Large crowd attends Ornamental Horticulture Field Say

Published 1:20 am Friday, October 9, 2009

Dr. Wayne McLaurin, a professor at the Mississippi State University’s Coastal Research Extension Center, said that a new variety of crepe myrtle, developed during seven years of research at the Poplarville Experiment Station, will be available in the Spring.

McLaurin was one of a number of scientists who work at the extension center and who participated in the annual Ornamental Horticulture Field Day on Thursday. The field day has been going on for 36 years.

The event was attended by a large crowd that filled the reception building and spilled out onto the grounds.

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Represented were commercial growers, MSU extension scientists and administrators from Starkville, certified Master Gardeners, commercial company representatives and ornamental enthusiasts from all over Mississippi, and other states as well.

McLaurin was a specialist who manned one of five stations throughout the Experiment Station’s luscious flower-covered grounds at which attendees could get the latest insights into research, new products and ideas that are coming down the ornamental line.

Scientists actually do hard science here and pass it on to master gardeners, other researchers, the general public and ornamental industry representatives, who make their living in the from ornamental plants.

“It is a new crepe myrtle variety called ‘Delta Jazz’. It is a purple-leaved Crepe Myrtle released by Mississippi State. It was developed here at the Experiment Station in Poplarville. It will be released through the Southern Living plant introduction program, and we hope people like it,” McLaurin said.

From his description, they will. McLaurin said its leaves are purple, like a purple plum, and it has a beautiful true pink blossom. It will bloom from June to September, and so far it seems to be disease resistant.

He was flanked by a sample of the new plant.

The field day cranked up at 9 a.m. and went all day. Attendees ate lunch at the Pearl River Community College cafeteria across old Mississippi Highway 26.

Dr. Gene Blythe, who welcomed participants to the field day and who is assistant research professor of horticulture at MSU-CREC, said the demonstration and talks ranged from the very practical to the scientific and that CREC was trying to reach a broad audience.

“We want to educate the public, too, not only just the people directly involved in the commercial aspects. We want people to know what is going on here with our research as relates to the ornamental crops,” Blythe said.

He added, “We will cover a diverse set of topics, what is going on in the industry, and also give practical advice, and what research we are doing.”

Horticulture is a word that means the “art of garden cultivation,” and ornamental means “to embellish or make beautiful.”

However, the field day also addressed what today are termed “edible ornamentals,” plants that enhance the beauty of your property but which you can also eat.

Said Dr. Patricia Knight, professor and head of MSU-CREC, “Ornamental means just what it says, the plant is like an ornament to your property. This is not all we do, but it forms a big and important part of what we do.

“You have master gardeners here today, nursery representatives, Extension personnel, people from other states, like Alabama and Louisiana, junior college students, chemical company reps, a little bit of everything, so basically anybody who wants to come and learn about some aspect of ornamental horticulture,” she added.

Dr. Benedict C. Posadas, associate Extension-research professor of Economics with CREC, said that the core ornamental horticulture industry is an essential part of what he termed the state’s “green” industry. Posadas is an “ag-economist.”

He said the “green” industry pumps a billion dollars a year into the Mississippi economy.

Also attending the field day was Dr. Joe Street, associate director of the MSU Extension Service who, along with Blythe, welcomed guests.