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Crossvine cultivar ’Tangerine Beauty'

This article by Dan Gill, former LSU AgCenter Horticulturist, explains why to use native plants in our landscapes.

Cardinal Flower

(07/29/16) "Native plants are not used as much as they could be in our landscapes. While natives cannot satisfactorily replace all of the many types of plants we use, incorporating native plants when and where we can is a good thing.

Flowers on a Parsley Hawthorn tree

The best reason to use native plants is that they give our landscapes a sense of place. Using plants native to your region links your landscape to natural areas and the plants they contain. It makes the gardens here in the Gulf Coast South look distinctively different than gardens in other parts of the country..."

Read the rest of his article.

THE BIG EASY NATIVE PLANT GUIDE written specifically for the greater New Orleans area by our own Susan Norris-Davis is now available after many months of development! It includes 47 species for both sun and shade, vetted for ease of growing, suitable for small city gardens, and available locally at listed sites. It is beautifully illustrated (Amelia Wiygul) and thoroughly researched. Printed locally in the Lower 9 at Paper Machine on 100% post-consumer fiber recycled paper. It will be for sale at the City Park Pelican Greenhouse plant sales on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings 8am - noon. The author will be there this Friday and would be happy to sign a copy.
It is also for sale at Barber Laboratories, 6444 Jefferson Hwy. in Harahan (
And you can buy it online . You can choose a delivery option locally within the city or there is a shipping option. The cost is $20.00 (tax included) plus delivery ($1.00) or shipping ($3.50).

We enjoy our Spring gardening season so much here in the deep Gulf South, but once we get to July and August and into the real dog days of summer, with near constant tropical deluges and sauna-like heat, our gardens can just look tired and not at their best.   Many of the garden plants we use for seasonal color and pizzazz don’t manage our summertime combination of heavy rainfall and oppressive temperatures very well, but as usual - there’s a native plant for that!

Some of the most dramatic and colorful native plants for our area, with flowers sometimes as much as 8-10” across, are our native hibiscus species.  These plants, in the Malvaceae family, also answer to common names like Rose Mallow, Swamp Rose Mallow, Crimson-eyed Mallow and yes, Marsh Mallow.  The genus Hibiscus includes four species (aculeatus, grandiflorus, lasiocarpos, and mosheutos) that are native to Louisiana plus H. coccineus that is native to the United States but perhaps not Louisiana.  Also garden worthy is Kosteletskya virginica, our native Saltmarsh Mallow.  Found naturally in moist to wet areas up the eastern seaboard from Louisiana to New Jersey, all of these easy-to-grow plants shine in the summer heat and thrive here in our gardens.

Native mallows are herbaceous, long-lived perennial plants.   Flower colors often vary in nature from white to shades of pink and even bright red in the case of Hibiscus coccineus, better known Scarlet Rosemallow or Texas Star Hibiscus.  Hibiscus aculeatus, the Pineland Hibiscus or Comfortroot, can be a soft white to butter-yellow, reminiscent of an okra flower.  Hibiscus moscheutos and H. lasiocarpus are usually “crimson eyed” having a distinctive red throat on white flowers.  Halbeardleaf Hibiscus, H. laevis, is distinguished by its’ leaf-shape and can be found in many color variations.  All have an impressive pollen-coated stamen that protrudes from the flower, making them particularly attractive to people and bees alike.  Lots of breeding has been done with our native hibiscus species. Hybrids and cultivars abound in the nursery trade, including the LSU Super Plants, the Luna series.

In the wild, mallows occur in ditches, in or near swamps, lakes or rivers showing off their love for moist to wet, rich soil.  While they are well suited to wet and moist areas, pond edges, and rain gardens which makes them the perfect stormwater management plant, they are equally as happy in the average sunny garden bed with adequate moisture.  This time of year, it is often easy to spot these plants along our roadsides in ditches or in swampy areas.  I often see pink mallows on the Lake side of the Bonne Carre’ spillway and have recently been seeing pale yellow Comfortroot on the sides of Highway 25 near Folsom blooming in wet swales.

