Harriet Pooler's front garden. Photos courtesy LSU Hilltop Arboretum.

Secret gardens: LSU Hilltop’s spring garden tour is here

The gardens that will be showcased on this Sunday’s LSU Hilltop Arboretum Garden Tour aren’t what you might expect. Rather than carefully manicured hedges, the backyards that guests will venture into are filled with native plants and free-flowing elements that come together to create what are called “habitat gardens,” or outdoor spaces that gardeners have tailored to the surrounding natural environment, allowing wildlife to flourish.

For Peggy Coates, executive director of the LSU Hilltop Arboretum, the gardens offer much more than just the chance to stop and stare. She says that the goal of this spring’s tour is to raise awareness of the importance of these natural spaces to the maintenance of Louisiana wildlife.

“Our mission is education,” explains Coates. “We want to make people aware of the bigger story. There are so many natural plant communities, like the Cajun Prairie, that we have lost such significant percentages of. We want to show people how to transition a traditional garden to one with more nature, because residential gardens take up some of the most outdoor space and we need to utilize that.”

Within the gardens of Dick Erhlicher, Harriet Pooler, Dorsey Peek, Dr. Lori Byrd and Brian Early, members of the Louisiana Photographic Society will be on hand to teach guests about photographing both plants and the wildlife they attract. In addition, Landscape Horticulture Consultant Helen Peebles will be available to answer questions and discuss topics such as native plants and how to implement them into your yard.

“The gardens on the tour connect to Dawson Creek, which is a natural habitat corridor,” Coates says, noting that the yards each offer a unique peek into local wildlife. “The gardeners on this year’s tour each have an appreciation for nature and its preservation. I think this tour will show people something a little different.”

The tour will run from 1 to 5 p.m. this Sunday, May 5. Tickets are $20 and are available here, as well as at the Hilltop Arboretum and each garden on the day of the tour. For more information about the event and the gardens, click here.