The Natural Garden Coach

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Native Plants at Briarwood

The folks at Gardening Gone Wild have instituted a new monthly feature - Picture This, a photography contest. This month the contest is focusing on native plants in the garden. I don't normally enter contests, certainly not photography ones feeling out of my element there, but since I was going to blog about my trip to a local native plant garden anyway, might as well enter a photo or two! Besides, the winner receives some agastache plants from High Country Gardens and I've been wanting some of those. :-)

The first photo above is of a "stinkbush", Illicium floridanum. Stinkbush is what it's commonly called around here although other names are starbush, anise-stinkbush, purple anise, and Florida anise. Its fragrance attracts carrion flies among other insects which is why it has that common name. I personally didn't think it smelled that bad but some folks can't stand it.

I should tell you a little bit about this garden called Briarwood. It has a really neat history. The garden was started by Caroline Dormon, said to be the first female employed in the forestry industry. She had a log cabin in a beautiful wooded part of Louisiana, not too far from where we live. Caroline had a passion for native plants and went all over Louisiana and the South collecting plants and rearing them in her wooded setting. The garden covers many acres of interesting native trees, shrubs, native wildflowers, and more formal gardens including a bog garden. Near the bog garden are these Cinnamon Ferns, Osmunda cinnamomea. The caretaker said that they're very weedy there. The bog garden is said to have one of the best collections of Louisiana irises anywhere. Below is one of many in bloom.

There were so many gorgeous plants and the caretaker, who is an elderly gentleman who was a personal friend of Caroline, rattled off their names constantly. Since I have this crazy need to categorize things, it was driving me bonkers that I couldn't catch all the names of these plants! So I apologize for not knowing all the botanical names. Below you'll see a flower from one of the many deciduous azaleas that were blooming.

The size of those azaleas really surprised me. They were huge! And the fragrance was intoxicating. Very similar to stargazer lilies in my opinion. Below you can hopefully get a reference point for how large the plants are.

Here's a variety of mountain laurel.

And these lilies were blooming all over. I'll try to get the name of these. I know someone out there knows it. UPDATE: A friend of mine who is taking the Master Gardener class with me lent me all her books by Caroline Dormon. They are wonderful and I have found out the name of the lily. It's Zephyranthes atamasco, also called the wild Easter lily. Zephyranthes says to me it's a rain lily. I've tried growing some rain lilies here and although they're green, they don't flower. Perhaps I need to get these!

Caroline Dormon died in 1971 and created a trust to preserve her garden. Here's a peek at her log cabin, almost hidden by all the native shrubs.

I'll be back to Briarwood. I really want to incorporate native plants in my landscape but have great difficulty finding them here. Briarwood has the occasional plant sale so I hope to score some natives this year.


  1. You did a wonderful job documenting your visit. That last flower looks like the Cleome ( native in my neck of the woods. ) Fabulous!

    Happy Spring - cant' wait to see what your next entry will bring.

  2. Beautiful! They grow this interesting smelling plant at our local native nursery...their's smelled quite bad...some do and some don't! Wasn't Caroline Dorman a good friend of Elizabeth Lawrence? They wert correspondents, sent flowers and even visited back and forth. Her garden is wonderful and you've photographed it beautifully! gail

  3. I do love that cabin! No one could find you there I don't think! Native plants are what we all need to get back to. Your top photo; can't imagine why something so elegant would have such a horrid name!

  4. The mountain laurel makes me weak in the pretty. I even like saying the words "mountain laurel".

  5. Jean, I'll comment on the last two posts here: both your garden and Briarwood have me sighing in delight!

  6. That was wonderful and fascinating. I hope you win the prize because not only were your photos beautiful, you told a story with them.~~Dee

  7. I like your stinkbush photo, especially the sense of the light coming through the leaves. Here in California we've got a few other plants with reputations for smelly awful, and that often keeps people from seeing how beautiful they are. I especially love our skunk cabbage.

  8. Beautiful Jean! Love your photos of Briarwood and especially the hidden cabin. Charming! Yes to native plants!

  9. Jean, beautiful photos! Can you imagine living such a wonderful life - a log cabin in the woods, surrounded by a native plant garden.

    Chloe M.

  10. Thanks for the visit. I didn't know about Briarwood and I hope to get there on a trip to the south some day. I do wonder what those white lilies are. I don't think Cleome; the plant I know by that name is an annual.

  11. Well the contest is done and results posted over at GGW early next week. Thanks for your entry and I am giving each photo bit of constructive criticism.
    Nice to see those natives. Photos for contest needs stronger composition. My favorite was the Illicium reaching for the sky. Would like to see more obvious gardensetting.

  12. What a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing the photos of Azaleas& the Mountain Laurel, neither of which grow around here.

  13. Gail, you're right that Caroline Dorman and Elizabeth Lawrence were friends. I still haven't read anything by Lawrence yet; must get to that!

    Thanks to everyone for your comments!

  14. Hi Jean, oh thank you for showing those azaleas, I just cannot get enough of them. I love the mix of colors and scents, just every single thing about them is wonderful. The iris was stunning, a very good capture too. What a delightful place.

  15. What a lovely place. This is a garden we will have to visit. Thanks for sharing this natural gem.

    Always Growing

  16. thanks for the pics and good luck! yours in composting delights, TGOSD


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