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Show #9/1909. New Orleans Botanical Garden

Summary of Show

Background of New Orleans Botanical Garden
Mrs. Trimble provides some BACKGROUND INFORMATION. In the 1930's this was a project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, to provide employment for the unemployed. At that time 13 acres were set aside from this great city park and designated as a garden.
For More Information Click here

Rose Garden
One of Eric's favorite flowering plants in a garden are ROSES and they have assembled a wonderful rose collection. Eric asks for an overview of this part of the garden. This is called the Rose parquet. It's called that because parquet means pattern on the ground and that's what the yaupon hedges do for them, they provide a pattern and structure. Historically roses have been important to this garden.
For More Information Click here

Hybrid Teas
HYBRID TEAS tend to have a large single bloom, usually a longer stem, it's what you think of when you go to the florist and get cut roses, when you give flowers to your girlfriend or your wife on Valentines Day. They're what most think of when thinking a big rose. Some like the ability to cut long stems or big flowers or the fragrance that a hybrid tea might provide.
For More Information Click here

Floribunda
The FLORIBUNDA is a little more of a shrub rose - more blooms, smaller blooms but they tend to bloom prolifically. They bloom a lot, they're ever blooming roses.
For More Information Click here

Heirloom Roses
They have a great collection of HEIRLOOM ROSES here as well. To Eric there is something nostalgic about the old fashioned or heirloom roses. They remind him of the roses that used to grow and the roses that used to be planted along grandma's house. They're quaint, many are incredibly fragrant. What's the difference between the heirloom roses and the more formal roses we know today? There is so much variety in these old garden roses but generally one can say they tend to have smaller blooms but they have a lot more blooms. They're often fragrant and usually more disease and insect resistant. But they can be shrubby. They can be small scale, they can be big shrubs, they can be vines. Some have thorns, some don't.
For More Information Click here

Water Garden
WATER GARDENING is growing in popularity every day. Of course the appeal is apparent. From just the esthetic beauty of water to the wonderful soothing sounds, it has appeal. People love to be around water. Paul and crew have done a wonderful job in their water garden. And, they have unusual water lilies. This really is a great exhibit for them. It gets better and better throughout the summer and into late summer when things warm up. They plant the lilies all in pots. This area has a concrete bottom. They put in black dye to help provide better reflection. Mainly what they grow is a combination of tropical and hearty water lilies and some other water plants. The tropicals, to Paul, are more beautiful, more colorful. And, they stand up a little better when they bloom. They also have colorful foliage.
For More Information Click here

Living Fossils Exhibit
They have invited their visitors to walk all the way back to the beginning of time with the amazing ancient, HISTORIC PLANTS. They call this the "Living Fossils Exhibit" and it showcases living plants today and the fossil ancestors that they had. This exhibit predates flowering plants so it's all ferns, horsetails, cycads, club mosses, things like that. It shows a little of what the world was like back then but it also shows what's similar and what's different. When looking at the living ferns they're very similar in a lot of ways - scale wise for example. But when looking at the horsetails and club mosses a lot of them today are very small compared to their ancient relatives.
For More Information Click here

Rainforest
It's a recreation of what a rainforest might look like. When one thinks about a RAINFOREST one thinks of life in different layers. There's the ground floor, which is usually very dark, there's not much sunlight, then one goes all the way to the top of the trees where the action is, that's where the epiphytes live - the bromeliads, ferns, a lot of what we consider house plants are really grown in trees in this environment. One will see a lot of animals, monkeys, frogs, everything lives up there, that's where things are happening. Here they tried to showcase some of that, some of those stories in this conservatory. Many of these plants we don't often see in nature so it's a treat to have them up close and personal.
For More Information Click here

Tropical Plants
Some of the most exciting and unusual plants in horticulture are TROPICAL PLANTS. They have assembled a great collection of really bizarre specimens that Eric has never seen before. Paul either. One of the fascinating aspects of a rainforest is the relationships that plants have with insects and animals. They view a fern, an ant fern. In its rhizomes it has puffy areas, like caves, where ants live. The ants are there to protect the fern. If something starts chewing on the fern the ants will come out of the little caves and get rid of the insects, that way the ferns survive and the ants get a home, a place to stay. It's those relationships that keep things going in the rainforest.
For More Information Click here

