Tennessee: West Tennessee Research and Education Center Gardens

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605 Airways Blvd , Jackson, TN 38301

The University of Tennessee West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson was established in 1907, primarily for agronomic crops. However, in recent years, the Center has tackled research in the areas of ornamentals, turf grasses, and horticultural crops. It is also the home of the UT Gardens, Jackson, begun in 1989, and has grown by leaps and bounds, especially since the addition of an enthusiastic research horticulturist in 2002. The gardens today include a kitchen garden, a low-maintenance fruit demonstration orchard, annual and perennial displays, an All-American Selection display garden, heat tolerant conifer collection, a witch-hazel (Hamamelis) and redbud (Cercis) collection. Visitors can also enjoy a no-spray rose research garden, acidic-peat bog garden, daylily collection, ornamental grass collection, courtyard garden, turf wheel, turf variety trials, compost display, plant screen demonstration, hardy and non hardy succulent collection that include many colorful sedums, succulents, yuccas and hardy agaves. In addition, the arboretum has long been an attraction to local children who collect leaves for school projects.

The conifer collection begin in 2006 to fulfill the need to demonstrate which conifers can successfully be grown in West Tennessee's hot humid climate. The majority of the collection is growing along the north side of the parking lot in an area exposed to full sun, and subjected to wind and heat radiated off the parking lot. Our collection demonstrates that there are many species of Thuja, Chamaecyparis, Cryptomeria, and Juniperus that thrive in the South's challenging climate. There are also several outstanding cultivars of Cupressus, Taxodium, and Metasequoia (among other genera) that flourish. The collection currently holds close to one hundred cultivars with more added each year. Visitors are fascinated by the colors and striking forms of the many cultivars, and inevitably ask where they might purchase them. The designs of the conifer plantings inspire gardeners to use conifers in exciting ways, such as features in shrub borders, perennial beds and containers.

Each year between 80 to 90 cultivars of pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash are evaluated for characteristics such pest resistance, size, yield, and storage longevity. The end product of these trials is used to create an original and magnificent display containing over 5,000 pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash. This remarkable display has made national headlines and attracts hundreds of visitors.

Such information is important not only to the commercial sponsors of the research, but essential to the success of commercial growers, landscapers, retailers and to gardeners. This research aids the economic growth of the green industry and helps gardening to remain a healthy, satisfying, and popular pastime.

Each year since 1988, on the second Thursday in July, the Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden show attracts over 3000 visitors from Tennessee and surrounding states. Gardening enthusiasts have the opportunity to hear over twenty indoor and outdoor presentations on an amazing variety of horticultural subjects including annuals, perennials, floral arrangements, trees, shrubs, vegetable production, turfgrass, and backyard wildlife. The large exhibitor's tent showcases vendors selling merchandise and services from local green-industry merchants and crafters. The UT Gardens help round out the showcase, containing enough beauty to stun even the most jaded of gardeners. There is definitely something for everyone at Summer Celebration and at the UT Gardens Jackson.

The gardens are located around the office building area. Visitors are welcome to stop by and stroll throughout the year. Their website will keep you updated and provide directions.