The Gardening Diva
Never be too busy to stop and smell the beautiful flowers.

Open-Air Levee Exhibition Hall and Rain Garden


 Creating a Garden of Memories  
Edited by LMG Calla Victoria 

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Open-Air Levee Exhibition Hall and Rain Garden
    LMG Calla Victoria (left), Rain Garden designer; Councilman Jared Brossett,  Jasmine Haralson,
    NORA’s director of community affairs;  Sandy Rosenthal, CEO of; former District B
    Councilman Jim Singleton, Carmen Owens, resident of Gentilly neighborhood; H.J. Bosworth Jr.,  
    Display designer;  Nick Harris, VP of Dillard University;  Gloria DeCuir-Robert, president of the Filmore       Gardens Neighborhood Association; and Kenneth Evans, resident of the Gentilly neighborhood.

     It was my pleasure to design the garden for a project that should be near and dear to the hearts of all New Orleanians. The project is called the Open-Air Levee Exhibition Hall and Rain Garden. This project is spearheaded by Sandy Rosenthal, founder and C.E.O. of The garden and exhibit are built at the site of the east breach of the London Avenue Canal that took place on August 29, 2005; in the Filmore Gardens neighborhood of Gentilly at 5000 Warrington Drive.  

     Upon hearing about the garden, I reached out to Sandy Rosenthal and offered my services as a Master Gardener.  I worked closely with Sandy and her team providing plant consultations, the acquisition of plants and supplies donations, as well as the actual installation of plant material at the site.   MG Donna Childress, one of my sister Louisiana Master Gardeners, was very instrumental in making the Rain Garden
a reality.

      There are three garden beds on the site. A small horizontal raised bed greets visitors at the entrance to the park. It is planted with Encore Azaleas, daylilies, and asters. The idea is to have color most of the year, and an amazing garden year around. Encore azaleas Autumn Lilac and Autumn Sunset will provide blooms in the spring, summer, and fall; then after the last fall blooms they become lovely evergreen shrubs. The
same is true with the daylilies, when they are not in bloom
they provide texture and foliage in the garden and are not bothered by a freeze.

      There are two native rain gardens on the site. A rain garden is a sunken garden bed that captures storm water runoff from hard surfaces like rooftops, sidewalks and driveways, and allows it to soak back into the ground naturally.  Rain gardens are planted with bog plants (plants that like a soggy environment).  The roof of the exhibit hall structure is angled so that all of the rainwater runs off into the rain gardens.   

     The smaller rain garden is planted with Katrina irises (Dietes x NolaAlba' P.P. #21,460) that bloom through the summer, and swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) also called Scarlet Rose Mallow, or Texas Star that is making quite a display in the garden now. The focal point of the garden is the Peggy Martin Rose Bush (Rosa 'Peggy Martin'). When we started considering plant material, I insisted on having the Peggy Martin rose because it was the only rose bush in the New Oleans Botanical Garden's entire Rose Garden to survive the flood waters of August 2005.  A fund was created and proceeds from the sale of the of the Peggy Martin Rose were used to aid in restoring devastated gardens along the Gulf Coast.

     The larger rain garden is planted with Juncus grass, American crinum swamp lilies, swamp milkweed, and other bog plant material. Flanking the site on the left side is a bank
of Japanese maples inter-planted with Camellia japonicas and Camellia sasanquas to extend the bloom season from fall to late spring.

       The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Saturday, July 11, 2015; roughly on almost the 10th anniversary of the flood that devastated New Orleans. The Exhibit Hall and Rain Garden stands on the location of a home that was washed away during the flood, and beige pavers mark the footprint of the home that belonged to Mr. Tom Lee in 2005. The Exhibit Hall and Rain Garden are a memorial to the trauma of the Flood, a commemoration of a pivotal moment in American history, and a symbol of the residents’ resilience and determination to return home. 

      Detailed images along the Exhibit Hall wall document how and why the 2005 Flood happened. Visitors will also find out how the disaster has made the American people safer. A myth-busters section debunks five popular, but incorrect, assumptions about New Orleans and the people who live here.

     The park is a partnership between, the neighborhood residents, Growing Green, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, Parkway Partners and many more. The park is free and open to everyone.

 This article appears in the July 18, 2015 edition of Data News Weekly.

 Check out my "Gardening Tip of the Week."


  Newly planted Rain Garden at  Exhibit Hall

 CEO Sandy Rosenthal (left)
and Master Gardener Donna Childress


Mr.  Tom Lee (center) owner of home
that formerly stood  at  Exhibition Hall siite



Calla Victoria speaking at event


 Councilmember Jared C. Brossett
among those in attendance


Big Chief Sysco Red and brass band

(504) 282-6113