When the budget for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games was cut in July, one area that took a hit was funding for decorative plants and ornamentals. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Department of Horticulture stepped up to help by gathering donations and growing what they could to make the event beautiful.

"Our department recognized how important the Games are to this city, to this state," said Robert Houtz, chair of the UK Department of Horticulture. "We knew we had the resources and dedicated people who could help beautify the Games."

Games officials contacted the UK College of Agriculture and provided a wish list detailing what they hoped to see at the venues. UK Extension Floriculture Specialist Sharon Bale worked with UK Horticulture Research Farm Manager Darrell Slone to determine just what the department and the farm could do.

UK student farm workers collaborated with Janet Pfeiffer, Kirk Ranta, Bale, and Slone to gather about four tractor-trailer loads of various plant materials that made their way to Lexington's Kentucky Horse Park for the Games.

"We emptied greenhouses and borrowed plants from UK Physical Plant Division," Bale said. "We sent broom corn, foddershocks, field corn, morning glories, beans...so many items that officials can put together to create beautiful displays of Kentucky plants."

Bale said they sent more than 70 containerized, full-grown hydrangeas, 1,000 pots of petunias, several 30-inch pots with varied arrangements, 85 pots of periwinkles, 100 pots of sweet potato vines, and a variety of other items harvested from UK College of Agriculture farms.

Nancy Cox, MS, associate dean for research, director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, and administrative leader for UK's Equine Initiative said, "We've supported the Games in many important ways since their inception, and this is just another way the UK College of Agriculture tries to be a good partner."

"It takes a village to rise to this type of challenge, and horticulture received help from other areas in the college as well, such as biosystems and agricultural engineering, plant and soil sciences, the farm crew at Maine Chance Farm, and of course we had help from Ted Walker in facilities management to get the items from the farms to the Games," Bale explained. "Really, everything we asked for, we received; you can’t ask for anything more."

Aimee Nielson is an agriculture communications specialist at the University of Kentucky.

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