Native mallows differ from non-native tropical hibiscus in that they go completely dormant in winter, leaving only upright tan-colored, hollow stalks standing.  I find these stalks dramatic and interesting in the winter garden and rather than clip them down, I leave them standing.   This not only marks where the plant is in the garden, but also provides perfect nesting spaces for native bees that rely on hollow plant stalks for rearing their young.  I have also seen birds shred the dried, woody stems to make nesting material.

Most native mallow species can get quite tall, as much as 6-8’ or more, but the plants can be encouraged to branch by pinching the growing tip at an early stage before they set flower buds.  As a plant matures, more and more flowering stalks will emerge each year from the crown, making for a bushier, fuller appearance.  When flowering is finished, the large dry seed pods are easy to harvest, each containing many seeds to collect and share.  They are super easy to grow and sprout quickly in regular potting mix, with no special preparation, under just a bit of soil.  For some summer sizzle in your sunny garden, try these excellent, easy natives!

Tammany Baumgarten is a New Orleans Master Gardener and the current President of the Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans. The Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans will be hosting Mallow Madness, a native hibiscus give-away, on August 22nd, 8-10am, at First Grace Methodist Church, 3401 Canal Street in New Orleans.  See the website, for updates and more info.

Caroline Coroneos Dormon (1888-1971) by Amy Graham of Longue Vue Gardens

“I could no more have stopped studying birds, flowers, and trees and drawing them than I could have stopped breathing!”

 “Our swamp debutante (the iris) has become a horticultural queen, reigning in gardens around the world”, 1951

Considered Louisiana’s first conservationist and one of the most influential American naturalists of the early 20th century, Caroline Dormon was an accomplished horticulturist, botanist, archeologist, ornithologist, teacher, Louisiana Iris hybridizer and author.  As a child in Saline LA, Dormon developed a keen interest in nature and spent most of her life collecting, cataloging and preserving native plants.  As the first woman employed by the U.S. Forestry Service in 1921, Caroline worked to establish Kisatchie National Forest by writing an enabling act that would allow the government to purchase old growth forest land.

Affectionately known as “Miss Carrie”, Dormon’s expertise was uncontested which conveyed into years of lecturing and consultation work through the 1940’s. Projects included highway beautification with the Louisiana Department of Transportation, nature-scaping of the Huey P. Long Charity Hospital and the establishment of the Louisiana State Arboretum in 1961. She also developed forestry education materials for schools, promoted forestry conservation support among civic leaders, and advocated for education and support for the Choctaw and Chitimacha tribes of Louisiana.

Dormon’s letters attest to professional correspondence with notable national figures including Lady Bird Johnson, Thomas Edison, garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, famed botanist Dr. J.K. Small and landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman.

Published works include: Wild Flowers of Louisiana (1934), the first published work devoted entirely to describing Louisiana wildflowers, Forest Trees of Louisiana (1941), Flowers Native to the Deep South (1958), Natives Preferred (1965), Southern Indian Boy (1967), and Bird Talk (1969).

Dormon’s lifelong project was her 121-acre home Briarwood.  On Dormon’s passing in 1971, her beloved Briarwood was willed to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, Inc, and became the Briarwood Nature Preserve, now designated as a National Historic Place.

The Dormon archives are located at the library of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA.

Awards and appointments:

Member of the DeSoto Commission

Eloise Paine Luquer Medal by the Garden Club of America

Louisiana’s Board of Public Welfare and the State’s Highway Department

Honorary Doctorate of Science from Louisiana State University for Distinguished Scientific Achievement

To read more about Caroline Dormon, click here.


