Annual Gardening Symposium | LSU Hilltop Arboretum

Changing to Native Plant Gardening 

Tips, lessons, and secrets to get started!

CEU’s for master gardeners and landscape architects!

Due to COVID-19, Hilltop’s Annual 2021 Symposium has been transformed into a series of four monthly lectures online that you can enjoy in the comfort of your home. Last year’s symposium featured Dr. Doug Tallamy, Linda Auld, and Bill Fontenot, who shared compelling scientific research about why your garden should have native plants. The problem is how to get started in the process and how to use native plants that adapt to a traditional residential, commercial, or public garden. To help with the first step, Hilltop is featuring five experts, Sean Brian Early, Jimmy Culpepper, Rick Webb, Phyllis Griffard, and Tammany Baumgarten, who will share practical, hands-on experience with the transition of your garden to one that is more abundant with native plants to attract more wildlife and appeal to more people. After introducing more natives to your garden, we encourage you to have it designated as a Louisiana Certified Habitat Garden, a new program sponsored by the Louisiana Native Plant Society. Certification begins at the Bronze Level with 25 species of native plants, increasing to Silver with 50 species, and Gold with 75 species. These programs would not have been possible without the generosity and talent of videographer Erin Bryan, a Hilltop volunteer, and Louisiana Master Naturalist of Greater Baton Rouge.  

The registration fee for each program is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Not sure of your membership status? Contact Hilltop and we will be happy to check it for you.

Brian Early with dog in wildflower meadowBrian Sean has a passion for studying botany and gardening with Louisiana native plants!  With years of experience in developing public and private native gardens, he will explain about the benefits of native plant gardening, lessons learned from public perspectives on the spectrum on native plant garden design techniques, and native garden design adaptations you can use in a traditional residential, commercial, or public lands setting to attract more wildlife and appeal to more people.  

Brian Sean works for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Wildlife Diversity Program, as a botanist working to preserve Louisiana’s rare, threatened, and endanger plants and natural communities. He also oversees the development and maintenance of the native plant gardens at the LDWF headquarters.

Jimmy and Jane CulpepperJoin Jimmy for a spring tour of his 1.65 acre native woodland garden in Greenwell Springs, LA that has been under development for twenty years. When Jimmy and his wife Jane bought the property, there were five large pine trees in the back yard, two groups of oak trees in the front yard, and a grassy lawn as far as the eye could see. 

After reading “Native Gardening in the South” by Bill Fontenot, Jimmy  developed a garden plan that included a variety of habitats to attract pollinators, birds and wildlife, blooming plants 365 days of the year, a natural approach to yard maintenance, and installations of brush piles and dead tree snags.

Over the years, Jimmy photographed the development of the garden he will share in his video presentation. The transformation from a suburban garden to a woodland garden began with the first step of planting upper and middle canopy plants to tie together the existing trees to create more shade. As these plants Jimmy Culpepper trimming a treegrew, he introduced new layers of shrubs and perennials.  Today the garden has over 500 species of trees, shrubs and perennials, a Koi pond built originally for Jane that has been converted to a rock garden, memorial spaces for beloved dogs and love birds, rose garden, and arbors.   

Jimmy is a retired forester and currently a consulting arborist.  He enjoyed a lifelong career with the Louisiana Department of Forestry where he served as the Chief Education Officer.  He made a major impact on environmental education by training teachers throughout the state in Project Learning Tree, one of the premier environmental education programs in the world.

Rick Webb in his nursery with wetland plantsRick Webb has been a native plant grower, enthusiast, and advocate for over thirty years.  His program was filmed at his Louisiana Growers Nursery in Amite, Louisiana.  He has chosen some well-liked native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, and wildflowers to discuss with you.  He will share years of experience in growing these plants in a nursery setting, and why and where they would be happy in your home garden.

Rick will talk about Hollies, Ecosystems, Wetland Plants, Prairies and Wildflower Gardens, and Bird Thickets.  He will emphasize the importance of private land in restoration efforts – don’t count on public parks to do this! 

Plant questions for Rick can be submitted on the “Ask Rick” online form. He will address your questions during his presentation. The deadline for submitting a question is March 31, 2021.

Rick is the owner, along with his wife Susan, of Louisiana Growers, a wholesale nursery in the piney woods of Tangipahoa Parish.  He specializes in growing trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers native to the central Gulf Coast.  His plants have found their way into private gardens, arboretums, and significant public and commercial projects. Rick is former president of the Southeast LA Nursery Association, the LA Nursery and Landscape Association, the LA Native Plant Society, and the Amite Chamber of Commerce.

Louisiana Certified Habitat Sign in gardenHabitat loss from development and agriculture makes conservation on private property more critical than ever.  What you do on your property does matter! In partnership with the Louisiana Native Plant Society, Phyllis Griffard and Tammany Baumgarten developed the Louisiana Habitat Certification Program (LCH) to encourage homeowners, schools, and organizations to plant more natives. The program’s emphasis is the importance of "gardening as though life depends on it" (Dr. Doug Tallamy). Certification begins at the Bronze Level with 25 species of native plants, increasing to Silver with 50 species, and Gold with 75 species. Once approved at any level you will receive a yard sign that will set an example and inspire others in your community to garden with wildlife in mind. Phyllis and Tammany will walk you through the logistics of the application process and a virtual tour of diverse, inspiring certified gardens.

Tammany Baumgarten

Tammany Baumgarten is a licensed Landscape Horticulturist and owner of BaumGardens, a full-service landscaping company serving the New Orleans area since 1997. Tammany has a keen interest in creating habitat and is an intense advocate of native gardens but applies these principles with a practicality suited to the needs of each client and space. Tammany is heavily involved with horticultural and ecological organizations. She also continues to study landscape diversity and ecological function to apply those principles to her designs.


Phyllis Griffard

Dr. Phyllis Baudoin Griffard is a biology educator recently retired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her scholarly work has aimed to Bring Biology Home by making experiences of nature meaningful for lifelong learners. Phyllis has served as President of the Acadiana Native Plant Project and currently serves as Interim President of Acadiana Master Naturalists. Phyllis, Pete, and hundreds of species of birds, insects, herps, and mammals live on 7 acres of gold-certified habitat in Sunset, Louisiana.



 Registration Details

If you are interested in viewing any of the recorded programs, call Hilltop to make your payment and receive the link.

 Questions call 225-767-6916 or email