Weather no deterrent for annual seminar in West Monroe

Johnny Morgan  |  1/23/2018 8:43:42 PM

(01/23/18) WEST MONROE, La. — Getting the most out of Louisiana landscapes was the focus of the Northeast Louisiana Master Gardeners seminar held during the AgExpo in West Monroe on Jan. 20.

Despite a week of extreme winter weather, attendance at the seminar surpassed last year’s count, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kerry Heafner.

This year, gardening enthusiasts from as far away as Utah were given easy-to-follow tips that will help them get more joy from their garden, Heafner said.

“This is our eighth annual seminar, and we did it a little bit differently this year,” he said. “We’ve had speakers here from as far away as Massachusetts, but this year we wanted to keep it local.”

LSU AgCenter associate vice president Rogers Leonard helped Heafner welcome the attendees and gave an update on some of the changes being instituted at the AgCenter.

Leonard said those involved with gardening will see more AgCenter agents crossing more parish lines to help them with their plant problems.

“Due to budget cuts and having to better utilize our resources in the AgCenter, we’re beginning to re-mission many of our ag and natural resources agents across the state,” he said.

Those changes will lead to regional teams who will focus on five core areas: horticulture, animal sciences, agronomy, forestry and wildlife, Leonard said.

Roselie Overby, of Oak Grove, said she comes to the seminar to gain new gardening tips, and she looks forward to the new AgCenter changes.

“I’m a member of the Oak Grove Garden Club, and they are normally the recipients of my knowledge,” she said. “I always learn something here to take back to the club.”

On the program this year, Alan Futch, owner of Dean of Flowers in Farmerville, discussed flowers of the Civil War-era South and demonstrated how flowers were used for weddings and funerals during that period.

Futch said because there were not a lot of places to buy flowers back then, a number of wildflowers were used for these occasions.

Movies have misrepresented some of the events of that time by showing big, elaborate weddings and even funerals that weren’t major productions as they are today, he said.

“Funerals were really a lot different back then, because they were held in the home or graveside,” he said. “Church funerals didn’t become popular until sometime later.”

Ken Kelley, a Master Gardener and rose expert in northeast Louisiana, provided a wealth of information about roses for the Louisiana landscape.

“When growing roses, there are basically three things that must be adhered to — one, pay attention to what roses you buy; two, be aware of where you’re planting the roses; and three, make sure you start with a well-prepared bed,” he said.

Bill Fontenot, of Lafayette, explained some of the concepts and considerations of wildlife garden design.

The keynote speaker for the seminar was LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill, who discussed how to create colorful flower beds in Louisiana landscapes.

Gill said there is a huge difference in the types of plants that will do well during the cool season in north and south Louisiana.

“But for the warm season, there is not much difference,” Gill said. “When it’s hot in Louisiana, it doesn’t really matter where you are. It’s hot.”

Gill’s presentation included a lot of design ideas, and he explained the importance of leaving space between plants when the garden is being planned.

“One problem that we see with gardeners is people not allowing room for their plants to grow,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty in the beginning, but after about three weeks you should start to see the bare areas filling in some.”

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Alan Futch, owner of Dean of Flowers in Farmerville, shows a typical Civil War-era wedding bouquet during his presentation at the eighth annual spring gardening seminar in West Monroe on Jan. 20. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Bill Fontenot, left, and Ken Kelley share a light moment as LSU AgCenter horticulturist Kerry Heafner looks on during the eighth annual spring gardening seminar in West Monroe on Jan. 20. Both were speakers on the program. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill gets the crowd involved during his creating colorful flower beds presentation during the eighth annual spring gardening seminar in West Monroe on Jan. 20. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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