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Contributed by Robert Shaw - January 2024

Kill some of your lawn, maybe, or better yet, Kill your traditional lawn maintenance practices because for some people in some places, the native St. Augustine grass that many of us inherited along with our yards might be the best option to meet certain needs of small city yards typical of New Orleans.

I want to share my appreciation of St. Augustine grass - - but not how it’s typically managed. Look beyond the rallying cry of killing one’s lawn and consider the benefits of certain applications of this fairly able and certainly willing native groundcover: tough under feet, soccer balls and car tires; requiring little attention or maintenance (seriously, read on); providing an off-season soil-protecting cover and nursery for many plants native and otherwise, etc.

Grass was smothered with cardboard and mulch to create gardens (2 yrs prior in foreground, one year along fence)

So the problem is not with Stenotaphrum secundatum (St. Augustine grass), it’s with the expectations and conventions for its use as a lawn and the management that typically follows - - frequent mowing, bags of weed-n-feed, fungicides, etc. Consider, though, if you haven‘t seen for yourself: what happens to a small patch of St. Augustine grass if it is neither watered, nor fed, nor treated with broad-leaf herbicides, and cut back as little as possible, perhaps to string-/trim a border to show that the management is intentional? It doesn’t grow tall enough to earn the attention of Code Enforcement - - whoever would come knocking about the height of your “weeds”, if anyone ever would. And so you can easily manage a small patch of St. Augustine grass with just an occasional string-trimming. I’ve never fertilized, watered, nor treated the grass with broad-leaf herbicides, fungicides, irrigating, etc, and it does just fine. Although lawn mowers can rarely be set high enough for this purpose, many plants, including native wildflowers - - Carolina petunia, cranesbill geranium, lawn American aster, etc., can survive typical mowers.

Elephantopus, Elephant's Foot can seed into and pop up in the lawn
Carolina cranes-bill geranium takes over big patches of lawn in the late winter
the native Ruellia will probably show up anywhere it’s allowed (or not)
Lawn American aster, Salt-Marsh Aster is an annual species that can grow in lawns

Over the years, I’ve expressed most if not all of the sentiments typically found in a “kill your lawn” article or post. I could dig up articles I wrote for a newspaper column back in 1982 about the useless waste of resources, etc. that a typical lawn involves. I still roll my eyes at huge houses perched on huge lawns that no one seems to ever play on, with a little wrought iron bench that no one ever seems to sit on. I’m somewhat amazed by suburban neighborhoods where there’s a popular pattern of mower tracks on the finished lawn - - circular, linear, or even cross-hatched for those who really get off on it. Over time, we have replaced about most (around 80%?) of the lawn grass area that came with our house. In recent years, I’ve taken to nibbling away at the small bit of lawn that’s left, smothering an occasional section with a big piece of cardboard, composting leaves and organic material, and then turning it over to the coneflowers, penstemon, and other native plants. But we’ll probably never get rid of this last little bit, nor the grass out by the street. “Kill your lawn” might make sense for some people and situations, but more likely only partly so for others.

Besides traditionally functioning as the presentation setting for the house (curb appeal, safely sterile, etc.), I understand that for many people, the attractiveness of having a conventional lawn is that mowing the lawn presents probably the least thoughtful and least involved approach to maintaining a landscape. Other than knowing how to handle a mower, you don’t have to know a whole lot. You don’t have to know a single thing about a single plant, except perhaps the grass you’re mowing and a few “weeds” you’re trying to eliminate, and maybe not even that. Obviously, people who maintain a “spotless” lawn would disagree, after all the money spent on typical lawn care products. And I’m not even touching the psychology of lord-of-the-manor / man-against-nature / salute to wealth and power / need for control or any of the other interesting suggestions about our attachment to lawns we read from time to time.

But keeping in mind that everyone’s situation is different, with these comments I’m considering typically small- to occasionally medium- sized New Orleans lawns. Right off the bat, there are reasons why one would not want to kill off all of their lawn (as well as reasons to do so, if desired).

