Exploring the benefits of open plant trial gardens

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

If you are looking for what’s new in the plant and gardening world, trial gardens are a hidden gem offering a unique and enriching experience for both seasoned green thumbs and curious novices. These trial gardens are open to the public and allow visitors to experience and see the introduction of new plant varieties and gain valuable insights into the wonders of horticulture.

The plant displays are expertly planted and maintained, and the selections are labeled with information on each plant so that you can take notes and jot down your favorites. The open plant trial gardens have become an indispensable resource for cultivating a deep appreciation of ornamental plants and the new and upcoming varieties that could potentially be offered at local retail garden centers. Some trials also are offering edible plant selections.

Located in many cities across the United States and in our own state of Louisiana at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, these gardens serve as living laboratories where innovative botanical experiments take place. Open to the public, they provide a cultivating environment for plant researchers, breeders and enthusiasts to highlight their latest creations and share their passion with a wider audience. Among the delicate petals and vibrant colors of flowers and foliage, visitors find themselves immersed in a world of natural beauty and endless possibilities.

One of the key benefits of touring trial gardens lies in the opportunity to witness the introduction of new plant varieties firsthand. As visitors stroll among the garden trial beds, they can observe the meticulous work of dedicated scientists and breeders who develop novel cultivars. These gardens offer a sneak peek into the intricate processes behind crossbreeding, hybridization and selection.

Beyond the allure of discovery, these gardens also offer a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. Expert gardeners and horticulturists often are on hand to answer questions, offer gardening tips and share their expertise.

Take advantage of field days at these gardens, including the Hammond Research Station, which hosts its annual field day each July. You can get advice on identifying the perfect plants for specific garden areas to providing insights on nurturing and care. These opportunities and experts can help visitors make informed choices for their own gardens.

Trial gardens also serve as living classrooms where visitors can participate in workshops, seminars and hands-on activities. From learning the art of propagating plants to mastering the delicate balance of pest management, these immersive experiences provide invaluable lessons in sustainable gardening practices.

Attending open plant trial gardens also can help nurture an appreciation for biodiversity and environmental conservation. As attendees walk through the trials, they can see a display for plant diversity and gain a better understanding of the vital role these organisms play in sustaining our ecosystems. Many trial gardens are highlighting the importance of preserving endangered species and promoting native plants. These gardens are becoming ambassadors for the conservation movement, fostering a sense of responsibility and stewardship among their visitors.

Trial gardens provide a welcome respite, offering a chance to reconnect with nature. They encourage us to slow down, observe the subtle wonders that unfold around us and revel in the timeless beauty of the botanical world.

So whether you’re an avid gardener seeking new inspirations or simply someone looking to immerse yourself in nature, make sure to visit a trial garden near you. This year, the Hammond Research Station will hold its field day on Friday, July 21, from 8 a.m. until after lunch. It is open to the public, and AgCenter faculty and staff will be there to share all the research trials information with you.

If you cannot make it to the field day, you can always stop by the station to visit. Don’t forget to check out the Louisiana Super Plants bed while you are there.

The LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden in Baton Rouge also features many gorgeous and reliable plants for Louisiana landscapes and is open to the public daily for a stroll through the gardens. Step into this living gallery, observe what’s new and doing well in the landscape and make some notes on what you’d like to bring to your garden.

Flowerbeds with bright pink and purple flowers.

Trial gardens offer an opportunity to learn about new varieties of plants. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Girl standing near flowerbeds.

By attending trial gardens, you can take note of new varieties to look for in local retail garden centers. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Sign that reads "open to the public."

Trial gardens are open to the public to visit. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

6/9/2023 2:30:01 PM
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