“Living so close to nature we learn about life and its meaning,” says 96-year-old, horticulturist Margie Yates Jenkins. She is a well-known plant breeder and nursery owner from Amite.

Because Jenkins has a successful agriculture career spanning more than eight decades, the Louisiana Radio Network and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture recently named her to the 2018 Hall of Distinction. She is the only woman to receive this honor.

At the ceremony she had this to say: “It has been a blessing that I was born with a love of nature and land. I am happy I was able to follow my passion to grow plants. Tonight has been truly a soul’s feast for me.”

Her career started with a small watermelon patch. She and her husband sold their melons and with the money earned they steadily built a thriving dairy farm and eventually a highly successful nursery.

“Aunt Margie always loved exploring the woods for special plants and gradually she and Uncle Bryant developed their wholesale nursery,” say her niece Sue Madison.  “One of her special loves is our native azaleas. They are deciduous and smell wonderful unlike the Asian azaleas widely planted in the South.”

However, these azaleas are very difficult to propagate, the cuttings are hard to root and the seeds are tiny.  But Jenkins was determined to find a way to root the cuttings and she succeeded.

She was honored several years ago with the Propagator of the Year Award from the Plant Propagators’ Society and her nursery was honored to be on the tour of the International Propagators’ Society. Her innovative technique was detailed in an issue of the American Nurseryman and she happily shares it, and other tidbits of horticulture wisdom, with anyone who asks.

“Aunt Margie’s big house sits on a hill on the property where they had the dairy,” says Madison. “There’s a magnificent old live oak adjacent to the house that is very special to her.”

She hosts an annual family reunion every year under the live oak. She also celebrated her own 95th birthday party there with family and friends.

“When I first talked to her last week she made a point to tell me she was 96 and a half,” says Donald Molino, senior farm broadcaster with Voice of Louisiana Agriculture Radio Network. “She’s a strong lady and apparently never meets a stranger.  She deserves all the accolades she’s received and probably a lot more. I’m proud to know her.”

Jenkins stays busy. Recently, she went to Little Rock for an azalea convention and visited with old friends and colleagues. She says she never feels like her work is a job because she so thoroughly enjoys what she does.

“We are born with the love of nature and there are so many attributes to gardening,” she says. “My advice to new gardeners is to plant the things that give you joy, like a flower your grandmother grew or one you carried in your wedding bouquet.”