  • If you have kids or have kids over, they need room to throw and kick balls, chase and tumble around, etc. You can’t play catch in the middle of the coneflowers.
  • If you want a little blanket-sized patch in the shade to be able to lie down with a book and cat or picnic, grass is where you want to sit, not on the Rudbeckias.
  • If it’s the first of May (hooray, hooray… but not in the Salvia, for heaven’s sake)
  • And of course there are more important issues, like:

What other ground cover can you drive over repeatedly in the road-side strip between sidewalk and street? Even if people don’t normally park on your strip, they will at Mardi Gras, for construction work on your block, etc. A lot of Uptown, for example, was laid out with little knowledge of a future of private vehicle parking, especially multiple vehicles for a family.

  • people need to open car doors and get to the sidewalk. I can’t plant shrubs that block people trying to get in and out of cars, or plant flowers that people may or may not find a way to step around.
  • St. Augustine grass on the ground is better than nothing, at least. It breaks up rain and sun impact and doesn’t seem to let any soil get away. That in itself seems pretty major.
  • The grass actually ends up as an occasional nursery for self-seeding natives that are near-by. I’ve “rescued” blanket-flower, bee-blossom and others to transplant from the lawn to other places, and left others (lawn American aster, Malvastrum, etc.) to fend for themselves with occasional traffic, blankets and weed-whacking. In late winter, I let the streetside grassy strip go without cutting back as long as possible, and for a while you can barely see the grass blades for the cranesbill geraniums, false onion and non-natives such as the introduced Oxalis and white Dutch clover.

No, it doesn’t attract insect-pollinators with its non-showy wind-pollinated flowers (although the pistils and stamens are quite beautiful when you’re down at their level), but does serve as habitat for at least a couple larval stages of insects. And protects the soil ecosystem beneath it, at least.

Unmown St. Augustine grass stays fairly street-legal
How many other species could easily recover from this?
Malvastrum and Ruellia were quick to reclaim the muddy parking area
Vigorous St. Augustine left to grow in wide perimeter border. Flowering natives like Goldenrods, Mallows, Helianthus, are pit-planted into it

If you need a fairly carefree native plant that covers bare spots (and concrete and brick remains of civilization), that you can also drive and park on, and open car doors into, wrassle with the dog or cat on, lie down in the shade to stare up at the leaves and sky… I just don’t know a better one. F(r)og-fruit has successfully invaded the St. Augustine grass, as have other plants (non-native Dutch white clover, etc.), but none of them can handle the job year-round by themselves.

For your convenience, a map of its range all across the Gulf South, from BONAP:

I’ll see if I can find a complete list of the native plants that voluntarily appear in the lawn, but they include: fogfruit, Carolina geranium, false onion, Gaura, Coreopsis, blanketflower (Gaillardia), elephant’s-foot (Elephantopus), Salvia, Malvastrum, and of course some non-natives like white clover and lawn Oxalis. So even if you’re going to kill your lawn, try killing the typical maintenance practices first, and in the meantime appreciate the temporary and effective ground cover that you’re about to uproot or smother or otherwise do away with.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Here's where some of the grass has been smothered with cardboard, mulch, etc., two years prior in the foreground with the coneflowers, and only one year before in the background by the fence.

Certify your property as a Louisiana Certified Habitat!  Every property, from the smallest city garden to rural acreage, is eligible to apply.  

The Louisiana Native Plant Society invites Louisiana residents, businesses, schools, and public institutions to certify their outdoor spaces as certified habitats through the Louisiana Certified Habitat Program (LCH).  We know that native plants are the foundation of a healthy and resilient ecosystem.  This program encourages property owners to increase and protect the ecological value and natural heritage of their land by recognizing their efforts to utilize native plant species and to enact best habitat gardening practices.  Habitat Certification Levels are determined by the amount of native plant species or percentage of native plant species on a property.  State-wide, over 140 properties have certified to date, almost 50 in the NOLA area, many electing to appear on the MAP where certifications are being recorded.  The levels include bronze, 25 native species or 25% native plants; silver 50 native species or 50% native plants;  gold 75 native species or 75% native plants.  Certification includes a 9 x 12 inch metal yard sign citing the habitat level.  Levels can be upgraded for free at any time.

The Native Plant Initiative of Greater New Orleans (NPI) certifies the Southeast region of Louisiana.  Parishes include: Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, New Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, Washington.  There is no minimum acreage requirement. All properties are eligible for certification.

How to apply

Payment is due at time of application.  When the application and payment are received, a representative from NPI will contact you about the certification process and may request a site visit.   A refund will be issued if certification is not granted. Please email if cost is an issue.  

