Garden Expansion at the Hammond Research Station

Linda Benedict, Chen, Yan, Bracy, Regina P., Owings, Allen D.  |  5/22/2013 10:04:35 PM

Allen D. Owings, Regina P. Bracy and Yan Chen

Since the debut of a landscape horticulture research and extension program at the Hammond Research Station in 2006, gardens supporting this new mission continue to expand.
 
Watch a 1:26-minute video about the station.

The station’s oldest plant collection is in the Hody Wilson Camellia Garden. This garden is part of the American Camellia Society’s Camellia Trail Gardens and includes more than 200 varieties not found in any other public garden in the United States. The Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardener Association hosts about 400 home gardeners each February at the annual camellia garden open house.

The major garden planted at the station since the mission change is the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden. This garden, which was established in 2007, provides valuable information on horticultural characteristics of its 70 shrub and tree species. The garden is named for Margie Y. Jenkins, owner of Jenkins Farm and Nursery in Amite, and recognizes the enormous contribution she has made in promoting azaleas and native plants to the nursery industry.

Phenology is the study of recurring biological phenomena, such as plant budding, influenced by climate. The phenology garden at the station helps horticulturists study plant growth timing, which can indicate when insect pressure will be greatest. The phenological events of flowering ornamentals are recorded and used to predict insect pest activities. This information is used to develop a biological calendar for a more effective way to control pests in the landscape with less use of pesticides.

A shade garden is where new plants and new varieties of older plants are evaluated under shade provided by a stand of spruce pine, loblolly pine and oak trees. Plants in the shade garden include hosta, caladium, torenia, begonia, coleus and New Guinea impatiens.

Although the sun garden is not new, it has expanded over the past three years from 10 to 48 raised beds. These beds, with built-in irrigation, average about 500-750 square feet. They are used for demonstration and replicated research involving landscape evaluation of cool-season annual flowers, warm-season annual flowers, herbaceous perennials, seasonal tropicals, roses, companion trees and shrubs, and ornamental grasses. More than 850 varieites of ornamental plants are evaluated each year, and plants are added and removed from the sun garden monthly as new studies begin and older studies conclude.

A new garden addition is being called the Piney Woods Garden. This garden includes five acres with almost 40 individual landscape beds. The garden features native trees, selections of clonally propagated cypress from China, Southern heritage shrubs (such as camellias), native azaleas, a collection of yellow flowering magnolias, Japanese maples, Huang azaleas, new shade tree selections and more. Specific plants already established in this garden include some of the newest hydrangeas from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, a camellia collection from the Southern Living Plant Program, and the Southgate series of heat-tolerant rhododendrons developed by plant breeder John Thornton of Franklinton, La. Funding for the garden was provided by the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association.

The area for long-term observational studies of field plantings is being expanded. This area will include landscape shrub response to plant growth regulator applications, a variety evaluation of the numerous new dark purple/black foliaged crape myrtle varieties, crape myrtle hedging studies, a hardy hibiscus trial, evaluation of bald cypress with winter foliage retention capabilities, and evaluations of two new selections of the Japanese crape myrtle.

Many visitors – including Master Gardeners, garden club members, retail garden center employees and professional landscapers – make regular trips to the research gardens at the Hammond Research Station. 

Allen D. Owings and Regina P. Bracy are both professors at the Hammond Research Station. Yan Chen is an assistant professor there. Bracy is also the research coordinator.

(This article was published in the winter 2013 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

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