Sculptor and Sculptures
Eric feels some of the most impressive features in this garden are the SCULPTURES. Paul tells us about them. This is more the historic part of the garden built during the WPA. The sculptor was Enrique Alferez. He was Mexican born, lived in New Orleans most of his life and created most of this wonderful sculpture. One piece called "The Water Bearer," was crafted in the 1930's when Enrique was a young man. But at one of the entrances to the Garden there is a beautiful gate that was made in 1981. So his work spans over 50 years, the period of time he was working in this garden. He continued until he died. He was making sculpture here when he was in his 90's.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

New Orleans Botanical Garden

Maison St. Charles

Plant Of The Week

Plant List

Show #9/1909. New Orleans Botanical Garden

Transcript of Show

Building a new garden or revitalizing an old one certainly has it's challenges. In this Episode GardenSMART visits a garden built in the 1930's, it fell into disrepair and has been revitalized beautifully.

Gen Trimble joins Eric. She is a past President of the New Orleans Botanical Garden and has been involved with the Garden since restoration efforts began. Mrs. Trimble provides some BACKGROUND INFORMATION. In the 1930's this was a project of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, to provide employment for the unemployed. At that time 13 acres were set aside from this great city park and designated as a garden. The purpose was to give the people of New Orleans, who were in the throes of the great economic depression, the pleasure and privilege of coming to this beautiful public ornamental garden. This garden was largely due to the collaboration of 3 very talented men - an architect, Richard Koch, a sculptor, Enrique Alferez and a landscape gardener, William S. Wiedorn. Because of these men, today this garden is considered very valuable because it is a rare, surviving example of public design from the WPA and Art Deco periods.

But gardens are very fragile things and in the 1970's, this garden, deprived of funds from both the city and state, had become a forlorn and forgotten place. At that point a community-minded, garden-minded group, Mrs. Trimble included, banded together to try to save this valuable, old garden. First they changed its name, which had been simply the Rose Garden, to the New Orleans Botanical Garden. They hired Paul Soniat as their permanent Director and he is thankfully still here today. They raised funds to restore the old buildings and to erect 2 magnificent new buildings, the Pavilion of Two Sisters and the Conservatory. By 2005 they were patting themselves on the back and along came Katrina, wiping them out. They were down to ground zero once again. But she wants to let Paul Soniat, the Director, tell the rest of that story. But, she would like to say that in walking through this garden she finds it a living lesson. No matter what catastrophe befalls you given enthusiasm, optimism, determination and above all the wonderful support of gardeners and garden clubs and foundations from all over the U.S., who came to their aid, given all that you cannot only survive but triumph. Thanks Mrs. Trimble it was a pleasure meeting, thanks for your overview.

Eric next meets Paul Soniat, the Director of the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Eric can tell by glancing through the fence that this is a very special place and wants to learn more. But first he wants to know how Paul got involved in gardening. While in college, at the University of South Louisiana, he was fascinated with horticulture. He didn't really grow up around plants too much being born in New Orleans but he became interested in plants in college, the subject just seemed to come easy to him, he understood it and it made sense. After college he was doing landscaping in the city and this was an interesting project. A lot of people didn't know what to do with it. It was a garden that was in really bad shape. It was built in the 1930's but there really wasn't any structure left. But because there was some architecture and sculpture there was a decision made to save it. So he was hired to bring this botanical garden back. It was a really big challenge but every day they worked on it, they brought in plants, they tried to recreate some of the original structure of the garden and he thinks today it's a great example of WPA gardens mixed in with some new plant material and new exhibits. They now like to think of this as the center of horticulture, the heart of gardening, in New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina is on everyone's mind when talking about New Orleans. Eric wonders how it affected this garden. This garden had anywhere from 1 to 3 feet of water covering the Garden. About 90% of their collections were destroyed. They had to pull most everything out. Luckily, they had some funding from a private donor that enabled them to keep the staff together and to rebuild, to buy plant material and to make the improvements needed to open again. And they reopened in early December of that year. Eric is anxious to look around, so they're off.
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One of Eric's favorite flowering plants in a garden are ROSES and they have assembled a wonderful rose collection. Eric asks for an overview of this part of the garden. This is called the Rose parquet. It's called that because parquet means pattern on the ground and that's what the yaupon hedges do for them, they provide a pattern and structure. Historically roses have been important to this garden. It was originally known as the Rose Garden, although today its the New Orleans Botanical Garden. So, roses have always played an important part of this garden in the history and makeup of the plant material.