  Helpful Links: Native Plant Checklist | Guide to ALL Plants of Louisiana (not all native) | Tier 1 Invasive Species|Full Brochure


Last Saturday morning in November, we spent a few hours removing invasive tree saplings from the UNO Woodlot. This is the kick-off of a multi-phase project on UNO's campus to enhance bird and wildlife habitat by planting native shrubs and trees to further develop a urban birding trail on campus where over 130 species of birds have already been reported.  That’s a lot! With funds granted by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we will be helping to select and plant at least 120 native trees and shrubs in the coming months. 


Volunteers came out from NPI, Orleans Audubon, Master Naturalists, UNO faculty and students, former students and community neighbors. We removed lots of Camphor, Golden Rain Tree, Chinese Elm and Tallow saplings that were sprouting on the ground layer of this woodsy spot.  We also collected many fallen branches and other forest litter and concentrated them into several brush piles (which birds love!)  While we were there, we could hear and see several bird species cavorting about.

We documented the following plant species already on the site:

  • Slash Pine
  • Black Cherry
  • Cherry Laurel
  • Live Oak
  • Water Oak
  • other Oak? (not sure which species)
  • Southern Red Oak
  • Hickory?
  • Green Ash?
  • Sweet Gum
  • Bald Cypress on fringes
  • Elderberry
  • Mulberry
  • Magnolia, Yaupon and Ilex opaca seedlings
  • Virginia Creeper
  • Poison Ivy
  • Spiderwort
  • Bidens alba
  • Sida rhombifolia

Now, to decide what 50 native species of tree or woody shrub would best improve the area for birds and fit with the existing plants……What do YOU think we should plant?

The Euonymus americana locally know as "Strawberry bush", "Burning Bush", "Hearts-a-Busting" is in full display right now.   In late summer/early fall the red fruits burst open to reveal bright orange berries.  The pictures below are from a NPI member's garden in New Orleans.

It is an adaptable landscape shrub or small tree tolerating different sun exposures and soil types.  It does best in shadier areas with filtered light and protection from afternoon sun.  The colorful fruits and seeds not only provide fall interest for humans, but are also a food source for birds and mammals.

In the wild it can be found in riparian areas, forming loose thickets.

Learn more about the "Strawberry bush" Euonymus americanus HERE

Louisiana Native Plant Society (LNPS) recently put out a statement on habitat gardening and best practices for ecological resilience.  The Native Plant Initiative of GNO is aligned with this statement and supports property owners adherence to best practices of land and water conservation as crucial wildlife habitat.  You can read the entire position statement HERE.

LNPS also created a communication toolkit for Louisiana native plant gardeners to explain to their neighbors the benefits of habitat gardening and for finding common ground with neighbors who may not understand why a property owner would choose to garden this way. Click HERE to view the toolkit.



We are excited to resume in-person community events for both St. Anthony Green Streets and the Public Art Projects in the Gentilly Resilience District.
On May 15, Artists Langston Allston, Courtney Egan, Brendon Palmer-Angell and Ashley Pridmore will lead hands-on creative activities for all ages focused on the themes of water, remembrance, adaptation, and ecology.  Photographer Jose Cotto will be taking portraits of neighborhood residents that they can take home with them, and the portraits may also be featured -- with permission -- as part of a temporary display at Gatto Playground. Meet with the design team and city representatives to learn the latest on the St. Anthony Green Streets project.
Please follow all public health guidelines for masks and social distancing, and do not join if you’re experiencing any symptoms of illness. We will have hand sanitizer and extra masks on hand. And if you have any questions or concerns, please email or call (504) 658-7623. We hope to see you soon!

The $141 million HUD-funded Gentilly Resilience District (GRD) is a combination of efforts across the Gentilly neighborhood that are designed to reduce flood risk, slow land subsidence, improve energy reliability, and encourage neighborhood revitalization. To learn more, visit:


Originally scheduled for April 17th, postponed due to weather, is now rescheduled for May 15th.

Saturday, April 17 | 10 a.m. to Noon
@ Filmore Playground, 5500 Wildair St.

