Mississippi in May

Magnolia blossom.
All along the mighty Mississippi, flooding. Those 20 inches of rain we had in 12 days here, eventually wound up in some farmer's backyard, down around Vicksburg, MS. I'm sorry for the people who have had to move, or had everything washed away.

My reason for being in Mississippi this past week was for the Mississippi State Master Gardeners Conference in Ellisville, MS. Driving down, I could hear masses of locust in the timber along the roadsides. But the scent in the air was of magnolias in bloom. Along the highways the native magnolias were showing off, their dinner plate-sized blossoms waving at the passing traffic. If you've not smelled magnolias in bloom, its a heady smell, a soothing, relaxing fragrance that will almost lull you to sleep. I sometimes add magnolia blossoms, dried, to bath blends.

Ladies having a flower arranging session.
I arrived the day before the conference so I could set up my table of wares and check out where I was to speak. These folks were having a great time with a flower arranging class.
The roses were donated by a local grower, the Mills Rose Nursery. This is one of the creations of the class.
Upon arriving at my motel room a few miles away in Laurel, MS, I found a gift basket. It contained an assortment of snacks and a jar of blueberry preserves and one of plum jelly, both homemade by members of the Jones County Master Gardeners. What a great welcome. Folks down South show such generous and warm hospitality!
One of my programs was, "Eat Your Landscape" where I talk about all of the perennials and shrubs (and water garden plants) you may not think of as food, but which you can make good meals from. I had lots of slides in my KeyNote program to demonstrate what I was talking about. This was my audience, in a very nice auditorium.
It may not look like it, but there's quite a bunch of folks up there, and some along the sides.
It's hard to see me there amongst the roosters and paintings but if you look real close in the middle, next to the rooster, I'm there. The projection screen behind me was partially hidden but what you don't see is above my head is a giant screen, too.
Roosters seemed to be the theme of the very impressive stage display the gardeners had created.
The group's creativity was everywhere. The Jones County Master Gardeners were the hosts for the rest of the state.
Another display by the Master Gardeners. I always like taking pics of masks.
A small portion of the rose fields at Mills Rose Nursery.
The Mills family grows roses for the wholesale and retail trade. From what I could tell, the rootstock for their award-winning roses is jasmine. I didn't even know you could graft a rose onto jasmine rootstock! I didn't bring back any roses for my garden as the Mills' said they probably wouldn't be hardy for me here.
Good food!
Like all plant conferences and herb events, the food was very good. The facility where the conference was held, also is host to a culinary school, and we reaped the benefits.
Jan Knight was the winner of my bentwood trellis.
My second program was, "Making a Bentwood Trellis for Your Garden" and Jan Knight won the drawing for the trellis. Several others said if Jan couldn't get it in her car, they'd take it home.
Robert St. John is owner of several restaurants in Hattiesburg, MS
The keynote program was given by a local hero, Robert St. John. His quirky, down home newspaper columns have a huge following in Mississippi, and rightly so. He had no idea what Master Gardeners were all about, but proceeded to entertain us for the entire evening with his stories of his children's most embarrassing moments, as well as his own. His tales of being a restauranteur and all around foodie were fun. He also told how he had visited an Alice Waters' program a few years back and came home inspired to grow as much of his own produce for his 3 restaurants as possible. He bought 2 acres and the first crop he planted was a 100 ft. row of summer squash. He explained that as a novice gardener, he had no idea they would produce so much, or keep producing for months.
The smells of honeysuckle added to the magnolia air.
I was blessed with a wonderful helper, Kay, and lots of hosts and kind people. Merry Beth Tigert was my guide to being there and I got to see great folks from past trips to Mississippi as well as meet lots of new friends, as well.  Those Mississippi folks really know how to make a northerner feel welcome!

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