'Southern Gardening' media have wide influence


Gary Bachman

Mississippi State University's gardening public image has taken several forms over its 27-year history, but what is now known as "Southern Gardening" with Gary Bachman has a long history of impacting landscapes in Mississippi.

"Southern Gardening" is a weekly newspaper column, radio segment and television feature produced by the MSU Extension Service. Bachman, the current host, is a horticulture specialist at MSU's Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.

"The 'Southern Gardening' radio and television programs and the newspaper column are well-known ways the MSU Extension Service reaches out to Mississippians," said Joe Street, state leader of agriculture for the MSU Extension Service. "Viewers and readers know to look to 'Southern Gardening' as a quality source of good gardening advice and ideas to try in their own landscapes."

The newspaper column was first published in early 1985, shortly before the radio program began airing. The television program began in 1996. All have been produced 52 weeks a year since then.

The newspaper column "In Mississippi Gardens" was originally written by horticulture specialist Milo Burnham, horticulture leader Richard Mullenax and landscape specialist Jim Perry in rotation. Soon Burnham, who worked in Starkville on MSU's main campus, took over the duties exclusively. He wrote broadly about vegetable gardening and horticultural topics. He also hosted weekly radio programs by the same name.

In 1996, the column's name changed to "Southern Gardening," and it was written by horticulturist Norman Winter, who was headquartered at MSU's Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond. Winter's columns introduced numerous new plants to Mississippi gardeners and suggested landscape ideas and plant pairings.

In May 1996, Winter began hosting the radio program "Gardening - Mississippi Style," which later changed to "Southern Gardening."

The first "Southern Gardening" video segment aired July 25, 1996, on Mississippi Public Broadcasting as part of the MSU Extension Service's 30-minute agricultural news program, "Farmweek." The first topic was "Secrets to Successfully Growing Crape Myrtle" with Winter.

In March 2010, Bachman took over as the personality behind "Southern Gardening" television, radio and newspaper columns.

"I like to find horticulture subjects that are interesting to me, and I hope my audience finds them interesting as well," Bachman said. "Some of my columns and programs seem to really strike a chord with the home gardener. For example, my recent work with the blue butterfly plant resulted in calls from all across Mississippi wanting to know where to find this plant."

Today, 12 television stations and cable outlets air the two-minute "Southern Gardening" program weekly, and it continues to be a weekly feature of the "Farmweek" television program on MPB and RFD-TV. The two-minute "Southern Gardening" radio programs are broadcast on 11 stations across Mississippi. As many as two dozen newspapers statewide publish "Southern Gardening" as a regular feature for their readers.

Topics for the radio and television programs and the print columns often overlap, featuring the same plants in each media product. Video segments are shot throughout the state in interesting locations and beautiful gardens.

"I think ornamental horticulture should be fun," Bachman said. "I like to introduce new plants, educate gardeners about plant uses and celebrate the fun of gardening. Seeing new plants or how other home gardeners use plants in the landscape is of interest to the home gardener.

"Sometimes the television show producers have to rein me in from being too much of a plant geek, but this geekiness has allowed us to show some beautiful close-up video of plant features that probably would go unnoticed," he said. "I have the heart of a teacher in terms of sharing ornamental horticulture."

This spring, the MSU Extension Service won a regional communication award for the television show Southern Gardening. The show won a Blue Ribbon Communication Award from the Southern Region of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

The Blue Ribbon award program began in 1987 to recognize outstanding contributions to horticultural education in written, video, audio or electronic form.

Today, producing the Southern Gardening products is a team effort by several members of MSU's Office of Agricultural Communications. The Southern Gardening television show is edited and produced by Extension media producers Tim Allison and Brian Utley. The Southern Gardening radio program is produced by Amy Taylor, and the Southern Gardening newspaper column is edited by Bonnie Coblentz.

Each of these media products is available online at http://msucares.com.

Bonnie Coblentz | MSU Ag Communications

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