We are excited to resume in-person community events for both St. Anthony Green Streets and the Public Art Projects in the Gentilly Resilience District.
On April 17, Artists Langston Allston and Courtney Egan will lead hands-on, creative activities for all ages, focusing on neighborhood history, plants, and water. Photographer Jose Cotto will be taking portraits of neighborhood residents that they can take home with them, and the portraits may also be featured -- with permission -- as part of a temporary display at Filmore Playground. Meet with the design team and city representatives to learn the latest on the St. Anthony Green Streets project.
From noon to 1, head to New Orleans Mosquito, Rodent, and Termite Control Headquarters (2100 Leon C. Simon) just up the street to help plant a native wildflower meadow with artist Courtney Egan, the Native Plant Initiative, Water Leaders Institute, and Civic Studio.
Please follow all public health guidelines for masks and social distancing, and do not join if you’re experiencing any symptoms of illness. We will have hand sanitizer and extra masks on hand. And if you have any questions or concerns, please email or call (504) 658-7623. We hope to see you soon!

The $141 million HUD-funded Gentilly Resilience District (GRD) is a combination of efforts across the Gentilly neighborhood that are designed to reduce flood risk, slow land subsidence, improve energy reliability, and encourage neighborhood revitalization. To learn more, visit:

“How We Turned a Barren Construction Site Into A Gold Level Habitat In Less Than One Year"

Tracey Banowetz


Our interest in using native plants in our landscaping began over twenty five years ago as two of our hobbies - gardening and birdwatching - intertwined.  For Dave, reading Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein back in 1994 was like what reading Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home or Nature’s Best Hope is for many today.  It showed how we could enjoy both hobbies in a way that also supported our more fundamental interests in nature and conservation.

Our first attempt at gardening with native plants was in conjunction with the construction of a new home in a Baton Rouge subdivision in 1995.  We outgrew that space within five years and acquired 26 acres in the Tunica Hills north of St. Francisville.  We enjoyed almost 20 years of fun in the woods before facing the fact that it was time to downsize.  Which brings us to the start of the present-day story….

Initially, the concept of downsizing was depressing as we struggled with the thought of trying to shrink what we had in terms of both home and garden.   What to keep?  What to get rid of?  And how?  We needed a vision!   We found it at an exhibit at the West Baton Rouge museum on the interior design concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Dave and I walked out of the exhibit, looked at each other, and said “That’s it!  We keep nothing and go in a completely different direction.”   

This meant swapping a 160 year old historic home and most of its contents for a small but intensely functional space based on the principles of Wright’s Usonian designs.  But the characteristics of organic architecture - “creating harmony between human habitation and the natural world” - also provided an exciting step forward in our continuing interest in gardening with native plants.   

So now we had to find a homesite.  We looked for property on the New Orleans north shore in order to be closer to both of our mothers who still live in the area.  We chose a 3/4 acre lot in the Money Hill subdivision in Abita Springs.  We were attracted to Money Hill because of the conservation ethics expressed by the Goodyear family as well as their association with The Nature Conservancy.   We chose our lot based on its gradual elevation change and the fact that it backed up to a small lake and a large common area with lots of space and lovely views.  We knew our architect could help us do something really cool with the site.

Design Goals for the Home and Garden

In keeping with the principles of organic architecture, we wanted the construction of the home to be “dirt neutral.”  In other words, we wanted as little fill and as little excavation as possible, despite the fact that the lot had a strong declining slope from front to back.  The result was a split-level open u-shape home that melded into the existing topography.  Pale green brick would further help the house blend in to its surroundings.

The changing elevation across the property created both challenges and opportunities.  Managing the drainage in a sensitive way would be a challenge and for this we collaborated with Philip Moser Associates and installed a series of french drains and dry stream beds.  A low retaining wall at the rear of the main garden in the front yard was added to retain both soil and soil moisture in this bed.  Terraced steps in the rear compliment the geometry of the house, creating garden and lawn spaces that absorb water runoff from the roof.  This also allowed us to preserve and protect a large longleaf pine in the backyard by avoiding any significant fill in its root zone.

Different elevations and exposures on the site offered us the opportunity to create three main habitat areas.  The higher and sunnier front yard became the upland pine savannah; the lower, wetter northeastern corner became the lowland pine savannah or “flatwoods garden;” and the shadier west side became the woodland garden.

