Along with the music, dig the gardens at Central City fest _lowres

Photo by Jess Pinkham -- Denise Richter and Megan McHugh of Pistil & Stamen collect flowers in their Central City garden to work into arrangements.

When the Central City Festival is in full swing today, Big Freedia will be on stage aiming to break the world record for the number of people twerking simultaneously in one place. But if your idea of a good time runs more in the vein of begonias than bounce, a half-dozen urban gardens in the vicinity of the festival will open their gates in coordination with Faubourg Lafayette’s Central City Home Tour for a leafy — if temporary — respite from the activity.

Pick up a map of the garden and farm locations at the OCH Art Market, 1618 O.C. Haley Blvd., to find the sites open today, some of which began as community gardens and evolved into thriving enterprises. Each is a little different in format and intent, so don’t stop after you visit three or four. Here is a brief overview of what to expect:

  • Paradigm Gardens, 1131 S. Rampart St.: Located behind St. John the Baptist church (the one with the golden spire), this 12,000 square foot garden also hosts music concerts and food events. Joel Tilton and Jimmy Seely leased the land for the enterprise from Felicity Redevelopment for $1 per year and now grow vegetables, herbs and flowers on the site. The garden sells produce to local restaurants, including Patois, Coquette and Ancora. Two goats live on the premises and supply fresh milk.
  • The Urban Farmstead, 1730 Clio St.: As much an education center as it is a garden, the Urban Farmstead aims to teach do-it-yourself and ecological design skills to gardeners. Recent classes have taught attendees how to build a solar oven and how to ferment probiotic sodas. A brood of chickens produces fresh eggs daily. Founded and coordinated by Jordan Bantuelle.
  • Pistil & Stamen, 1400 O.C. Haley Blvd., corner Thalia: Parkway Partners had a hand in getting this flower-growing and arranging enterprise started when it approached veteran gardeners Denise Richter and Megan McHugh about using the vacant lot. Now, Pistil & Stamen makes a business of growing flowers to work into floral arrangements that it sells for special events and to create bouquets available through the Good Eggs network.
  • Haley’s Harvest, 1603 O.C. Haley Blvd., corner Terpsichore: Also under the umbrella of Parkway Partners, Haley’s Harvest is one of the oldest community gardens in New Orleans. It was developed in the 1980s and is still tended by August Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran who grows food for his table and for his neighbors. Right now, Taylor is awaiting a delivery of new soil for his plots so that he can plant his fall crops.
  • Growing Local NOLA, 1750 Carondelet St.: This demonstration farm supports local sustainable food production and offers classes in line with that mission. Sponsored by the Recirculating Farms Coalition and New Orleans Food and Farm Network, this new addition to the Central City urban farm network offers information about energy efficient growing techniques, including hydroponics and aquaponics.
  • Fleur d’Eden, 2111 Baronne St.: Back in the 1990s, long before Tulane City Center students were installing rain gardens on O.C. Haley Blvd., Jeanette Bell was planting flowers there to brighten up the otherwise forlorn stretch of vacant buildings. Bell took her gardening dedication to the next level when she reclaimed and then purchased a blighted lot near her home and then began growing roses on it. Today, the enterprise includes flowers of all kinds, which she markets via Good Eggs, as well as herbs and vegetables.

R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at