Conference features evaluations of new landscape, garden plants

Johnny Morgan  |  11/6/2009 11:43:36 PM

New Release Distributed 11/06/09

HAMMOND, La. – Landscape and nursery professionals heard about the latest plant varieties and LSU AgCenter plant evaluations at a plant materials conference here Oct. 29.

“The conference is held here most years to provide an opportunity for landscape and nursery professionals to come and hear information on new ornamental plants,” said Dr. Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist at the Hammond Research Station.

Owings said most of the 65 participants were landscape professionals who either install or maintain landscape plantings.

“We also have wholesale growers here who grow woody ornamental plants, bedding plants and greenhouse crops,” he said. “There are also some employees of retail garden centers who came to see what new plants are out there in the industry.”

The conference was hosted by the LSU AgCenter in cooperation with the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association.

The program included presentations on new plants from industry suppliers along with results of plant evaluations conducted at the station.

LSU AgCenter plant breeder Dr. Don LaBonte reviewed new ornamental sweet potatoes AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Charlie Johnson discussed fruit varieties recommended for Louisiana, and AgCenter commercial fruit and vegetable specialist Dr. Jimmy Boudreaux reported on results of vegetable variety evaluations.

“One thing we’re discussing now is that the ornamental folks need to know about fruits and vegetables because of the renewed interest in those particular crops,” Owings said.

Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter consumer horticulture specialist, discussed how to develop bog gardens with less time, effort and money.

Gill said he’s encouraging people to maintain bog areas as they are “instead of radically trying to change a low, wet area by opening it up and adding drainage. It’s easier and oftentimes more satisfying to find plants that like to grow in those low areas that occasionally are inundated or stay wet for long periods after rains.”

He cited a growing trend in commercial development where developers and landowners are expected to hold water on their property from large parking lots and other hard-surfaced areas so retention ponds and drainage areas are being created

“In a home situation this is not practical,” he said, suggesting a rain garden as an alternative.

“These are gardens where when it rains, the water flows into that area, settles and holds there and then percolates down into the ground,” Gill said. “The more water we hold, the better because that keeps water from flowing into the drainage system and out into our waterways.”

Tom Fennell, owner of Clegg’s Nursery in Baton Rouge and Denham Springs, brought four of his employees to the conference as a refresher course and to see what’s new and exciting in the industry.

“With the economy tight, there is a renewed interest in ‘staycations,’ with more people staying home,” Fennell said. “So now they are redoing their backyards and spending a little more time at home, and they want their outdoor living area to be nice.”

Fennell said the LSU AgCenter has a world of information, and he encourages anyone to visit the Hammond Research Station.

“It’s beautifully maintained and its well worth the trip to come out here and see what they have going on,” he said.

The landscape and nursery industry in Louisiana employs about 56,000 people, and the total economic impact in a typical year is $2.2 billion, Owings said.

For additional information on the research at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station, contact Owings at 985-543-4125 or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Johnny Morgan

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