Southwest Louisiana Garden Festival

Barrett A. Courville  |  3/3/2011 11:45:01 PM

March means spring. Spring is time to get gardening activities into full swing. The Southwest Louisiana Garden Festival will help you get ready for your many spring horticultural activities.

The 2011 festival will be held Friday, March 25, 2011, and Saturday, March 26, 2011, in the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, La. Hours of operation for Friday will be 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Saturday’s activities will be held from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. For more information, visit www.gardenfest.org

The Southwest Louisiana Garden Festival inside the Burton Coliseum is celebrating gardening with its 12th Annual Show and Plant Extravaganza about gardening, flowers, trees, shrubs, garden accessories, books, demonstrations, educational lectures and general garden tools. Area, regional and interstate exhibitors and vendors will be there to assist you with your plant and garden needs. The Federated Garden Clubs of Southwest Louisiana will present Lovely Louisiana, their 2011 flower show theme. They will be displaying their floral design and horticultural talents. There will be new and exciting educational programs about garden topics of interest by LSU AgCenter specialists, as well as, regional, state and national guest speakers. “The garden festival is a wholesome, educational environment and the perfect activity to bring together friends and families," said LSU AgCenter Extension Horticulturist, Robert Turley.

The festival attracts over 4,000 garden lovers, residents and visitors each year. There will be a Plant Health Clinic with professionals from the LSU AgCenter as well as Master Gardener volunteers who will help diagnose plant problems and answer garden questions. Educational garden seminars will be ongoing throughout the two-day event. The 4-H Rent-A-Kid program will provide  festival-goers with help carrying out items to their vehicles.

Educational programs include Home Vegetable Gardening and Fruit Production held on Friday while programs on Ornamentals and Landscape Gardening & Herbs are scheduled for Saturday.

The Southwest Louisiana Master Gardeners will present their Garden Fest Preview Party with a gumbo supper and silent auction in the Chalkley Room of the Burton Coliseum on Thursday, March 24, 2011, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A donation of $10.00 in advance is required for admission. Tickets can be purchased at the LSU AgCenter, 7101 Gulf Highway, Lake Charles, La. Attendees will enjoy the gumbo supper, participate in the silent auction and preview the garden show. They can also make purchasse from the garden festival vendors that evening.

Ferns for the Shade- I often get questions about which plants may be grown with success in a shady location. Many gardeners would like to have huge, full live oak trees and lawn grass growing under the trees. Sorry, those two things don’t go together very well. Since the live oak tree is a larger investment in time and money, most are reluctant to remove it for the sake of the St. Augustine grass. There are, however, several plants that will grow and prosper under the influence of shade. Ferns meet this requirement.

Ferns vary in height from less than a foot to three feet tall. Ferns don't bloom, but their leaves (fronds) are quite attractive and have a unique texture. Not many insects or diseases attack ferns. This low-maintenance feature is an advantage to many gardeners. Ferns do need adequate moisture. Be prepared to irrigate them. Ferns should be planted in a location that receives about one to four hours of morning sun or filtered sunlight per day. Ferns tend to grow best in a higher organic matter soil. Incorporating well-composted material into the plant bed before planting is usually helpful. Mulching the fern will reduce the loss of soil moisture. Several good ferns include: maidenhair fern, holly fern, leather-leaf fern, sword fern, Christmas fern, royal fern, lady fern and lace fern.

If you want a fern-like plant that grows in a sunnier location and is less susceptible to drought, try asparagus fern. It is neither fern nor asparagus, but it looks like both. I have two asparagus ferns that have been growing in large pots on the western exposure of a concrete patio area for several years. They have been very hardy and don’t seem to mind hot afternoon sun. In the summer, I give them a little bit of water in times of very hot, dry weather. Other than that, there is very little care required. They are also cold hardy, as they have survived the past two winters.

Other warm-season plants that require very little sun exposure (partial shade with two to four hours of direct sunlight) include balsam, begonia, caladium, coleus, impatiens, pentas and salvia. The caladiums and impatiens are very well adapted to our area and are very popular for placement under large live oak trees. These plant selections can really bring bright, contrasting color to a shady location. However, they require more management and special care than the asparagus ferns.

For more information, come by or call our office at 337-788-8821 or you can visit our website at http://www.lsuagcenter.com

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