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Botanical Gardens Showcase Landscape Ideas
VERONA -- Pictures might help some home landscapers choose plants, but others may prefer an up-close-and-personal look at a demonstration landscape.
A visit to the Magnolia Botanical Gardens could be a surer way to see how the plant will fit into a landscape plan. The four-acre botanical gardens are the latest addition to the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona.
The horticulture commodity group developed plans for the gardens following a recommendation at the center's 1996 Advisory Committee meeting.
"The group recommended that the project of most benefit to the area's horticulture industry, homeowners and others with an interest in horticulture would be the development of a garden to evaluate plant materials in a landscaped setting," said Pat Bagley, head of the Verona center.
Horticulture professionals, homeowners, garden club members and others in Booneville, Tupelo and Verona offered suggestions. Those groups recommended annuals, perennials, wildlife attractions, xeriscape or landscape designed for minimum water use, a water garden, fragrant plants, shade plants and a vegetable garden.
Using the recommendations made at the meetings, Pete Poland of Landscape Services in Tupelo developed a conceptual plan for the gardens.
"The gardens will be divided into outdoor rooms, each with its own theme," said Crofton Sloan, research associate in Verona. "Horticulturists here at the Center will use the area to conduct evaluations of plants and of such practices as weed control, pruning and fertilization."
Plantings in the gardens are underway, and the facility will be fully developed in about three years. Visitors will have an opportunity to see well-established area plants and others that are in the process of being evaluated. People can learn about the plants available at North Mississippi nurseries and garden centers and how they can be used in their landscape plans.
"In addition to familiar plants, visitors to the gardens will see the latest varieties from Europe, South America and other overseas locations," said Jim Wohlfarth, owner of Tippah County Growers. "The gardens will be a destination for visitors to the area, similar to a museum or a zoo."
An additional feature of the gardens will be evaluation of plants for the Mississippi Medallion Awards program. The awards are presented by the Mississippi Nurserymen's Association and the Mississippi State University Extension Service to plants that have outstanding performance in trials throughout the state.
"The Magnolia Gardens are the northern most testing area in the Mississippi Medallion program," explained Extension Horticulturist Norman Winter. "If a plant does well at the site, people in North Mississippi can be confident it will perform well in their home landscapes."
The Tupelo Rotary Club donated a 28-foot hexagonal pavilion to the facility. The garden entrance leads to the pavilion, where paths radiate to the various focus areas.
A Tupelo couple has given a donation to establish a rose garden at the facility.
Tippah County Growers donated plant material for the perimeter hedge around the gardens. Other plant nurseries and horticulture enterprises in North Mississippi also are providing materials for the site.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors is paving the road leading to the garden entrance and is building a parking lot at the entrance.
Anyone wishing to provide support for the botanical gardens can contact Crofton Sloan at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, Box 456, Verona, MS 38879, telephone (601) 566-2201.