Annual landscaping camp shows gardening enthusiasts the beauty of Oxford – The Oxford Eagle
The Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation has once again rolled out the green carpet for its 5th Annual Landscaping Camp.
“This year’s camp celebrated our fifth year which included 53 campers from a wide range of states from California, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and all of Mississippi, with twelve returning from l previous year,” said Rosie Vasallo, director of Retiree Attraction. for the Oxford-Lafayette Economic Development Foundation.
“I’ve been surprised by how many people come back year after year,” said Jeff McManus, director of landscaping services at the University of Mississippi. “People like to participate and the visits, but I didn’t expect the retention rate to be as high as it was.”
On Friday, the 53 guests were treated to an exclusive tour of Dr. Bo and Jodie Marsalis’ landscaped home, followed by a dinner reception. On Saturday, guests started early with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast followed by a two-hour walking tour of the University of Mississippi campus.
After the tour, they attended workshops from Plantscaper owner Wendy Carmean on “Front Porch Curb Appeal”; Ken Hackman, coordinator of zoological field studies for Madison Central High School, on “Gardening For the Birds”; and Karen Travillo, Master Gardener for Lafayette County, on “Attractive Fast Growing Noninvasive Vines.”
The entire experience was led by McManus, who is credited with helping the university earn numerous “Most Beautiful Campus” accolades from national publications like Newsweek, The Princeton Review, and USA Today.
During landscaping camp, McManus would serve as the keynote speaker at the reception and tour guide for the Ole Miss campus. He would also teach two of the five workshops on essential garden tips and his most famous skill: pruning.
Organizers credit some of the camp’s success to regional and national publicity in publications like Veranda, Southern Home and The Eagle, but they also recognize that their guests create an emotional connection to the camp and its surroundings.
“Doing this tour has been absolutely fabulous,” said Ellen Brooks of Brandon, Mississippi. “I learned so much about caring for plants and shrubs. This and Ole Miss is more than I ever thought.
Brooks found an ad for landscaping camp in Southern Home magazine and knew she had to come.
“Ole Miss’s landscape, gardens and parks all intertwined between buildings are all beautifully done,” said Brooks. “I went to Oxford and just moved to Mississippi six months ago, so this is a great to-do list item. If I had known Ole Miss was fresh out of high school, I might have gone here.
“I think people who come here have a passion for gardening, Ole Miss or Oxford and they want to experience that,” McManus said. “They want to experience all of this together, so it’s a great place for them to come and meet new people who have the same passion.”
McManus credits Vasallo for making camp guests feel welcome and part of a community.
“As soon as you sign up, she emails you and gives you details,” he said. “She follows you. So you feel part of something and you feel part of the group.
In addition to teaching others and fostering relationships, the EDF and the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce want to showcase the best that Oxford has to offer.
“You start looking at how many people are coming here and moving here,” McManus said. “The House says, ‘How do you show Oxford? How do we attract the people we want or want to retire here? Oxford is a large retirement community. They’re a good group to have here and the demographics are working well.
And what better way to attract visitors and potential retirees than to showcase Ole Miss’s iconic brands?
“We’re known for the sport, but we’re known for our beauty,” McManus said. “Our beauty and our people. Our beautiful campus and our beautiful relationships. Ole Miss led the way by trying so many things the rest of the world struggles with. No, we’re by no means perfect, but we’ve tried and you see where people come together to do good things.