When most think of the prototypical rose they are thinking hybrid tea. But here they also have grandifloras, floribundas and some shrub roses. Paul discusses their differences.
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HYBRID TEAS tend to have a large single bloom, usually a longer stem, it's what you think of when you go to the florist and get cut roses, when you give flowers to your girlfriend or your wife on Valentines Day. They're what most think of when thinking a big rose. Some like the ability to cut long stems or big flowers or the fragrance that a hybrid tea might provide. Some of the good varieties here are - Gemini, Mr. Lincoln, is an old rose that has big red flowers and long stems, Peace is another beautiful hybrid tea.
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The FLORIBUNDA is a little more of a shrub rose - more blooms, smaller blooms but they tend to bloom prolifically. They bloom a lot, they're ever blooming roses. Iceberg is a great floribunda.

There are many different varieties. But each has its place. Paul believes it's best to check with your local county extension agent to see what does well in your area because some roses that do well on the west coast will not do well in the Gulf south. Do your homework and some research. Rose breeding has come a long way in the past years.
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They have a great collection of HEIRLOOM ROSES here as well. To Eric there is something nostalgic about the old fashioned or heirloom roses. They remind him of the roses that used to grow and the roses that used to be planted along grandma's house. They're quaint, many are incredibly fragrant. What's the difference between the heirloom roses and the more formal roses we know today? There is so much variety in these old garden roses but generally one can say they tend to have smaller blooms but they have a lot more blooms. They're often fragrant and usually more disease and insect resistant. But they can be shrubby. They can be small scale, they can be big shrubs, they can be vines. Some have thorns, some don't. So, depending on what you like, what your needs are in the garden there's an old rose for you. Paul has a nice collection. Eric is interested in the history behind several of these roses. They come from all parts of the world-mainly Asia and China, even Europe. Throughout the years people have collected plants and they have made their way into this and many other gardens. A lot of these have been passed down, heirlooms. Some have come from cemeteries, some from old home sites. Here they have some roses labeled "Found Rose" because they don't know what the name is, it's just one somebody found. But if it's a good grower, there's a place for it in the garden. Many are not on the market but Paul mentions several that he likes. Caldwell Pink is a good one. Old Blush which can either be a shrub or climbing rose is another. Talk to your local nurseryman, do some research online a lot of places are now beginning to carry these old garden roses because they're good performers. Or, if your neighbor has a good one in the yard, take a cutting. It's called drive-by propagation. It's a fantastic way to find new roses.