We were required to present a landscape plan to the Money Hill HOA prior to constructing our home.  At the time we did this, the committee was primarily concerned with tree preservation and had some detailed requirements regarding the minimum number of trees you were required to have for each zone of your property.  This was not a difficult target for us to meet and our initial plan was readily accepted.  While the plan included a large planting area in the front yard for the upland pine savannah, there was also a generous amount of turf, which probably helped facilitate the approval.  That said, current guidelines call for a minimum of 20% turf area in the front yard, so we have the opportunity to expand this garden as we learn more about what plants are most successful in this area.  Thus far, the only “push back” we have received from the HOA was that it took longer than the required three months from move-in to install the garden.    

Plant Selection

When it came to selecting specific plants for the gardens, we wanted to focus primarily on the use of indigenous native plant material common to the longleaf pine ecosystem that was original to the Money Hill area.  Lucky for us, our best friends are Rick and Susan Webb who own the fabulous Louisiana Growers Nursery in nearby Amite.  Having held my landscape horticulture license since 2002, we had easy access to some wonderful plant material, including lots of special selections that Rick has made from St. Tammany, Washington, and Tangipahoa parishes. 

We also put into practice some of the principles we had recently learned from Claudia West and Piet Oudolf.  We sought to use native grasses and perennials in relatively dense masses.  Perennials were selected with an eye towards attracting birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.  Many of our perennials came from Louisiana Growers, but we also discovered the great selection of perennials available as “landscape plugs” from Northcreek Nursery in Pennsylvania.  Again, having my professional license allowed us access to this source of plant material.  Using large quantities of smaller plants allowed us to achieve masses of plants quickly and economically. 

Specific Plant Materials

While we focused on masses of perennials, we also opted for diversity in terms of both the woody and perennial selections.  Having the three different habitats guided our selection process and accentuated this diversity.  What follows is a list of some of the plant material in each of the three habitat gardens.

Upland Pine Savannah:  This garden is in the front yard, receiving full sun with a southern exposure.  The property slopes gently from the street down towards the house.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Yellow False Indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa), Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), Blue Arrow Rush (Juncus inflexus), Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya), Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata),Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma), Peter’s Purple Bee Balm (Monarda fisulosa x barlettii), Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia hirta), Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima), Pineywoods Dropseed (Sporobolus junceus), Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis), Tree Huckleberry (Vaccinium arboreum).

Lowland Pine Savannah:  This garden is in the rear northeastern corner of the property.  It has significant elevation change across its area, staying drier at the top and much more damp at the rear.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), Spiderlily (Hymenocallis liriosme), Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine, “Tchefuncta”), Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica), Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron serrulatum),  Florida Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum), Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima), Little Bluestem Grass (Schizachyrium scoparium), Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), Elliott’s Blueberry (Vaccinium elliotti).

Woodland:  The woodland habitat stretches along the western side of the home, extending into the back yard area.  It is bordered by the wooded lot next door which we bought half-way into the construction process in order to preserve the trees.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Crinum Lily (Crinum americanum), Dixie Wood Fern (Dryopteris australis), Southern Wood Fern (Dryopteris ludoviciana), Bigtop Lovegrass (Eragrostis hirsuta), Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri), Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Sweetbay Magnolia (M. virginiana var. australis), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Obediant Plant 'Miss Manners’ (Physostegia virginiana), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), Florida Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum), Piedmont Azalea (Rhododendron canescens), Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var fulgida), Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor), Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea), Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), Salvia ‘Black & Blue’ (Salvia guaranitica), Blue eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis).

Elsewhere on the property:  There are several other smaller beds on the site, including foundation beds across the front of the home, and additional trees dotted about.

Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri), Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), White Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia cappillaris), Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica var. sylvatica), Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) Correll's False Dragonhead (Physostegia correllii), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana), Water Oak (Quercus nigra), Nuttall Oak (Quercus nuttallii), Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), White Flame Salvia (Salvia farinacea x longispicata),  Blue eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angusstifolium), Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), Pond Cypress (Taxodium distichum var. nutans).

Bog Planter:  I have long had a passion for collecting carnivorous plants and we designed a planter at the front entrance of the home to hold these.

Thread-leaf Sundew (Drosera filiformis var. tracyi), Spoon-leaf Sundew (Drosera spatulata), Starrush Whitetop (Rhynchospora colorata), 

Pale Pitcher Plant (Saracenia alata), Yellow Pitcher Plant (Saracenia flava), White Pitcher Plant (Saracenia leucophylla),  Parrot Pitcher Plant(Saracenia psittacina),  Purple Pitcher Plant (Saracenia purpurea),

Catesby’s Pitcher Plant (Saracenia x. catesbaei).

