. State Anthropod Museum -- A male spotted wing drosophila fly on a fig in a Baton Rouge yard exhibits the tell-tale spots.

For the second year in a row, Chris Carlton confirmed the presence of spotted wing drosophila flies on the figs in his Baton Rouge yard. Unlike most other drosophila fruit flies or vinegar flies, spotted wing drosophila are able to pierce the skins and lay their eggs in soft-skinned fruits like figs and blueberries, says the… Continue reading →

Spanish Town men put new spin on urban sprawl with rambling landscape

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Patrick Ford, left, and Greg Myers enjoy the yard they have transformed at their Spanish Town bunaglow.

When Patrick Ford and Greg Myers bought their Spanish Town bungalow in January, the yard had a few old hollies, an overgrown oleander and some scrawny grass. In less than four months, the men transformed the property into a spectrum of color that has neighbors changing their walking routes to stop by and look.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Excessive water hurtful to landscape plants

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter - During dry periods, water lawns only once or twice a week with at least 1 inch of water. Use a rain gauge or shallow can to monitor how much water you apply.

As we reach the middle of summer, we need to keep in mind the importance of irrigating our landscape plants. It’s important to water when it’s needed, but in many cases, we often use too much water rather than too little. Of the tremendous amounts of water applied to our landscapes, much is never absorbed… Continue reading →

The Millers built their Bocage Lake home for comfort as they age

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The open keeping room-kitchen  combination is where the Millers say they spend most of  their time.

After building three houses and remodeling a fourth in 42 years of marriage, Ann and Terry Miller were ready for their last house. This one, they decided, would be designed for how they live today and could be easily adapted for their “golden years.” “We are traveling a lot now,” Ann Miller said. “We wanted… Continue reading →

Exotic blooms for the masses

You want orchids? The Baton Rouge Orchid Society has the show and sale for you. This year’s theme is “Exotic Orchids,” and unlike other shows where flowers stand in a vase or pot, these orchids will be arranged into tropical displays and exhibits to resemble natural habitats or to showcase the theme. Flowers and displays will be… Continue reading →

Garden News: Prune to help azaleas bloom

Photo by RICK BOGREN -- Azaleas that have few blooms are probably suffering from late pruning. Avoid this situation by pruning before July 4th.

Azaleas are blooming. You’ve probably seen azalea bushes so full of flowers you couldn’t see any green. And you’ve likely seen azalea bushes with many fewer flowers. What’s the difference? “Pruning,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. “When azaleas are pruned improperly, you get fewer flowers.” Like many spring-flowering shrubs, azalea bushes begin to make… Continue reading →


Garden News: Defeating plant pests begins with diagnosis

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter -- To prepare a plant sample for diagnosis at the LSU AgCenter, place the roots in a plastic bag and wrap the upper portion in newspaper, then bring it an AgCenter office or place it in a sturdy box and ship it.

A wide variety of pests can damage plants or cause problems in our landscapes. They include insects, mites, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and a whole host of weeds. If you have a plant or plants that constantly seem to be under attack despite your best efforts, consider replacing them with plants you have found to require less… Continue reading →

BR Realtor Whitt puts found materials back into use in new house

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- One of Betty Whitt's favorite spots is her 'cooking shed' in her back courtyard.

As a Realtor, Betty Whitt spends her days studying houses, so when she decided to build her own, she had a good idea of what she wanted. In one afternoon, Whitt and architect Dwayne Carruth planned her whole house. She contracted it herself using old materials she had collected for years. In eight months, it… Continue reading →

Garden News: Coneflower shows its true colors

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS  There are now coneflowers in lots of colors, like these Cheyenne Spirit Echinacea growing at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station.

Louisiana gardeners have been growing the coneflower, or Echinacea purpurea, for years. It’s a tough, resilient plant that’s extremely attractive to butterflies, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill said. “It’s a real performer in our gardens,” Gill said. “The problem is a color limitation.” For years, the only color available has been a sort of… Continue reading →

Counting up the kids, the Browns knew it was time for a bigger place

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Neutral colors used  with antique furniture create an updated look in Dana Brown's living room.

Interior designer Dana Brown’s home worked perfectly for her young family when she and her former husband bought it in 1997. But after the couple divorced and their three sons and one daughter got older, the house needed some modification. Then, in 2008, she married Bill Brown, who brought a fourth son into the family.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Sharpen those mower blades

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter -- Dull blades leave jagged ends on mowed grass.

A healthy, good-looking lawn requires proper mowing. Because it removes the food-making structure known as the leaf blade, we must do it properly to avoid excessive stress to the plant. And that means a sharp blade, says LSU AgCenter turf expert Ron Strahan. Simply put, never remove more than the top third of the grass in any… Continue reading →

When the Frugés downsized, they didn’t give up style

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- The back courtyard features a  large outdoor kitchen, which the Fruges use year-round.

Jim and Louise Frugé’s home is designed around two New Orleans-style courtyards that turn the outside area into a major part of their living space. The Frugés are outdoor people who use the courtyards to relax, dine and entertain almost year-round. “I love being outside,” Louise Frugé said. “I want to be able to… Continue reading →

Garden Fest features food, music, garden tours, plant sales

Vibrant verbena

Food, music, hayride tours and plant sales are all part of the annual Garden Fest at LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Saturday, June 21. Beginning at 7:30 a.m., visitors can take a hayride to the research area to taste tomatoes, watermelons, peppers and fruit crops and learn about the latest research conducted by the LSU… Continue reading →

Herb Society to meet June 26

The Herb Society of American will learn about artemisia when it meets at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 26. The meeting will be held at the Burden Conference Center, 4560 Essen Lane. Members get in free, and it’s $5 for others. Artemisia is the Herb of the Year, and, while that name might be unfamiliar, it’s… Continue reading →