Urban gardening mecca – Hammond Research Station

Linda Benedict, Bracy, Regina P.  |  2/24/2012 10:03:57 PM

Between 500-800 varieties of ornamental shrubs, annuals and perennials are displayed and evaluated in small “island” groupings in a garden setting. (Photos by Igor Kamalov)

Two 100-year-old oaks at the front entrance to the station. These trees are registered with the Live Oak Society.

Regina P. Bracy

The Hammond Research Station serves as a center for horticulture research and extension and provides research-based information to landscape architects, landscape maintenance professionals, arborists, producers and retailers. The station annually hosts hundreds of visitors, including nursery and landscape professionals, Master Gardeners and the gardening public who attend presentations and tour the grounds.

The gardens at Hammond were designed by Neil Odenwald, LSU professor emeritus of horticulture. The gardens were set up to be visual and tactile billboards for various landscape concepts. It was important to duplicate the growing conditions used by homeowners and landscape professionals.

All aspects of the grounds and gardens are set up to provide an educational experience. Highlights of the gardens at the station include:  

Southern homestead planting
A two-story Southern house built in the late 1800s is a significant and interesting architectural aspect of the station. This former residence (now the Southeast Region office) is surrounded by "homestead" plants, which duplicate 30- to 50-year-old landscapes found throughout the South. The landscape demonstrates how established plantings can be renewed and complemented with new and fresh additions. Maintenance and care of heritage trees is demonstrated in the 80-plus-year-old Southern magnolia southeast of the house.

Firewise landscaping
A well-designed, fire-defensible landscape is the first step toward reducing risk from wildfires and is critical to the protection of home and property in the wildland-urban interface – the area between unoccupied wooded areas and human development or houses. The landscape surrounding the building demonstrates the concepts of defensible space, proper placement of shrubs and trees, fire-resistant treatment of wood fences and proper selection of fire-resistant plant material.

Phenology garden
Phenology is the study of regularly recurring biological phenomena (such as plant budding) influenced by climate. The phenological events of flowering ornamentals are recorded in this research garden. These "events" will be used to predict insect pest activities that can be used to develop a biological calendar for a more effective and "greener" way to control pests in the landscape.

Crape myrtle collection
Nestled around and behind the phenology garden is a collection of 17 varieties of crape myrtles. Here one can view the significant differences in size and shape of crape myrtle varieties. Growth habits and pest resistance of the varieties are being evaluated.

Evaluation trials – sun garden and shade garden
The Hammond Research Station annually conducts the largest herbaceous ornamental plant trial in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. These multi-year trials are used to introduce and recommend the best varieties and new plants for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region. Between 500-800 varieties of ornamental shrubs, annuals and perennials are displayed and evaluated year-round in small "island" groupings in a garden setting. This unique garden layout for plant evaluation provides a showcase of plant combinations and garden design as well as evaluations and displays of new introductions in the plant world. Hundreds of visitors view these evaluations each year.

In the sun garden, plant performance is evaluated in full-sun conditions in all the heat and humidity a Louisiana summer can bring. The motto of this area is "Can they take the heat?" Cool-season plants are evaluated during the cooler months of fall and winter. In the shade garden, plant performance is evaluated under shade provided by an old stand of spruce pine, loblolly pine and oak trees. A special collection in this area includes more than 40 varieties of hosta.

Margie Y. Jenkins Azalea Garden
This garden was established in 2006 to provide a continuing feature to educate people about azaleas and native plants. It is named for Margie Y. Jenkins, a nationally known, local azalea breeder and native-plant collector. The garden currently includes Robin Hill, Encore, Crimson and Southern Indica families of azaleas with more than 50 different species of native trees and shrubs scattered among them.

W.F. "Hody" Wilson Camellia Garden
More than 600 camellia plants from the work of W.F. "Hody" Wilson Jr. can be found nestled under a pine forest on the station. Planted in the early 1940s and 1950s, many of these plants are one-of-a-kind from Wilson’s breeding work when he was station superintendent. A Camellia Stroll sponsored by Tangipahoa Master Gardeners is held annually in February.

Care and maintenance area
Research on landscape issues such as weed control, fertilization, pruning and mulching is conducted in this area. Plant growth regulators are being evaluated as a means to reduce landscape maintenance costs. Research conducted here provides appropriate fertilization guidelines for optimum growth and bloom of plants while reducing over-application and runoff from the landscape. Several plant evaluations in this area include new landscape roses, ground covers and daylilies.

Wetland or rain garden  
This garden was installed to demonstrate that rain gardens are not just holes in the landscape but can be attractive and practical additions to a garden. Designed to hold water beneath the soil surface, this rain garden is indistinguishable from other landscape beds in the sun garden except for the use of native plants. Its purpose is to allow stormwater runoff from impervious areas like driveways and compacted lawn areas to soak into the ground rather than flow into drains and waterways.

Rose evaluations  
Landscape shrub roses were introduced to the landscape industry about 15 years ago and now account for 50 percent of all modern roses sold. These roses require little to no fungicide application to control black spot, a serious leaf disease of roses. Evaluations of landscape performance and production practices on new varieties of landscape shrub roses are conducted each year in the sun garden, care and maintenance area, and a newly established easy-care rose garden. In this new garden, more than 125 rose varieties (new and antique) are grown with minimal care to provide information on maintenance requirements.

Retention pond and constructed wetland  
This water feature adds an aesthetic drama to the entry of the station and also serves as a demonstration and research area on how landscape runoff can be reduced and how landscape pollution can be mitigated. The ability of landscape plants to remove (bio-filter) nitrogen and phosphorus from runoff water is being evaluated for recommendation in stormwater mitigation systems. Cages currently located in the pond contain submerged plant species that are being evaluated.

Urban forest  
This area includes 32 species of shade trees. Over time, these trees will provide research opportunities in suitability for urban uses and maintenance practices. The use of truly native trees also will be studied and promoted, as will variety evaluations and cultivation requirements of lesser-known native trees and plants.

Heritage live oaks
Two 100-year-old oaks at the front entrance to the station are used to demonstrate how to protect and preserve historic trees. Practices include tree health assessment, mulching, proper pruning and minimizing root damage. These trees are registered with the Live Oak Society.

Future plans included expansion of the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden to include heat-tolerant rhododendrons and other groups of azalea as well as an extensive collection of Japanese maples. All the camellia varieties released by Hody Wilson will be added to the camellia garden. A demonstration garden detailing how to incorporate fruit plants in the landscape will be designed.

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

(This article was published in the winter 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

 

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