Other Perennials:  There are some non-native perennials that we just can’t live without and find particularly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.  These have been included in other planters and beds around the home:  Cigar Flower (Cuphea ignea), Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeeana), Lantana sp. ‘New Gold.’

Lot Next Door:  As mentioned earlier, about half-way through construction, we had the opportunity to purchase the lot to the west of ours.  We have begun to introduce more native trees, shrubs, and perennials into the understory.  The list below includes both pre-existing and recently planted species.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia),  Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria),  Sweetbay Magnolia (M. virginiana var. australis), Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera), Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica var. sylvatica), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Loblolly pine Pinus taeda), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata), Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum), Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima), Lyre Leaf Sage (Salvia lyrta), Tree Huckleberry (Vaccinium arboreum).

Outcome and Reception

As of this writing, it has been a little over twelve months since we installed most of the woody plant material.  Perennials have just gone through their first winter and, for the most part, appear to have survived the recent cold snap.  We are curious to see what Spring will bring.  Our biggest challenge has been having to deal with the poor quality garden soil that was brought in to build some of the landscape beds.  We’ve had to apply a lot more fertilizer than we’d like in order to lower the soil pH and improve fertility.  

Overall though, the first year has been very rewarding.  The abundance of milkweed brought lots of monarchs and countless caterpillars and chrysalis.  Numerous other swallowtails, skippers, dragonflies, bees, and other pollinators have been spotted as well.  Turtles come up from the nearby lake to lay their eggs in the garden which is fine with us.  Various species of woodpeckers, flycatchers, warblers, and other songbirds have been spotted.  We’ve had at least three different hummingbird species overwinter in the garden too.  

The pandemic has prevented us from socializing much, so I can’t report on how the garden has been received beyond our immediate neighbors.  Our next-door neighbor is an equally avid gardener with a completely different style, but she loves it and is always curious about what we are doing.  Her granddaughter has even brought a chrysalis and a pitcher plant from our garden to show-and-tell!  The young family across the street has expressed positive curiosity as well and recently inquired about our Certified Habitat sign.

I have to admit that I laughed when, in the middle of the admittedly drawn out process of initial installation, a member of the HOA committee asked when we would be finished.  “Never!”  We recognize that our garden will never be finished.  It will always be evolving.  As we learn from our successes and failures, we will probably reduce the turf and expand the garden in the front yard.  We plan to “gently manage” the side lot by continuing to add appropriate trees, shrubs, and perennials to the understory.  We look forward to enjoying our garden and its critters for many years to come!

Tracey Banowetz is past president of the Louisiana Native Plant Society and owner of WildWing Gardens, specializing in gardens for birds, butterflies, and wildlife.  She lives and gardens with her husband David in Abita Springs, Louisiana.

Preliminary landscape design showing 3 habitat areas

Front elevation before landscaping

Front elevation after landscaping

Rear elevation before landscaping

Rear elevation after landscaping

This event is open to the public and is intended to purpose to give the community an understanding of the massive water infrastructure project that will soon begin outside their doorsteps. Native plants will play a part in the stormwater management of this area. A bioswale will go in around Filmore Park, and Courtney was awarded a public art project for a footbridge over the bioswale. The footbridge is to be educational as well as artistic and will feature images and information about the native plants that will be in the bioswale and that grow in New Orleans. At this event, NPI will have an Activity and Information table where visitors and neighbors can learn about native plants, make SeedBeads with native seeds provided and/or take native seeds home to plant in their gardens.

This is an opportunity to share your knowledge about native plants and NPI. Courtney is open to any amount of help you can give. You might get a little dirty, so be prepared!

Tabling at Filmore Park, and seed scattering at meadow site.

9:30-11:30 - set up tabling at Filmore Park:  We will be introducing native plants to attendees. We'll have pictures of natives and of the plants that will go in the bioswale, NPI materials, etc., and need your expertise!  We will have bowls of native seeds, and will be set up for people to make seed balls, or to pot up seeds on the spot. Any pointers for what works best for tabling are welcome. More info on seed balls.

11:30 to 1:30 - tabling wrap up, reconvene at Native Wildflower Meadow at Leon C. Simon, assist in seed scattering (I have 2 lbs of a native mix) and tamping down seeds, breakdown. This will be the more active shift, scattering or assisting the scattering on site.