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Gardeners' Dirt: Come hear a superstar in the gardening world

By By Linda Hartman - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Oct. 17, 2013 at 5:17 a.m.

Horticulture specialist and popular radio personality Jerry Parsons will be the featured speaker at Thursday's luncheon at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show.  Among other things, he is credited with helping create the Texas Superstar plant program with extensive work at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and was instrumental in developing new colors of Texas bluebonnets, including maroon, lavender and pink varieties.

Schedule of Horticulture Programs

•  Wednesday and Thursday - Pasture to Plate "Pizza Garden"

•  Thursday morning - Rainwater Harvesting

•  Thursday - Luncheon featuring Jerry Parsons

•  Thursday afternoon - Texas Superstars

Thursday Luncheon Tickets

Tickets to the luncheon Thursday can be purchased through Monday at the Victoria County Extension Office, 528 Waco Circle Drive, at the Victoria Regional Airport, or call 361-575-4581.

Meet a superstar in the horticulture world. No, it will not be a football or an entertainment star but Jerry Parsons, who is a star in the gardening world. Learn about Superstars and rainwater harvesting. Take advantage of Parsons' knowledge and wit at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show on Thursday.

Horticulturalist, speaker, radio personality

A native of Tennessee, Parsons found a place in Texas and in the hearts of gardeners. Retired from his career as an AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist in San Antonio, he is a popular speaker and radio personality.

As a board member of the Texas Superstar committee, Parsons worked diligently to develop new colors of bluebonnets.

He also succeeded in propagating the Texas Maroon, Barbara Bush Lavender and Abbot Pink bluebonnets.

Because his specialty was vegetables, he has worked with the development of hybrid tomatoes such as Big Set, Celebrity and Merced as well as others. Green comet and Baccus broccoli, Coho spinach and Snow crown cauliflower and other fruits and vegetables have been touched by his skills.

Known as the father of the Coordinated Educational Marketing Assistance Program, he coordinated the plant introduction and promotion program through Texas A&M University.

Parsons will serve as Thursday's luncheon speaker at next week's South Texas Farm and Ranch Show. The title of his address is, "Are You Afraid To Eat?!"

He will also lead an educational program on the heat- and drought-tolerant Texas Superstars at 2 p.m.

Super Superstars

What is a Superstar in gardening? Any vegetable, flower, shrub or tree that has been awarded the designation of a Superstar has been tested by the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Only the toughest, most reliable and best-looking plants are recognized as Texas Superstars.

Many of the Superstar plants are those which most gardeners are familiar with, such as the Texas bluebonnet, gold star esperanza, Chinkapin oak or Belinda's dream rose.

Other plants and/or new, stronger varieties identified as Superstars are new gold lantana, flare perennial hibiscus, vinca Cora and Nirvana vinca, and tidal wave silver and cherry petunia.

The qualifications for Superstar status are as follows:

Disease resistant

Appeal to the public

May be deer resistant

Can be mass produced for Texas gardeners

May be grown in most parts of Texas

Have successfully passed years of extensive field trials

Superstar plants will be labeled with the word "Superstar" and/or the "Go Texan" symbol (a circle surrounding the outline of Texas), which is the Texas Department of Agriculture logo. These labels identify plants and products that are being promoted to consumers who are searching for Texas products. Come learn about these super-performers from Parsons.

Other horticulture and master gardener attractions

Rainwater harvesting

Early Texas gardeners and ranchers knew that the collection of rainwater was essential to their success.

As citizens of the larger world, we are now realizing the importance of the conservation of rainwater.

The earth is largely covered by water, but the truth is, only 2 percent of that water is drinkable.

We have taken our precious water supplies for granted, and now, quantity and quality are global issues. It is time to save those precious drops of liquid that fall from above, and the best way is to harvest our rainwater.

Benefits of rainwater harvesting:

1. The water is free.

2. Rainwater is better for plants than chemically treated water.

3. Rainwater harvesting can help reduce water flow and help reduce stream pollution.

4. Using stored rainwater can reduce utility bills.

There are several recommended ways to harvest rainwater or the condensation that drips from our roof on those humid mornings in Victoria.

Rain barrels can be purchased commercially or can be created at home. Information on rainwater harvesting is available from your local AgriLife Extension Office or on the Internet. Don't miss the opportunity to hear about it Thursday at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show.

Pasture to Plate

The Victoria County Master Gardeners are looking forward to teaching children where their food comes from during the Pasture to Plate session of the show. More than 300 fourth-grade students will have the opportunity to learn from trained volunteers as they visit the "Pizza Garden."

One does not need to wear cowboy boots or hat to enjoy the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show at the Victoria Community Center. Come visit the agriculture displays and learn from Parsons, superstar.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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