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Garden News: Ball-like moss plant cropping up in Louisiana, generally not a threat to trees

Photo by RAJ SINGH -- Ball moss is being seen more and more in local landscapes. Fortunately, it is not usually a danger to trees.

Louisianians are probably familiar with Spanish moss, but they may not be aware of ball moss. Like Spanish moss, ball moss is an epiphyte and belongs to family Bromeliaceae, says LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Raj Singh. It’s an air plant that’s not a true moss but rather a small flowering plant, Singh said. It is neither… Continue reading →

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

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

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

Herb Society hosting tea-tasting event

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

Garden News: Whip winter weeds now with herbicides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Fine Art of Dining’ event set for BR

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

The Gunns’ house is designed for efficiency, liveability

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Master Gardeners offer basic gardening series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 →