Research gardens growing in Hammond

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Penny Mac hydrangea
Louisiana Super Plant Penny Mac hydrangea in the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden. (Photo by Allen Owings)
caladium and hosta trials
Caladium and hosta trials in the Shade Garden at the Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Allen Owings)
Allen Owings presenting
AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings leads a discussion of roses at the 2013 Master Gardener appreciation day at the Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Rick VanderMuellen)

News Release Distributed 03/28/14

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – 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 over 250 varieties not found in any other public garden in the United States. The Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardener Association hosts over 400 home gardeners each February at the annual camellia garden open house.

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. The garden is named for nurserywoman Margie Jenkins of Jenkins Farm and Nursery in Amite, La., and features over 70 shrub and tree species.

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.

Over 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.

Specific plants already established in this garden include some of the newest hydrangeas from the U.S Department of Agriculture-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.

A new field at the station is planted with seedlings of vitex and over 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 on May 2, and Master Gardeners are planning to attend an invitation-only appreciation day at the station on May 9. Other events this year include the Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden Lecture Series and Industry Open House on June 5 and the annual Landscape Horticulture Field Day on October 9. Additional details are available by contacting the station.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond. Also, like us on Facebook by going to and typing Hammond Research Station in the search box. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

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