In the Parish of Tangipahoa, there aren’t big cities. Its small town, mostly: country folks and Pine trees.
Its a beautifully green Parish with fresh-water marsh on the southern end at Lake Ponchartrain and the rest is mostly whispering pine flats, rolling hills, and the shaded bottomland of its waterways. The greenest spot in all of the the Parish though, may be the Hammond Horticultural Research Station, just 5 minutes north of Interstate-12.
Tangi is part of what the locals still call the Florida Parishes. Map circa 1767
The LSU AgCenter has an extensive collection of ornamental trial gardens here, along with numerous research and experimental/trial gardens. It used to be an experiment station for truck crops but the focus these days is on ornamental horticulture. On my first visit to the Station, I had a great meeting with Dr. Yan Chen, Dr. Allen Owings and hort technician Gina Hebert. I was there to discuss with them their interest in adding native grasses and wildflowers to the gardens. Since then, they have taken a keen interest in natives and I have taken a keen interest in their beautifully maintained gardens. (click on the photos to enlarge)
above: many acres of “island” gardens exist for your enjoyment, at the Southeast Louisiana Research Station
Dr. Owings and Dr. Chen have begun the process of designing new demonstration gardens, where they will trial the usefulness of some of the states best high conservatism native perennials. I have made it my focus lately to collect the rarest and best seeds for them. They’ve begun propagation some and will continue through the winter and spring. At some point early next summer, we’ll possibly get together and dig root divisions of different species and cultivars of native grasses from my seed fields in Mississippi so that they can “grow them out”, in their ultra-sleek nursery facility. We have some time to prepare garden beds and meadow areas since the majority of plantings will be made in November of 2014. In the meadow areas, weed competition will be eradicated by repeated treatments prior to planting and this leaves lots of time to produce enough plants to fill the gardens when the time comes to plant.
If you get a chance, you should visit one day. It may be the north-shore’s best-kept secret.
This week on Thursday is an open house-field day event which should be fun and entertaining with plenty of folks to network and talk about plants with. A visit then will be especially good since we just got our first taste of dry, fall weather!
All across the several-acre Station site, you’ll find gardens with many combinations of color and form and textures: ones that will delight your eyes. A wonderful collection of native trees has been established over the years by Dr. Paul Orr, and of course there’s the Margie Jenkins Azalea collection garden which is full many significant plants. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I hadn’t been here before my recent comings and goings but I guess it was about time I had arrived. I hope to see you there Thursday!
click photo to enlarge.