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Rankin Extension office turns into focal point for gardening
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
BRANDON – Rankin County Master Gardeners enjoy converting plain spaces into landscapes that draw attention, so they jumped at the chance to transform the county Extension office into a focal point for good gardening.
Since they began work on the landscape more than two years ago, the Master Gardeners and Rankin County Extension director Houston Therrell have established several showpieces that demonstrate proper gardening of ornamentals, turfgrasses, flowers, organic and conventional-tilled vegetables, wildlife plots, forages and row crops. And this is only the beginning, Therrell said.
“The project is transforming the area into a wonderful educational tool,” Terrell said. “People can tour the gardens, see what good gardening is all about and ask how to get things done and in good shape.”
The gardeners plan to restore a nature trail that encircles a bubbling brook and picturesque rock formations. They want to widen and slope the pathway and bridge, which will provide wheelchair access and enhance the natural terrain. They also anticipate refurbishing a picnic area at the end of the trail.
Many of the plants that make up the demonstration gardens came from seeds and cuttings from the backyards of the Master Gardeners. It is typical for Master Gardeners to donate cuttings, seeds and transplants for special projects and to conduct plant sales that fund other ventures.
“The sky’s the limit as to what we can do,” said Nancy Purvis of Brandon, a Master Gardener intern who is coordinating work on the nature trail. “The trail needs some tender loving care, and it has been fun to work alongside other people who share enthusiasm for restoring the trail to its former beauty.”
The Rankin County group welcomes people interested in becoming Master Gardeners. Certification as a Master Gardener requires commitment, training and participation in community service projects.
“We are an arm of the Mississippi State University Extension Service, and our goal is to educate the public about gardening practices that enhance and protect our environment and to work with communities to implement good gardening,” said Rankin County Master Gardener president Nellie Axley of Brandon.
While the restoration of Extension’s landscape and gardens has been embraced by the people of Rankin County, it has also garnered other attention. The project has received the Grounds Maintenance and Overall Image award from MSU Extension for the past three years. There may be opportunities for more recognition as the Master Gardeners have no intention of stopping now.
“We’re already planning things a year in advance,” Therrell said. “We’re aiming for a four-season garden that can showcase the beauty of the landscape as it changes throughout the year.”