By Yvonne Lelong Bordelon

The delightful Spanish Town garden of Lloyd Wardrip and Archie Obregon, which was one of the four gardens featured in Hilltop Arboretum’s Spring Garden Tour in Baton Rouge, is an imaginative harmony of color, texture, and form. Their extensive collection of more than 200 container plants, inground shrubs and trees, and thousands of bulbs are cleverly displayed, making excellent use of the small space. 

Plants to attract pollinators, especially butterflies, include flowering maple (Abutilon pictum), green shrimp plant (Ruellia blechum), Formosa lily (Lilium formosanum), Salvia, Impatiens, and glory bower (Cleodendrum). Photo by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon.

They have skillfully designed a little paradise in this mid-city neighborhood – complete with a water feature, an outstanding entry packed with flowering plants, and a shady private backyard work area with seating. The displays on the front porch and in the garden are constantly changing as spent blooms are replaced with new plants from the “nursery” in the backyard. 

The bed in the foreground of the back work area is chock-full of plants including Ligularia, Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria), Crinum, and tung tree (Vernicia fordii). It is adorned with pink flamingoes, an unofficial “mascot” of Spanish Town. In the background is a large morning glory tree (Ipomoea carnea). Photo by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon.

Both Lloyd and Archie have green thumbs and strong gardening roots that span generations with parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents who were avid gardeners. Lloyd learned about starting seeds and taking cuttings while growing up on a farm in east Texas. He has his mother’s heirloom seed collection and continues the tradition by adding new precious heirlooms each year. Archie grew up in Acapulco and Mexico City and learned many of the same gardening skills at an early age from his grandparents there.

The tiny front yard is ablaze with color from hundreds of flowering and foliage plants in an assortment of skillfully arranged containers, hanging baskets, and beds. Photo by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon.

They are constantly adding new plants to their collection from garden centers, mail-order nurseries, pass-alongs from friends and family, and the occasional curbside rescue. Lloyd and Archie grow many heirlooms and old-fashioned plants, especially those that attract pollinators. Lloyd said, “We believe that most new gardeners wouldn’t get disappointed and give up if they grew heirloom varieties. They are amazingly hardy and give a great show for little effort and many reseed freely the following season.” 

A lovely sugar kettle fountain placed under a large sweet olive tree (Osmanthus fragrans) is surrounded with a multitude of flowering plants, including mophead hydrangea (H. macrophylla), Gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii), flowering maple, sunflowers, tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), Impatiens, Filipino lily (Lilium philippinense), and glory bower. Photo by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon.

Some of Lloyd’s old-fashioned favorites include Cleome, touch-me-nots (Impatiens capensis), and obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana). This year they are growing heirloom vegetables, including ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Black Krim’ tomatoes as well as baby round zucchini.

Exceptional plants on the front porch include white and red ‘Summer Wings’ begonia, Supernova desert rose (Adenium ‘Supernova’), red Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri), Scadoxus ‘Flaming Torch’, crown of thorns, jewel orchid, and Aechmea fasciata bromeliad. Photo by Margaret Breaud.

In addition to the heirlooms, they have many tropical plants that Archie remembers growing in Mexico, including tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica), papaya trees (Carica papaya), and flame vine (Senecio confusus). Some new tropicals that they’re currently enjoying are jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor), and yellow butterfly vine (Mascagnia macroptera). Last year they tried Dahlia and managed to grow one that was 12 feet high with 7-inch blooms!

This lovely still life could be used as an artist’s subject. On the table is peacock plant (Calathea makoyana), flowering Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus), Under the Sea ‘Red Coral’ coleus, orange star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum dubium), helicopter leaf succulent (Crassula falcata), white Sunpatiens, and pink geranium (Pelargonium). In the background is pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), mother of thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana), and crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii). Photo by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon.

The area in the back is where the plants are started and nurtured. On the ledge along the back fence are pots containing cuttings and seed starts as well as dahlia tubers (for the second round of blooming in midsummer) and hundreds of Lycoris bulbs. When the bulbs send up flower stalks, Lloyd and Archie plant them throughout the garden or use them as cut flowers. 

A lovely pot of showy coleus and a tropical hibiscus sits on the front steps. Photo by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon.

To protect the tropical plants from the cold weather, Lloyd constructs a large temporary greenhouse each winter out of ½-inch schedule 40 PVC, contractor’s packs of fittings and glue, and clear 10-mil poly sheeting. The poly sheeting is usually not wide enough, so he uses double-sided Gorilla Tape to get the needed width. A single oscillating fan and two small portable heaters maintain a temperature in the mid 60s even when the weather drops into the low teens.

Lloyd constructs a greenhouse spanning the backyard area each winter. It houses all of their tropical plants, such as angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia), shrimp plants (Justicia brandegeeana), and other cold-sensitive plants. Photo by Lloyd Wardrip.

Archie is an expert in plant care and has even developed his own soil mix consisting of a general potting mix, peat, and topsoil with amendments added as needed. They successfully cultivate so many plants that they often have to take the excess to Hodge Podge Nursery at the LSU Hilltop Arboretum.

With a great deal of ingenuity and hard work, Lloyd and Archie have turned an ordinary midcity duplex into a garden showplace. They are gardeners after my own heart and true plantsmen.

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