Millennials Require More From The Market

Published October 2019
By Felice Lavergne

"There seems to be a growing number of millennial native plant enthusiasts in the Greater New Orleans area, noticed in part because of the recent gatherings of the Native Plant Initiative of GNO, a new native plant organization focused on increasing the use of native plants  by expanding public awareness of their ecological benefits, boosting viability, and by preserving and creating native plant communities in and around our urban setting..."

This article was published in the Fall 2019 issue of the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association's newsletter. Click here to read the article.

Thank you to Thomas Rainer and Claudia West for coming to the New Orleans Botanic Gardens to teach us design skills, to create more vital and ecologically functional plantings for green infrastructure, public plantings, and residential gardens based on native plant communities. They were inspirational, enthusiastic, and most enjoyable! Their book, Planting in a Post-Wild World is worth the read, and indeed was a catalyst for the formation of NPI-GNO.

Crazy for Coreopsis
by Tammany Baumgarten

Native gardeners are crazy for Coreopsis!  There are 13 species of Coreopsis, pronounced “core-ee-OP-siss,” that are native to Louisiana and all are long-blooming, sturdy, good wildlife plants that add weeks of color to our Louisiana gardens starting very early in the Spring.  Some Coreopsis are annuals that live and die in one season while others are perennial and can last for many years.  One common name for Coreopsis is Tickseed, which may refer to the dark, shiny seeds of some of them or the potential for the seeds to stick to skin or clothing.  Indeed, it is very easy to collect seed from these plants and easy to grow them, making them a perfect plant to share and popular in wildflower and pollinator mixes.

Coreopsis is a favorite of the horticulture industry and while lots of breeding work has produced many named selections and cultivars of this plant, there are several straight species that are adaptable, beautiful plants for a sunny, well-drained garden.  Sometimes, in breeding efforts to make a plant more appealing to people, wildlife benefits can be compromised, making plants less useful to insects, bees and birds.  Using straight species, just as they occur in the wild, ensures that your plants will have all of the natural wildlife benefits that nature intended.

Two of the more common species of Coreopsis used in gardens are C. lanceolata and C. tinctoriaCoreopsis lanceolata, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, is perennial and has large, pure golden yellow flowers.  It grows about 12-16” tall and is an early bloomer, beginning in late March and going through June.  Like most of our Coreopsis, it prefers well-drained sunny spaces and happily re-seeds, sometimes creating large colonies.  In early April, Lance-leaf Coreopsis in combination with other Coreopsis species like C. pubescens and C. intermedia can be seen in late Spring and early summer on Louisiana roadsides in the piney regions of the state.

Coreopsis tinctoria, also known as Plains Coreopsis, is an annual species, lasting only one season, and can be seen growing wild on disturbed roadside areas, but is also a gardener’s favorite.  These fast-growing plants can be direct seeded into garden beds and pots or planted out as plants.  They always reward with a multitude of bi-colored flowers with yellow petals, red-brown at the base and brown center discs.  The flowers are carried above airy, finely cut foliage on tall plants at 2-4 feet.  They respond very well to pinching or cutting back when young to produce a denser, more branched plant. There are variations of C. tinctoria that present very pale yellow, ivory or mahogany red petals.  Again, C. tinctoria prefers well drained and full-sun situations and can handle poorer soils.  It is easy to collect seed or just allow this plant to re-seed itself in the garden.

Coreopsis are the perfect plants for wildflower gardens, meadows, pollinator gardens, naturalistic and native plantings.  A combination of species will provide weeks of color early in the growing season.  They do fine in poorer soils, and tolerate our heat and humidity well if given a well-drained situation. Many species of pollinators, especially native bees, will use Coreopsis and at least two moths use it as a host plant.  In addition, the seeds may also be eaten by birds.  Native gardeners are crazy for Coreopsis and it’s easy to see why!

The Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans is hosting two Crazy for Coreopsis native plant giveaways in the GNO area, February 20th and 27th.  Each family will receive one or more FREE native Coreopsis plants as supplies last.  Go to for locations, times and other details.