Fruit, Truck Experiment Station Grows into Horticulture Center

Linda Benedict  |  5/17/2005 6:18:58 PM

Master plan for the Landscape Horticulture Research and Extension Center.

Two 100-year-old oaks grace the entrance to the station. These oaks will be used in urban tree preservation workshops for demonstrating restoration and preservation of historic trees. The trees are to be lighted. (Photo by Regina Bracy)

The landscaping of the house will be part of the educational program. It is surrounded by “homestead” plants, which duplicate 30- to 50-year-old landscapes found throughout the South. The house now provides offices for the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Region. (Photo by Regina Bracy)

A two-story Southern house built in the late 1800s is a significant architectural aspect of the Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Regina Bracy)

Regina Bracy

Established as the Fruit and Truck Experiment Station in January 1922, the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station has served the needs of the strawberry and vegetable industries in southeast Louisiana for more than 80 years.

While continuing to serve the traditional strawberry and vegetable industries, the station has embarked on a new initiative to provide research and education for the green service industry.

With more leisure time and changing social attitudes, people are increasingly interested in improving the environments in which they live and work. Landscape horticulture (for professionals and consumers) is the science and art dedicated to enhancing peoples’ lives through proper selection, growth, placement, care and use of plants in exterior surroundings.

A Landscape Horticulture Research and Extension Center is being developed at the Hammond Research Station to address the needs of the landscape and green industries. The center will provide research-based information on improving the quality of urban and suburban life by focusing on human-affected environments. Major research and educational components include the following:

Twin Oak Entry

Two 100-year-old oaks grace the entrance to the station. These oaks will be used in urban tree preservation workshops for demonstrating restoration and preservation of historic trees. The trees have been pruned and mulched and will be lighted by the end of 2005.

Retention Pond, Constructed Wetland

As well as adding aesthetic drama to the entry of the botanical gardens, a retention pond and constructed wetland will serve as a demonstration and research area focusing on how excess runoff from landscapes can be reduced and how landscape pollution can be mitigated. Various plants will be grown in the wetland and evaluated for nutrient, chemical and erosion abatement  as well as appearance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has surveyed the area, and the retention pond and wetlands have been designed. Construction should begin in the summer of 2005.

Shade, Understory Garden

One of the best assets of the Hammond Research Station is an established pine forest. This mature pine stand provides an important natural environment duplicated across Louisiana and the Southeast. This area offers tremendous potential for research and demonstration in use of shade and understory plantings and preservation of wild land. Plant introduction, adaptability and sustainability will be study topics for this area.

Azalea Research, Demonstration Area

A major azalea collection will be located in the shade and understory garden. Consumers and professionals will be able to view plant type and form; flower color, size and type, and bloom season and length for different azalea species. Azaleas best adapted to the Southern climate will be identified.

Naturalistic Edge

An undulating border between the formal gardens and pine forest, this 6- to 15-foot-wide band will be used to identify aesthetic transition from lawn to wildland and include visual examples and study areas of naturalistic plantings for upland, lowland, shade and sun areas. Identification of native plants that have landscape potential and demonstration of native plant associations in the landscape-wildland interface will be an integral part of this edge. Other benefits will be evaluation of plantings for sound barrier, screening and wildlife habitat.

Herbaceous Shrubs

Small island groupings of single species and combinations of annuals and perennials will demonstrate composition, compatibility, design use and combination alternatives (color, texture and form). Evaluation of new introductions for growth, vigor, aggressiveness; bloom; reliability; season; heat/cold, sun/shade and soil-moisture tolerance; and disease susceptibility will be conducted. Structural plantings will be included to define and anchor spaces and for visual appeal. Combinations of foundation plants and annuals and perennials will be evaluated for year-long interest and compatibility.


 

Urban Forest Grove

Three to five specimens of several tree species will be planted for an urban forest grove. The use of truly native trees and shrubs for different habitats or areas of the state will be studied, as will cultivar evaluations and cultivation requirements of lesser-known native trees and plants. The maintenance of these trees will provide training and demonstration opportunities. Over time, these trees will provide research opportunities in suitability for urban uses, maintenance practices and new arboricultural materials and methods. With the cooperation and help of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), almost 100 trees comprising 32 species have been planted, and initial data collected. A walking trail has been marked out.

Firewise Urban Forestry

Two small woodland areas on the station will be used to demonstrate firewise concepts, prescribed fire uses and fire-dependent ecosystems. The area will be divided into various plots that will receive different treatments such as winter burn, summer burn, mechanical fuel reduction, invasive species control and various methods of fire line construction and maintenance. This area will be used for training and research in firewise urban forestry and landscaping. It is managed in cooperation with the LDAF. Eco-areas are being identified and selective clearing and controlled burning are being done to prepare for establishing research areas.

Care, Maintenance Area

This area is designed as a teaching lab for developers, landscape architects, contractors, maintenance, growers, retailers and consumers. Research plots and facilities have been installed, and plant evaluations and maintenance research are being conducted.

Specialty Plant Area

Collections of popular and exceptional plants such as crape myrtles, hollies and ornamental magnolias will be showcased and evaluated in this section. This dynamic exhibit and evaluation area will represent new and expanded areas of ornamental horticulture diversity.

Southern Homestead Planting

A two-story Southern house built in the late 1800s is a significant architectural aspect of the station. This former residence, which has been remodeled and houses the Southeast Region Office, is surrounded by "homestead" plants that duplicate 30- to 50-year-old landscapes found throughout the South. This site provides a special opportunity to introduce a wider assortment of classic, homestead and enduring plant species to the landscaper and will be used to demonstrate how established plantings can be renewed and complemented with new and fresh additions.

The homestead garden was established in 2004. Additional homestead plants will be included as they are located.

Hody Wilson Camellia, Shade Garden

A legacy of the Hammond Research Station is a collection of camellias from the early work of W.F. "Hody" Wilson Jr., which exists in a grove planting across the highway from the station entrance. Cuttings, grafts and stock plants will be moved to a new commemorative site in a pine grove shade area adjacent to the care and maintenance area on the station. This garden area will be used for preservation, collection, evaluation and cultivation of camellias and other shade-loving plants. The current Wilson Camellia Garden is showcased each February with a camellia stroll sponsored by the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners.

Regina P. Bracy, Professor and Resident Coordinator, Hammond Research Station, Hammond, La.

(This article was published in the spring 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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