Georgia Station Research and Education Garden – Interpreting “Green” Research for the Horticultural Industry and the Public

Associate Professor Department of Entomology University of Georgia

[From the Source – Spring/Summer 1996]

The Georgia Station Research and Education Garden is part of the Georgia Experiment Station. The Experiment Station has for a century been one of the premier agricultural research centers in the South. As one of three main campuses of the University of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station system (locations in Athens, Griffin, and Tifton), it has made notable contributions both to the applied and basic sciences. The station has ongoing programs in agricultural economics, biological and agricultural engineering, crop and soil sciences, entomology, horticulture, plant pathology, and food science and technology.

The Garden is being developed to provide a forum for the education of several audiences about the impact of ongoing research programs of the University’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The research and educational programs in the Garden will be developed with input from the horticultural industry and directed towards industry, gardener, professional educator, and homeowner needs with emphasis on the interpretation of ongoing research. The Garden consists of a gently rolling, 65-acre tract, located off Ellis Road in Griffin, Georgia, 40 miles south of Atlanta. The Garden site has excellent public visibility and is easily accessible to clientele in central and north Georgia.

The Concept Plan for the Garden retains the natural topography as well as most of the existing vegetation. A 15-year old Virginia pine seed orchard will be retained. The main entrance to the Garden has been placed on Ellis Road (see map). Historical trees from the Heritage Collection will line the drive and research plots for pest management in hollies, turf, and wildflowers along with various wildflower mixes will be visible. A collection of native azalea species and other plant materials in the ornamental plant breeding program can be viewed from the drive.

Landscape management plots designed to reduce risks from urban pesticide use have been included in the shaded plots. Installation and management of these plots have been supported by the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division of the Department of Natural Resources. This project evolved from ongoing research assessing the range of pest resistance in woody ornamentals and turfgrasses and the effect of cultural conditions on insect pest problems. This project includes the use of pest-resistant or pest-susceptible plant materials grown with very limited use of pesticides as compared to the use of pest-susceptible plant materials grown under traditional chemical pest management. We are also currently evaluating the influence of sun vs. shade as a landscape management variable on plant quality and pest susceptibility under reduced input management. Future studies in this 10-year project will include the impact of other landscape management practices, such as mulch, irrigation, and fertilization on pest management.

At the highest point in the Garden, a visitors center with meeting facilities for 150 people is planned. A wide variety of educational opportunities will be accommodated in this facility including meetings hosted by members of related professional associations. A greenhouse range will enhance research and educational opportunities offered in the Garden. The greenhouse range will include the following: a polyethylene-covered house comparable to those used by Georgia growers; a subdivided house for pollution prevention research with runoff collection facilities for each subunit; and an automated, subdivided house for biological control research.

Demonstration plots will be planted near the visitors center. Some of these will be former research plots dedicated to demonstration of research results; others will be cultivar collections (iris, daylily) or theme gardens (butterfly garden, medicinal plant) prepared and maintained by volunteers from local plant societies or Master Gardeners. A demonstration of lawn turf cultivars will also be included. The Historic Garden, containing a demonstration of new cultivar releases from the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations, will be easily accessible from the visitors center.

The Research and Education Garden is a good example of a partnership among a variety of public and private groups. The Georgia Station was able to take existing state and university resources, and then leverage these resources to enable a number of outstanding contributions from the private sector.

As mentioned above, initial funds from P2AD supported initial research efforts and garden development. Several Georgia trade associations then made substantial contributions to the Garden. The Georgia Commercial Flower Growers Association has assisted in development and purchase of the first greenhouse for the Garden. The Georgia Irrigation Association designed an irrigation plan for the demonstration area and will provide materials for installation of the irrigation mechanism. The Georgia Turfgrass Association and the Georgia Sod Producers Association have donated sod for erosion control research on the banks of the irrigation pond in the Garden. Wholesale members of the Georgia Green Industry Association have donated approximately 150 trees for planting in the Garden, and Snapper, Inc. Of McDonough has provided about a dozen pieces of lawn maintenance equipment.

Additionally, local contributions to the Garden have enabled some exciting additions to the Garden. The Flint River Iris Society is donating and installing the iris plants for the demonstration plots, as well as making a monetary donation. Similarly, the Flint River Daylily Society is donating and installing day lilies for the Garden. Monetary donations have also been received from the United Bank in Griffin, the Griffin Federation of Garden Clubs, and the Redbud District Garden Clubs. The detailed landscape design for the demonstration area was donated by Master Gardeners Davie Biagi and Carolyn Fjeran. Together, all of the contributors have provided a dynamic start for the development of the Garden.

For more information on the Research and Education Garden, please contact: Dr. Joyce Latimer Department of Horticulture Georgia Station University of Georgia Griffin, GA 30223-1797 (770) 228-7398