New trees, shrubs evaluated at Hammond Research Station

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.  |  7/18/2015 1:25:49 AM

Gulf Embers is a newer variety of red maple being evaluated at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

Some of the newer beautyberries have unique berry colors like the Woodlanders Burgundy variety. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

The dark pink blooms of Delta Fusion crape myrtle matched with burgundy foliage make a nice landscape statement. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

News Release Distributed 07/17/15

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Since the debut of a landscape horticulture research and extension program at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station nine years ago, gardens supporting the research at the station continue to expand.

The Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden in 2006 initiated shrub and tree studies and observations. Now, evaluating new trees and shrubs along with the continued assessment of trees and shrubs already in the nursery trade is conducted in a field research area, in the Piney Woods Garden and in the sun garden at the station.

The Piney Woods Garden opened in 2013. Its five acres feature additional plantings of native trees, selections of clonally propagated cypress from China, Southern heritage shrubs such as camellias, gardenias, native azaleas, heat-tolerant rhododendrons, a collection of yellow-flowering magnolias, Japanese maples, unique beautyberries, new red maple selections and much more.

Faculty at the Hammond Research Station are working with Louisiana and southeastern United States nursery growers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, university partners and national companies like Bailey Nurseries (First Editions Plants), Plant Development Services, Inc. (Southern Living Plant Collection), Greenleaf Nursery (Garden Debut Program), Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants, J. Berry Nursery and others to test new trees and shrubs in the landscape.

In today’s world of new plant development, the vast majority of new varieties are not tested in multiple locations, and three-to-five-year trials are not conducted prior to plants being released. This hampers the ability of land-grant universities and horticulture businesses to recommend and be comfortable in selling, using, planting and promoting new plants.

New crape myrtle varieties with burgundy and black foliage are the current attraction in this crowded plant genus. The Black Diamond crape myrtles, also called the Ebony series, include five varieties with blush, white and red flower colors. Three new colors – Shell Pink, Purely Purple and Mystic Magenta – of Black Diamond crape myrtles are coming late this year from J. Berry Nursery in Texas. Foliage is black and stays black spring through fall. Plants are said to reach 8-10 feet tall in the landscape once trees are mature.

Delta crape myrtles in the Southern Living Plant Collection program have nice burgundy foliage from spring to fall, are heavy bloomers and have good leaf spot resistance in early observations in south Louisiana. New flower color additions in the Delta are the Delta Fusion (dark pink) and Delta Fuchsia (fuchsia) varieties.

In addition to the Delta crape myrtles, the Southern Living Plant Collection offers the new yellow-foliage, sterile dwarf privet called Sunshine, new additions to the October Magic series of camellias and Lemon Lime nandina. The parent company of the Southern Living Plant Collection is Plant Development Service Inc., which offers the Louisiana-born-and-bred Encore azaleas. Four new Encores varieties – Autumn Lily, Autumn Sunburst, Autumn Ivory and Autumn Jewel – were introduced a couple years ago, and the new Autumn Fire is coming in spring 2016.

New plants from Greenleaf Nursery doing very well in trials include the increasingly popular Baby Gem boxwood and the Princess series of dwarf crape myrtles.

The AgCenter started cooperative plant trials with First Edition Plants from Bailey Nurseries this year that include shrubs such as distylium, new butterfly bushes, a new oakleaf hydrangea (Jet Stream), additions to the Magic series crape myrtle, a dwarf vitex called Blue Puffball, Sparkling Sangria loropetalum and more. Bailey Nurseries is expanding its plant inventory to carry more Southeastern-recommended landscape shrubs.

Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants is a company known for roses like the very popular Knock Out and Drift series. The company is now growing a number of perennials and shrubs. Some of their plants being evaluated by the AgCenter include vitex, boxwood, dwarf crape myrtles and clethra.

The observations and results of landscape trials at the Hammond Research Station are regularly conveyed to nursery growers, landscapers and retailers around the state to provide them with the latest information on locally evaluated new plants.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

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