Lots of people would like to fill their yards with plants native to south Louisiana. But just how do go about transforming a traditional landscape into one that grows indigenous trees and shrubs?

An upcoming series of four online lectures from the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum can show the way. 

The sessions, each of which starts at 6:30 p.m., will be held on Feb. 17, April 28, May 12 and May 26 will offer practical, hands-on advice on incorporating native plants into your yard.

Each program costs $20; $15 for members of the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum. For more information and to register online, visit lsu.edu/hilltop, email hilltop@lsu.edu or call (225) 767-6916.

On Feb. 17, Brian Sean Early will lead the session on "Lessons Learned with Public and Private Native Plant Gardens."

Early will explain the benefits of gardening with native plants and talk about garden design techniques and adaptations you can use in a traditional residential, commercial or public setting to attract more wildlife and appeal to more people.

Early is a botanist working to preserve Louisiana’s rare, threatened and endangered plants and natural communities for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Wildlife Diversity Program. He also oversees the development and maintenance of the native plant gardens at the LDWF headquarters.

Jimmy Culpepper, the featured speaker on April 28, will talk about "Designing and Installing a Native Woodland Landscape."

Culpepper will give a tour of his 1.65-acre native woodland garden in Greenwell Springs, which has been under development for 20 years. After reading “Native Gardening in the South” by Bill Fontenot, Culpepper developed a garden plan that includes a variety of habitats to attract pollinators, birds and wildlife, blooming plants all year long, a natural approach to yard maintenance and installations of brush piles and dead tree snags. Today, the garden has over 500 species of trees, shrubs and perennials, a rock garden, memorial spaces for beloved dogs, a rose garden and arbors.

Culpepper is a retired forester from the Louisiana Department of Forestry where he served as the chief education officer. He continues to be a consulting arborist.

On May 12, Rick Webb will present "A Grower’s Perspective on Native Plants in the Landscape."

Webb, a native plant grower, enthusiast and advocate for over 30 years, filmed his session at his Louisiana Growers Nursery in Amite. He will talk about some well-liked native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses and wildflowers and share his experience in growing these plants in a nursery setting. He will explain why and where they would thrive in your home garden.

Webb will discuss hollies, ecosystems, wetland plants, prairies, wildflower gardens and bird thickets. He will emphasize the importance of private land in restoration efforts.

Questions for Webb can be submitted on the “Ask Rick” online form which he will use during his presentation. The deadline for submitting a question is March 31.

Webb's nursery in Tangipahoa Parish specializes in growing trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers native to the central Gulf Coast. He is former president of the Southeast Louisiana Nursery Association, the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association, the Louisiana Native Plant Society and the Amite Chamber of Commerce.

The final session on May 26 will be "Conserve Louisiana’s Natural Heritage: Grow a Louisiana Certified Habitat" with Phyllis Griffard and Tammany Baumgarten.

They will discuss how habitat loss from development and agriculture makes conservation on private property more critical than ever. In partnership with the Louisiana Native Plant Society, Griffard and Baumgarten developed the Louisiana Habitat Certification Program to encourage homeowners, schools and organizations to plant more native plants.

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 to garden with wildlife in mind.

In this tag-team presentation, Griffard will talk about the mechanics of the LCH program, requirements of certification and how to apply. Then Baumgarten will lead a virtual tour of inspiring certified gardens.

Baumgarten is a licensed landscape horticulturist and owner of BaumGardens, a landscaping company serving the New Orleans area since 1997. She is heavily involved with horticultural and ecological organizations. 

Griffard is a biology educator recently retired from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her scholarly work has aimed to bring biology home. She has served as president of the Acadiana Native Plant Project and currently serves as interim president of Acadiana Master Naturalists.