For 364 days a year, the Louisiana Master Gardeners work tirelessly to help the LSU AgCenter and extension agents promote home horticulture and gardening for the public.

To thank these wonderful volunteers, the AgCenter and agents gather at the Hammond Research Station for the Master Gardener Appreciation Day. Along with educational sessions, the Master Gardeners get a tour of the gardens, and each participant votes on their favorite plants in the trial gardens.

Here's the 2017 Master Gardener Choice Award winners:

1. Big Leaf Tibouchina (Tibouchina grandiflora). This enormous leafed tropical plant has attractive velvety leaves reaching 8- to 12-inches long. But the most impressive quality is, of course, the large spike of blooms. Each flower can easily be an inch or more wide, with the whole spike rising above the plant by about a foot. This plant is not particularly cold hardy, but it is still possible to get a few more months of blooms off this Tibouchina.

2. Bolo Bolo (Clappertonia ficifolia). Bolo bolo has proved to be one of the most beloved and interesting new additions to the Hammond Research Station. Another great addition for pollinators, the Bolo Bolo comes in white or purple. Since this plant is fairly new to Louisiana, there is little commercial production, if any, at this time.

3. Lime Sizzler Firebush (Hamelia patens ‘Grelmsiz’). Lime Sizzler made its debut in the gardening world a few years ago and has continued to impress home gardeners and landscapers alike. This 5-foot tall shrub will perform great as garden borders, hedges and even in containers. With its yellow and green variegation along with its red and orange blooms, Lime Sizzler offers gardeners an opportunity to have their landscapes stand out from the average.

4. Upright White Flowered Turnera (Turnera subulata). This plant was inducted into the LSU AgCenter’s Plant with Potential program for 2017 and is a pollinator magnet. Turnera flowers open after sunrise and close just before sunset. It remains a small bush with very large white flowers, giving you bang for your buck in a small bed or landscape.

5. Intenz Classic Celosia (Celosia argentea). This upright purple prince of the garden can withstand the intense summer heat and also has tremendous cold hardiness. This unique garden addition is low maintenance; requiring little to no pesticides. This is important as Intenz is loved by bees.

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