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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 →

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 →

Fall plant sale Plantfest! set for Oct. 4-5 at LSU Hilltop Arboretum

Chinese Bell flower

Get ready for Plantfest!, the annual sale of more than 5,000 trees, shrubs, perennials, vines, ferns, fruits and so much more on Oct. 4-5. The 31th anniversary of the fall plant sale celebrates three decades of collecting people and plants and bringing them together in the unique natural space that is the… 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 →