October 6, 2013 12:36:51 AM
One of the best horticulture field days in the Southeast has three extra benefits: It's free, it's in Mississippi and it's scheduled just around the corner.
Clear your calendars now for the Fall Flower and Garden Fest at Mississippi State University's Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs. The two-day festival, Oct. 18-19, will be fun for the entire family and will be an interesting and educational experience, whether you're a garden novice or Master Gardener.
The festival offers a wide variety of things to see, including a great selection of tough roses and ornamental grasses. My favorite is the 2010 Mississippi Medallion Native winner Gulf Coast muhly grass with its pink, cloud-like plumes that are always spectacular in October.
The tropical banana plants always seem to draw a lot of interest with their variety of sizes and colorful foliage. Siam Ruby has stems that are a rich burgundy color, and the foliage's irregular variegation of bright green on burgundy seems to shimmer.
One of the highlights of the festival is all the varieties of fall vegetables and herbs planted in the three-acre garden site.
There are also plenty of new flowers and colorful foliage to see. Some of the best that grow in full sun are coleus and ornamental sweet potato, and these create vibrant carpets. Mississippi Medallion winners and plants from the All-America Selections program will be featured.
In addition to displays of plants, there are always numerous educational activities. Nonstop seminars and exhibits will run in three different venues, and many will address the increased interest in home vegetable gardening and making gardens more accessible. Seminar topics include cooking with herbs, harvesting more vegetables, growing container vegetables and the flower trial performance of favorite garden plants.
Walking tours will allow visitors to investigate some of the research projects at the experiment station. Topics for these include agri-bility (increasing access in the garden), insect and disease, high tunnels and vegetable gardening. More than 60 vendors will help you scratch that fall gardening itch with plants, tools and other essential garden items.
A smart phone app can help you plan your visit and keep on schedule. Download it at guidebook.com/g/ffgfest for a complete schedule of events.
Yours truly will be there both days, along with the other Mississippi State horticulture, garden and landscape experts. We will be happy to answer your tough garden and landscape questions. We'll be the ones wearing blue vests, so don't be shy to come on up and introduce yourself.
The Fall Flower and Garden Fest is sponsored by the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. The festival is in its 35th year of celebrating everything garden. More than 6,000 people attend the annual two-day event each year.
Hours are from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day, and admission and parking are free. All gardens, grounds, seminar areas and a tour wagon are handicap accessible. Vendors will serve food and drinks, so come out and make a day of it.
The Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station is located in Crystal Springs about 25 miles south of Jackson on Highway 51. Call 601-892-3731 or contact your local Extension office for more information.