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Perennial Research Garden

Hummingbird seeks nectar from Red Yucca flowers.
First Place Recipient of the International Master Gardener 2012 Search for Excellence Award for Research.

In 2009, Dr. Greg Church and a team of Master Gardeners began work on an exciting new perennial research garden at Myers Park and Event Center. The goal of this research garden was to identify native and adapted perennial plants that grow well and beautifully in Collin County gardens.

Before selecting plants, the team focused on preparing the site. The team processed soil tests and evaluated the 8,800 square foot garden area, which the team designed in a circular pattern made up of four pie-shaped quadrants. Then, Master Gardeners developed a plant list by asking for input from peers, studying plant trials and reviewing additional data to be:

      • Drought tolerant
      • Tolerant of alkaline soil
      • Suited to Zone 8a
      • Accustomed to full sun exposure

To prepare for planting in 2010, Myers Park staff tilled the native clay soil and amended it with three inches of fully finished vegetative compost. After preparing the soil, Master Gardeners placed each plant variety in random locations within each of the four quadrants, which would allow them to study plants under a variety of conditions.

During the first summer, Master Gardeners watered the new garden as needed to help the plants become established. After new plants become established, the irrigation is decreased and usually is only done once per year. In addition, in keeping with Earth-Kind principles, a three-inch layer of native hardwood mulch is maintained. Mulch decreases irrigation requirements, releases nutrients slowly into the soil, reduces weeds and moderates soil temperature.

Because Master Gardeners are researching the ability of plants to grow well with minimal care, they do not routinely deadhead (remove faded flowers) during the growing season. The team routinely selects and adds new plants to the research garden to replace plants that either reach the end of their natural life expectancy or do not thrive with “extreme” minimal care. The plants that do survive and thrive will make good additions to your home garden. 

Because this is a research garden, Master Gardeners regularly collect data on the plants, noting disease, nutrition, insect, and adaptability problems, while also noting ornamental value. Each year, approximately 100 plant varieties are maintained and studied in the garden. This ongoing research helps Master Gardeners identify plants that are genetically suited for success in Collin County landscapes.

The Dr. Greg Church Perennial Research Garden is a wonderful place to visit. During the growing season, the garden is alive with hummingbirds, butterflies and many other pollinators. All of the plants are labeled to help visitors identify plants. Master Gardeners enjoy showing people around the gardens and explaining how Earth-Kind principles can help even non-gardeners create sustainable and attractive landscapes. 

Even non-gardeners can practice Earth-Kind gardening by:
  • Selecting appropriate plants for your garden
  • Reducing or eliminating the use of fertilizers and pesticides
  • Amending clay soil with three inches of aged plant-derived compost
  • Mulching most beds with a three inch layer of hardwood mulch to conserve moisture, deter weeds, feed soil
  • Conserving water with efficient irrigation 



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