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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 →

Garden News: Dealing with caterpillars

Photo by DAN GILL -- Fall webworms will eat the leaves but won't harm the woody parts of a tree.

Caterpillars of various types are common pests in vegetable gardens, flower beds, trees, shrubs and even lawns all through the summer. We call moths and butterflies in the larval stage caterpillars, but sometimes they’re called “worms,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. The caterpillar phase is basically the stage when the insect eats large amounts of… Continue reading →

Home addition gives Godfreys space for family addition

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Emily and Kyle Godfrey doubled the size of their home in 2009, adding a den which is furnished with two sofas and two chairs in 'mellow' colors and pillows in geometric patterns.

Emily Godfrey and her husband, Kyle, were enjoying life in their 1960s-vintage, 1000-square-foot house when they got the news that they were expecting twins. The Godfreys loved their little house, but it had a problem. The laundry room was in a storage area off the carport. “I couldn’t imagine leaving the babies in the… Continue reading →

Garden News: Caring for crape myrtles in the summer

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS  Cercospora leaf spot is a fungus that usually appears on crape myrtle leaves in mid- to late-summer. It doesn't usually harm the trees.

Crape myrtles are beginning to bloom now in south Louisiana, and they’ll continue into September. So LSU horticulturist Dan Gill has some suggestions for caring for your crape myrtles throughout the summer. A common problem with crape myrtles is the careless use of mowers and string trimmers around the base of these thin-barked trees, Gill says. This… Continue reading →

Learn about vertical gardening at free New Orleans workshop

Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- Will Crary is manager of Verti Gardens, a company that produces  vertical aeroponic systems for gardens in New Orleans, La. on Wednesday, June 4, 2014.

Just grow up! A schoolyard taunt, maybe, but the phrase is also advice to any gardener — especially the urban type — who has limited space in which to cultivate a garden. On Saturday, June 14, Wil Crary of VertiFarms explains the concept of vertical gardening at a free talk hosted by Parkway Partners. “A vertical garden… Continue reading →

Garden news: Prepare for heat with drought-tolerant plants

Photo by LSU AgCenter --  Once established, New Gold lantana is drought-tolerant and requires limited care, yet provides continuous season-long color.

Summer will be here before you know it, and you can prepare for the heat now by planting beautiful drought-tolerant plants in sunny spots of your landscape. Although we often get hot, dry spells in south Louisiana, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill says you can find plants that are tough and superb at producing beautiful flowers in… Continue reading →

BR landscape architect gardens where he works

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Landscape architect Jon Emerson enjoys his long row of blooming sweet peas every spring.

Landscape architect Jon Emerson’s office garden is such an important part of his workspace that he put the front door there. “It’s like Savannah and Charleston,” Emerson says. “In Savannah and Charleston, you walk into the gardens first.” The office, in an early 20th- century house in Beauregard Town, features a side garden divided… Continue reading →

Garden News: Get lawn growing again

Photo provided by LSU AgCenter -- Applying fertilizer and herbicides at the right time is critical for good lawn care.

Lawns had a really tough winter this year, and they have not recovered well this spring. Fertilizer should be helpful in getting your lawn growing again, says LSU AgCenter turf specialist Ron Strahan. Although it is a little late, it is OK to use materials, like Scotts Bonus S, on your lawn to fertilize and… Continue reading →

Garden News: Better pollination prevents disfigured squash

Photo by KIKI FONTENOT -- Healthy squash plants can produce abundantly throughout the summer.

Many home gardeners and commercial producers have been reporting disfigured squash fruit this spring, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kiki Fontenot. Squash is a monocot, which means it produces both male and female flowers on the same plant. Only female flowers produce fruit, but both types of flowers are needed for cross-pollination and fruit production.… Continue reading →

Garden News: Hardy hibiscus thrive in south La.

Photo by ALLEN OWINGS -- If you need to replace plants this year, consider the Luna hibiscus, seen here thriving at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.

With the unusually cold weather we had in south Louisiana this winter, a good portion of our tropical hibiscuses that normally make it through the winter have been lost. As people begin replacing lost landscape plants, LSU AgCenter horticulturists suggest considering hardy hibiscuses as replacements for some of the lost tropicals. The AgCenter is continuing a… Continue reading →

Garden News: Hydrangeas are Mother’s Day gift that lasts

Advocate file photo -- Hydrangeas do well in south Louisiana gardens, but don't like a lot of sun.

Potted hydrangeas are popular gifts for Mother’s Day, and they can be a gift that lasts. Once their flowers fade, these gift plants can be planted outside where they will provide beautiful flowers for years to come, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. Deciduous shrubs originally native to Japan, hydrangeas need an evenly moist soil and are… Continue reading →

Strategic planning hides Perkins Road home in plain sight

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Ann Shaw likes an uncluttered look in her dining room, where a low bookcase was designed for the space and her table, left by the previous owner, is surrounded with garage-sale chairs.

Ann Shaw’s home sits on a corner lot on a major thoroughfare across the street from one of Baton Rouge’s busiest shopping areas. Using creative landscaping, she refocused the setting to create her own quiet haven. When the house was built in 1936, it faced Perkins Road, then a slow country drive. Even though her subdivision… Continue reading →

Hibiscus show, sale scheduled

Photo provided by Red Stick Hibiscus Association -- Beautiful blooms like this one will be on exhibit and for sale at the Red Stick Hibiscus Association's show on Sunday.

The Red Stick Hibiscus Association will hold its annual show and sale from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at the 4-H Mini Farm Building, adjacent to the John Parker Coliseum on the LSU campus. The theme this year is “Salute to the Purple and Gold,” and will include flowers from growers throughout the South.… Continue reading →