Festival des Fleurs de Louisiane – Annual Garden Show Benefits Ira Nelson Horticulture Center

Babette Werner, committee chair of Festival des Fleurs de Louisiane, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss the upcoming annual Garden Show and Sale to be held on April 9, 2022, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Blackham Coliseum. Tickets are $5.00 and the first 300 people who attend will get a free sunpatien plant.

There is something for everyone, with children’s planting activities, flower designs, and horticulture samples by the Lafayette Garden Club. The Orchid Society and Bonsai Society of Acadiana will have displays. Nel’s Creole Connection, Le Papillion Cajun Soul Food, and Sneaux to Geaux will have food trucks on site.   

There will be 70-75 booths inside and outside Blackham Coliseum offering a wide variety of native plants, shrubs, annuals, perennials, roses, daylilies, hibiscus, orchids, herbs, and much more.  Also available for sale are garden supplies and accessories, pottery, tools, gardening books and art, unique gifts, ornamental pieces, and a Festival t-shirt.

The public is invited to bring their own carts. There will be some available but if you have your own, you will not have to wait until one is free to use.

The Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners will give 4 presentations: 9:00 am: Pup Propagation of a Staghorn Fern; 10:00 am: Bromeliads, a winner for plant lovers; 11:00 am: Marcelle Bienvenu, (a master gardener and the famous chef and cookbook author), will talk about Herbs – the Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Herbs; and at 1:00 pm:  Installing your own Home Gardening Irrigation System (how to do it yourself for huge cost savings)

The Master Gardeners will also have an “Ask A Master Gardener” table where you can ask your gardening questions. If you have a weed, insect question, or have a plant id question, bring in a sample of the plant so that they can help with your problem.

The festival is the primary fund-raising event for the Ira Nelson Horticulture Center, part of UL Lafayette, to supplement the Center’s annual budget. The proceeds have gone for needed repairs and improvements, including central AC/Heat, floor replacement, greenhouse benches, irrigation, electrical work, and other projects. The Center has been a focus of UL Lafayette horticulture education for students, faculty, and the community since 1960.

The Ira Nelson Horticulture Center (“INHC”) includes nearly 17,000 square feet of greenhouse space which houses a diverse collection of plants from throughout the world.  Plants from the collection are propagated to continue the species.  INHC produces annual and perennial plans for the university campus. Plants are used for decorating at university functions such as graduations, receptions, and press conferences.

The facility is open to the public from 7 am to 4:15 pm Monday through Thursday, and Friday from 7:00 am to noon.  Group tours are available but need to be scheduled through the INHC office.

The attached 7000 sq ft building contains a classroom, lab, library, herbarium, office and workshop. The center now serves as an instructional lab for UL-Lafayette students and is a community resource for local gardening groups. Although the University no longer offers a degreed program in Agriculture, Botany and Plant Science classes meet in the classroom building and utilize the lab. The Hibiscus, Rose and Orchid Societies, the Lafayette Garden Club, and the Lafayette Parish Master Gardener Training Class meet in the classroom building, lab, and library. 

A key focus of the facility is to support research by other organizations. They are provided greenhouse space and meeting room space to support their projects. The annual Louisiana Society for Horticulture Research organization relies upon the INHC to put together the plant releases for members to study. The Orchid Show and Sale takes place here as well as many other group activities.

The library was at one time a complete library with horticulture information. The books have been moved to the main library, Dupre library on campus, but the herbarium collection of ornamental plants still resides at this library. A herbarium collection is a collection of dried plant samples. This collection is unique because most universities have collections of native plants and this one catalogs ornamental plants that have been collected throughout Louisiana over several decades.

The adjacent grounds include many mature species of both native and introduced trees and shrubs, as well as numerous display and demonstration beds. The beds are planted with seasonal and unique plants so it’s always fun to see what is new in the beds.

On-site, the Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners have demonstration beds that can be toured at any time. Each bed has a theme and plants have labels so that you see what the mature plant looks like. One bed is the children’s garden which is toured by school groups each year. This garden actually won an international Master Garden Award for its ingenuity. Other beds include native plants, herbs, pollinator plants, a raised accessible bed,  Superplants (those identified by the LSU Agcenter as plant varieties that are hardy to grow for Louisiana), and more.

Most of the plants in the beds have been propagated and will be sold at the MG  booth at Festival des Fleur. It’s a great idea to check out the plants, see what you like before the sale.

Discover Lafayette would like to thank Babette Werner for her dedication to the gardening community and her continuous efforts to beautify Lafayette! We also thank Babette for providing most of the commentary for this article. Best wishes on a successful Festival des Fleurs 2022!

Visit https://horticulture.louisiana.edu/outreach/festival-des-fleurs for more information.