Paul shows us a rose that has particular significance in this garden. It was the only rose out of all the roses in the garden that survived Katrina. When they came back it was alive, everything else was dead. Actually before Katrina it didn't have a name, before it was just a "Found Rose." It was planted by one of the Rosarians throughout the city and was also at a home in Plaquemines Parish, south of the city. It survived under 20 feet of water. It was at the home of Peggy Martin's family and her parents died in Katrina. After the storm they took this rose because it was such a survivor and propagated it and the money raised was used to replant roses in the areas that were devastated by Katrina and Rita. After the storm they renamed it "Peggy Martin Rose."
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The guys move on and visit another part of the garden. WATER GARDENING is growing in popularity every day. Of course the appeal is apparent. From just the esthetic beauty of water to the wonderful soothing sounds, it has appeal. People love to be around water. Paul and crew have done a wonderful job in their water garden. And, they have unusual water lilies. This really is a great exhibit for them. It gets better and better throughout the summer and into late summer when things warm up. They plant the lilies all in pots. This area has a concrete bottom. They put in black dye to help provide better reflection. Mainly what they grow is a combination of tropical and hearty water lilies and some other water plants. The tropicals, to Paul, are more beautiful, more colorful. And, they stand up a little better when they bloom. They also have colorful foliage. In an area that's cold treat them as an annual. If you have place to store them over the winter that is helpful. But if not they're so pretty and last so long and bloom so often they're worth having as annuals. There are day bloomers and night bloomers so you can have blooms in your pond all day long and all night long. Eric notices that some lilies have completely different flower structures. They are interesting because when the bloom 1st opens it opens where it's receptive to pollen. It has a well in the middle with nectar. The bee flies in and if the bee has pollen on its back it'll will fall off and pollinate the flower. At the end of the day, in the evening it will close up, then open the next morning and will then produce pollen. It will be receptive to a bee flying around the anthers, it will get pollen on its back. So, one day it's a male, one day a female. One day its only receptive to pollen the other day it produces pollen. It has both male and female characteristics.

Outside the obvious advantages of the beautiful flowers there are other advantages to using water lilies in garden features. They're good for the fish, if you like fish. They have a mosquito problem so if you put a few minnows or goldfish they'll eat the larvae. They attract wildlife. There are quite a few dragonflies present. Frogs too. At certain times in the spring they'll lay their eggs and there will be thousands of frogs running all over the place. This is a great area, it's always changing. Combined with the fact they have day and night bloomers you can have people in the garden day or night and have interest. These lilies have opened a lot since we started talking earlier in the morning. This is an absolutely beautiful feature.
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They next visit the conservatory. Eric loves what they've done with this exhibit. They have invited their visitors to walk all the way back to the beginning of time with the amazing ancient, HISTORIC PLANTS. They call this the "Living Fossils Exhibit" and it showcases living plants today and the fossil ancestors that they had. This exhibit predates flowering plants so it's all ferns, horsetails, cycads, club mosses, things like that. It shows a little of what the world was like back then but it also shows what's similar and what's different. When looking at the living ferns they're very similar in a lot of ways - scale wise for example. But when looking at the horsetails and club mosses a lot of them today are very small compared to their ancient relatives. In earlier times they were huge trees and there were forests of club mosses and horsetails. It's particularly interesting to see the living plant today and compare it to the fossil to see what it looked like then.

Eric likes the vertical wall. It's a wonderful way of displaying these plants. Many are small ferns, thus it would be difficult to see if they were on a horizontal plane. It's basically 2 screens of wire with sphagnum moss in the middle with the plants plugged in, much like they would be growing epiphytically on a tree. And they're growing well. They hang down so they have more freedom to grow. And the fossils are protruding from the wall. It's a great exhibit, a great educational opportunity, people really enjoy it.
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They have just installed a new exhibit, the guys are off to visit it. It too is in the conservatory but has more modern flowering plants. It's a recreation of what a rainforest might look like. When one thinks about a RAINFOREST one thinks of life in different layers. There's the ground floor, which is usually very dark, there's not much sunlight, then one goes all the way to the top of the trees where the action is, that's where the epiphytes live - the bromeliads, ferns, a lot of what we consider house plants are really grown in trees in this environment. One will see a lot of animals, monkeys, frogs, everything lives up there, that's where things are happening. Here they tried to showcase some of that, some of those stories in this conservatory. Many of these plants we don't often see in nature so it's a treat to have them up close and personal. Paul discusses a fig tree, Ficus negbutu. It's from Africa and interesting because a lot of ficus have aerial roots. They allow the plant to keep growing as the roots grow down and hit the ground they'll make a stem and they'll support the lateral branch growing out and the tree will continue to grow in all 360 degrees if they have the space. Some ficus in India will cover a square mile, one tree.
Top

