Piney Hills Louisiana Master Gardeners (PHLMG) are using their horticultural knowledge to create better awareness of the location and services available through Webster extension of Louisiana State University AgCenter.
PHLMG Vice-President Evalyn Cabell is leading the effort to create an attractive, attention-grabbing landscape for the 1202 Homer Road building.
"You couldn't even see the extension office," she said. "So we've removed shrubbery first and we had to get a lot of permits to the rest of the work."
Because the extension is on Webster Parish Police Jury property and is a state governmental organization, it took some time to wade through the necessary paperwork and approvals according to Cabell.
"We couldn't really plant in the summer anyway," she said. "The plan is to take the fountain under the sign that has the Webster Parish extension office and 4-H and fill it because it's not repairable."
Rather than the extension having to deal with the "maintenance nightmare" of keeping up a fountain, Cabell said that plants would take its place creating a "pretty area" that is more noticeable from the road.
"A trellis will cover the back and we'll put vines on it that are evergreen," she said. "We'll be putting plantings around that and flowerbeds around the fountain."
An area of benches is also being set up slightly downhill from the sign.
"This is going to be a little outdoor classroom for us," Cabell said. "We can put on little mini-programs for the public to help educate them on gardening practices and what grows well here."
Farther down the hill, a large hole is being dug and surrounded by oil and gas core samples, which are serving as landscaping barriers. She said it would ultimately be a "rain garden."
"It's kind of a new concept to people here," Cabell said. "We have this huge slope where the water runs down and into the gutters. It's not environmentally friendly because (the water) collects everything that's up on the parking lots and out in the streets.
"This will be planted with native plants," she continued. "Things that will grow and do well with wet feet and also things that will do well with drought, since we have both."
A rain garden works similarly to a retention pond used along sections of road or at industrial sites to collect rain run-off, according to Cabell.
"This will be a native plant area and we'll build it like a sort of pond," she said. "It will collect the water and let it seep into the soil before it collects in the streets."
Cabell said that other beds are planned as well as a path from the front of the landscaped area through the benches, but it will take as much as two years or more to see full results.
"It may take us two or three years to get it all finished," she said. "We have to progress as we have the funds and the volunteers to do it. It may take a while, but we're adding some good amendments (organic materials) to the soil so it's not just red clay. It gives a more porous feel to the soil so the water can soak in."
LSU AgCenter and Master Gardeners provide many helpful services to the public, according to Cabell.
"They can come here with gardening questions," she said. "We have people who can answer their questions if they are having problems – if they have insect problems, or if their trees are dying.
"We have people with the extension service that will come out and talk to them about what their problems are," Cabell continued. "Or they can bring a limb or something that's infested with bugs and find out what it is."