Spotlight on Myers Park Gardens
By Tara Roberts, CCMGA Class of 2021
Did you know Collin County has a free botanical garden open year-round to all visitors? The 158-acre Myers Park and Event Center is located in northern McKinney. During a stroll through Myers Park, you will see the handiwork of hundreds of Collin County Master Gardeners.
The Collin County Master Gardeners Association (CCMGA) maintains the beautiful gardens through a partnership established in 2008 between the Collin County Commissioner's Court and the Collin County AgriLife Extension Service. Installation of the gardens by CCMGA began in 2009. Myers Park was the first-ever Earth-Kind® perennial plant and research garden.
The gardens not only enhance and beautify the park but also draw more visitors to the public park. The gardens also provide a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Earth-Kind gardening principles, so visitors can take knowledge and ideas home to use in their home gardens and landscaping. In addition, Earth-Kind principles can be applied to various plant types and promote good stewardship of our land and resources.
Successful Earth-Kind practices do not require the use of fertilizers or pesticides and limit the use of supplemental irrigation. The Myers Park gardens allow visitors to see native and adaptive plants growing successfully in Collin County without heroic efforts or excessive supplementation. So not only are the gardens maintained by CCMGA beautiful, but they are also educational. Education and outreach are the primary goals of CCMGA.
Myers Park features internationally award-winning gardens. CCMGA received the 2012 Search for Excellence First Place Award for Research from the International Master Gardener Association for Earth-Kind Perennial Research Garden research. Myers Park is the country's largest center of Earth-Kind research, according to Dr. Steven George, a horticulturist from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recognized as the "father of Earth-Kind" gardening.
Myers Park features two types of gardens: research and demonstration. The research gardens include perennials, annuals, vegetables, crape myrtles, grapes, shrubs, and grasses. There are three demonstration gardens near the park entrance and office, plus the annual demonstration garden, the children's garden, shade garden and potager (kitchen) garden. CCMGA also installed a rain garden that is waiting to be revitalized and previously had two rose trials before rose rosette disease forced the removal of the roses.
Data is collected for Texas A&M AgriLife from the research gardens. In the research gardens, CCMGA volunteers normally do not prune or deadhead plants (except for winter clean-up) because they try to detect low-maintenance plants. Volunteers record data on all the plants grown in the research gardens, and Texas A&M AgriLife uses that information to create top-recommended plant lists for our area and growing conditions. CCMGA never uses fertilizer or pesticide (except as needed for fire ant treatments) and waters only when plants begin to show signs of water stress.
In the demonstration gardens, CCMGA has more leeway regarding growing conditions but does not use fertilizer or pesticides. As a result, demonstration gardens might be watered slightly more often than research gardens, and volunteers might trim plants and deadhead flowers to improve appearance.
Two long-time Master Gardeners oversee all the CCMGA volunteers at the Myers Park gardens. Leading the charge to keep the gardens thriving are Diane Sharp (Master Gardener Class of 2000) and Linda Corbin (Master Gardener Class of 2016).
Sharp has been a lead or co-lead of the Myers Park gardens for six years and has been a garden manager of the perennial and annual gardens for many years. Corbin began volunteering at Myers Park after becoming a Master Gardener and joined Diane as the co-lead in 2019. Both ladies log countless hours annually at Myers Park and lead the coordinated efforts of all the Master Gardener volunteers in the park.
The number one task of the CCMGA volunteers is often weed control to keep the plants beautiful and healthy. Volunteers are also tasked with winter clean-up, planting, hand watering new plants and harvesting in several gardens. Some plants are so vigorous they need to be divided, so they are not encroaching or impeding the growth of neighboring plants.
Master Gardeners also collect data to compile and report findings to the AgriLife Extension office.
"I have enjoyed the outdoors and gardening since a very young age. I enjoy learning about all varieties of plants, talking about the beautiful gardens with visitors, and showing them that you can grow plants without using fertilizer or chemicals while using less water," Corbin says.
Visitors to Myers Park can expect to see plant varieties that do well in this area with very little upkeep or intervention. The gardens also allow visitors the opportunity to see the full-sized plant and get ideas for compatible companion plants.
Many local nursery employees visit the gardens to see what is successful and what the mature plants will look like in a few years.
Annuals at Myers Park are usually planted in mid-April, so plan to visit the annual garden between May and October for optimal viewing. Spent annuals are usually removed in late October or early November when their growing season comes to a close. The perennial garden has a slightly longer attractive period and gives visitors plenty of options for plants that will return for subsequent years in their landscaping.
"I enjoy working with other master gardeners, and I feel that by successfully using Earth-Kind, we are helping create beauty while still protecting our environment. It's great to talk to garden visitors about plants and how they can achieve the same results easily and safely at home," Sharp said.
Myers Park is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Master Gardeners usually work in the gardens on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. A visit to the gardens on those days might result in the opportunity to speak with and ask questions of the volunteers actively working in the gardens. Master Gardeners are always happy to answer any questions about the plants or growing practices used in the gardens.
Another wonderful opportunity to see the gardens and visit with Master Gardeners is during A Walk in the Park, held every June.
During this "open house" event, Master Gardeners are stationed in all the gardens to talk to visitors about the gardens and answer gardening questions. The 2023 A Walk in the Park will be Sat., June 3 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Come see us at this FREE event.
Group garden tours are also available throughout the year. Contact our information center at ccmgatx.org to request a tour.
CCMGA has a mutually beneficial relationship with Myers Park. Collin County allows the Master Gardeners to have display gardens in the park and provides the organization a meeting place and facilities to host events such as our annual plant sales, Garden Show and educational programs.
Myers Park continues to be an evolving project, and CCMGA is always open to suggestions for new ways to use the gardens.
Since Myers Park is public and county-owned, all areas of Myers Park, including the gardens and event centers, are available for private and special events. Contact the Myers Park and Event Center for information and reservations at 972-548-4792.
We hope to see you in the Myers Park gardens soon!
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