Hammond Research gardens are growing

By ALLEN OWINGS LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND — Since the debut of a landscape horticulture research and extension program at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station seven years ago, gardens supporting the research at the station continue to expand.
The oldest plant collection at the station is located in the Hody Wilson Camellia Garden. This garden is now part of the American Camellia Society’s Camellia Trail Gardens and includes more than 250 varieties not found in any other public garden in the United States.
The major garden installed since the station’s research and outreach mission was changed to landscape horticulture is the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden. This garden serves the mission of education about azaleas and companion native plants for both home gardeners and nursery and landscape professionals. From a research standpoint, it provides valuable information on horticultural characteristics of the plants growing in the garden.
A shade garden at the station is where new varieties of ornamental plants and improved varieties of older ornamentals are evaluated under partially shaded to shaded conditions. Plants in the shade garden vary year to year but generally include hosta, caladium, torenia, begonia, coleus, New Guinea impatiens and more.
The sun garden has greatly expanded over the past three years. This area is 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, ornamental grasses and more.
More than 850 varieties of ornamental plants are evaluated each year, and plants are added to and removed from the sun garden monthly through the year as new studies begin and older studies conclude. The LSU AgCenter is now participating in the National Plant Trials Database started in 2012 to provide an online data reference source for national, regional and statewide performance of new ornamental plants.
The new Piney Woods Garden opened in 2013. Its five acres feature 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.
A new field at the station is planted with seedlings of vitex and more than 30 varieties of the new black and burgundy foliaged crape myrtles. Rose research continues with implementation of a planting of new dwarf, compact Earth Kind rises. And six live oak trees at the station are in the process of being registered with the Live Oak Society at the Louisiana Garden Club Federation.
Many visitors, such as Master Gardeners, garden club members, home gardeners, retail garden center owners and managers, nursery growers and landscape professionals, visit the research gardens at the Hammond Research Station each year. Industry educational events and field days are held throughout the year.
This year, home gardeners are invited to an open house in Hammond on May 2. Other events this year include the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden Lecture Series and Industry Open House on June 5.

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