Some of the most exciting and unusual plants in horticulture are TROPICAL PLANTS. They have assembled a great collection of really bizarre specimens that Eric has never seen before. Paul either. One of the fascinating aspects of a rainforest is the relationships that plants have with insects and animals. They view a fern, an ant fern. In its rhizomes it has puffy areas, like caves, where ants live. The ants are there to protect the fern. If something starts chewing on the fern the ants will come out of the little caves and get rid of the insects, that way the ferns survive and the ants get a home, a place to stay. It's those relationships that keep things going in the rainforest. It's a very competitive environment so any edge a plant has of survival is going to be utilized. Another plant, the Medinilla, is a new plant. It's an epiphyte and beautiful. It looks great here but Paul doesn't think it would do well as a house plant. It needs to grow up in the air and get a lot of moisture and a lot of good sunlight.

They have some new plants that are showy and bloom close to the ground, there's a really interesting assortment of plants here. Eric notices one in particular, the bat plant, Taxus baccata, a very unusual plant with a flower that looks exactly like a bat. It's bizarre.

Eric is struck with the fact that when walking into a tropical rainforest and looking at these types of exhibits, that plants have evolved over time to accommodate their survival needs. Certain plants needed really bright, loud flowers to attract insects from a long distance while others have attracted birds to carry their seeds off and plant them. Very interesting and educational.
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Eric feels some of the most impressive features in this garden are the SCULPTURES. Paul tells us about them. This is more the historic part of the garden built during the WPA. The sculptor was Enrique Alferez. He was Mexican born, lived in New Orleans most of his life and created most of this wonderful sculpture. One piece called "The Water Bearer," was crafted in the 1930's when Enrique was a young man. But at one of the entrances to the Garden there is a beautiful gate that was made in 1981. So his work spans over 50 years, the period of time he was working in this garden. He continued until he died. He was making sculpture here when he was in his 90's. As Mrs. Trimble said these sculptures probably had a lot to do with why this garden was preserved. Gardens, if not maintained fall apart quickly, especially down here. In the 70's there wasn't much of a garden here. But it did have architecture, some of these valuable pieces of sculpture. Because they were here they consulted with the Smithsonian who recommended, from their viewpoint, this is an historical garden, a WPA garden and it should be saved. The sculpture was what tipped the scales. Accordingly, it was determined to try to save this garden. One of the sculptures that Paul particularly likes, also an Enrique piece, is called "The Water Goddess." It was in the lagoon in the park for 70 years but nobody ever saw it because it was in the back along with some palm trees. They were able to find some money to rescue it and brought it forward so people could see it. They cut it off it's base, brought it here and got it working. When in the lagoon it never worked. And it is magnificent, she's holding clouds with water coming out. It's the 1st time water has run through the clouds in probably 50 years. It's a real focal point for the entrance and greets people coming to the Botanical Garden. It creates a lot of movement, a great way to welcome everyone to the New Orleans Botanical Garden.

Eric loves the way they've used statuary in this garden. They have long allays and views that are ornamented by beautiful focal pieces. Here they've use statuary as many might use a giant specimen tree. This draws ones eye through the garden. As we look at our home gardens we may not necessarily have the money to have a massive statue but the principle is no different. Some of the most beautiful gardens Eric has seen have found objects utilized as focal points. Those focal points could well be something that had nostalgic value to the gardener, be it grandmother's old washbasin with plants added or something else. By incorporating found pieces it creates a beautiful juxtaposition of the natural beauty of the garden with architectural elements.

Eric asks Paul if he has any final thoughts. He does. He feels they're very proud of what they've been able to build here. They've been working at it for some time. They've renovated it once, then built the garden once again after Katrina but they think it looks even better today. He believes the city is on the rebound, there's a lot of great things happening in New Orleans so he would like to invite GardenSMART viewers to come and visit.

Thanks Paul, we certainly enjoyed our visit. The New Orleans Botanical Garden is a special place.

LINKS:

New Orleans Botanical Garden

Maison St. Charles

Plant Of The Week

Plant List

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