I spent the day at the Burden Museum and Gardens, which consists of the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens, Windrush Gardens, and the Rural Life Museum. It covers 440 acres in Baton Rouge and was owned by the Burden family before being partially gifted to and acquired by LSU. The LSU AgCenter’s mission is to provide the people of Louisiana with research-based educational information that will improve their lives and economic well-being, and it offers quite a lot! Their focus areas include crop adaptability, alternative fuels, coastal restoration, functional foods, childhood obesity, sustainable housing, and rural initiatives. Essentially, a lot of research, education, outreach and learning going on at the campus amongst the expected beauty of a botanic garden setting.
LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens
Apart from a very nice visitor center, the focal structure of the gardens is the orangery, designed by A. Hays Town. Between these two spaces are the more formal display gardens, and as is typical with estates, the gardens become progressively less formal the further one travels away from the buildings. The display gardens consisted of the herb garden, and the all america selection garden.
The botanic gardens also has a an extensive trail system that highlights all of the native plant communities. All areas were well interpreted with excellent thematic signage boards with titles such as “Burden Woods Hydrology”, “Terrestrial Habitats”, and “Black Swamps”. My favorite trail area was the Mosaic Trail at Black Swamp, which was essentially a long boardwalk trail floating over an large black swamp area. It was really cool seeing water tupleos in their native habitat.
The William Bartram Trail runs through the property, which follows the approximate route of 18th-century naturalist William Bartram’s southern journey from March 1773 to January 1777. Bartram explored much of the territory which is now the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.
The 25 acres of gardens surrounding the plantation of Steele Burden (1900-1995) are known as Windrush. Burden designed the grounds and was heavily influenced by his trips to Europe and the surviving gardens of 19th century Louisiana plantations. The main framework is made up by live oaks, crape myrtles, azaleas and camellias.
My favorite feature was the very idyllic gardener’s cottage!
Rural Life Museum
The Rural Life Museum has a very new visitor center and museum, and features a unique outside space or plantation street of sorts that shows all the various types of outbuildings seen over time in the Louisiana Plantation vernacular.
Great arrangement of all trees found in Louisiana, with a great section on all of the native and non native palmettos that can grow there.