Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
News Release Distributed 01/04/13
By Allen Owings
LSU AgCenter horticulturist
HAMMOND, La. – Many residents of southeast Louisiana may not know that the LSU AgCenter has an agricultural experiment station in this area. It’s devoted to horticulture research and extension programs to aid commercial nursery and landscape professionals, along with homeowners.
The LSU AgCenter has an office in each Louisiana parish with agricultural, family and consumer science, and 4-H agents. In addition, many agricultural experiment stations are located around the state. Tangipahoa Parish is home to the Hammond Research Station located between Hammond and Robert just south of Highway 190. Programs at the station the past few years have turned to landscape horticulture.
Projects at the Hammond Research Station include weed control, stormwater management, entomology, landscape plant evaluation, urban forestry and much more.
An urban forest area planted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 includes 32 species of shade trees. Over time, these trees will provide research opportunities in suitability for urban uses and maintenance practices. Other studies will include the use of truly native trees, as will variety evaluations and cultivation requirements of lesser-known native trees and plants.
A major emphasis at the station is the evaluation of annual bedding plants, herbaceous perennials, roses, new shrubs and other companion plants. We evaluate more than 800 varieties of cool-season and warm-season plants each year.
The “sun garden” features small island groupings of ornamental shrubs, annuals and perennials to showcase some of the newer introductions in the plant world. Beautiful yes, but can they take the heat? The performance of these new plants is evaluated in full-sun conditions under all the heat and humidity that a Louisiana summer can bring.
A “shade garden” area is also included now with more than 200 varieties of shade-requiring plant varieties evaluated annually. Caladiums and hosta are a major research focus.
The Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden at the station was established in 2006 to provide a continuing feature to educate people about azaleas and other native plants. It is named for Margie Y. Jenkins, owner of Jenkins Farm and Nursery in Amite, and recognizes the enormous contribution of “Ms. Margie” in promoting azaleas and native plants to the green industry.
The garden currently includes Robin Hill, Encore, Crimson and Southern Indica families of azaleas. More than 50 different species of native trees and shrubs can be found scattered among the azaleas. The garden is ever expanding, and more azaleas continue to be added.
Located south of the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden, Piney Woods garden is the newest effort at the station and includes five acres with almost 40 individual landscape beds much larger than the sun garden beds. The garden features additional plantings of 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 much more.
Specific plants already established in this garden include some of the newest hydrangeas from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 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 in fall 2012 by the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association.
Louisiana Master Gardeners can tour the new garden at the station at the annual appreciation day scheduled for May 10. Nursery, landscape and garden center professionals can tour the new garden at the spring industry day scheduled for May 17. This event also will include the inaugural Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden Horticulture Lecture Series. More details on this event will be coming soon.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by viewing the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals.