Plant Answers  >  History of Dr. Jerry Parsons' Extension Career

Jerry Parsons, Ph.D., is the horticulture specialist with the Texas Cooperative Extension in San Antonio. He has been a popular Extension Service personality for more than two decades, becoming something of a cult figure in the the agricultural world of South Texas. Parsons has been responsible for educating and entertaining the Alamo City and surrounding area with weekly horticultural information on TV and radio and in newspaper for 34 years.

Although his specialty is vegetable production, Parsons has revolutionized the plant introduction arena and is the father of CEMAP (the Coordinated Educational Marketing Assistance Program) at Texas A&M University. The plant introduction and promotion program is now copied by similar programs throughout the United States.

Since 1974 when Parsons came to San Antonio as a horticulturist for Texas Cooperative Extension, a system of cooperative testing and local marketing has introduced productive hybrid tomatoes (Spring Giant, Bonus, Big Set, Celebrity, Jack Pot, Bingo, Carnival, Whirlaway, Heatwave, SunMaster, Surefire, Merced, Amelia, Solar Fire, SunPride, Tomato Sweet Cherry Rodeo Surprise * BHN 968, and BHN 444); peppers (Summer Sweet 860 Bell Pepper, Bell Tower Bell Pepper, Capistrano Bell Pepper, Hidalgo Serrano, TAM Mild Jalapeno, Grande Jalapeno and Rio Grande Gold Sweet Jalapeno); Brussels sprouts (Prince Marvel); cantaloupe (Magnum 45, TAM Uvalde); sweet corn (Funks Sweet-G 90, Honeycomb, Merit); onion (Texas A&M Supersweet 1015Y, Grano 502, Granex (Vidalia); squash (Dixie, Multipik); broccoli (Green Comet, Baccus); spinach (Fall Green and Coho) and cauliflower (Snow Crown). Parsons has also introduced mandarin oranges (satsumas Citrus reticulata Blanco) as container plants for colder climates to Texas gardeners.

He also has introduced such popular flowers as 'Blue Shade' Ruellia and 'Bonita' pink 'Katie Dwarf' Ruellia; 'Tex-Tuf' verbenas; 'Firebush' (Hamelia patens); 'Texas Gold' columbine; 'Indigo Spires' salvia; 'Carpet' petunias; 'Mari-Mum' marigold; 'Plum Parfait', 'Eclipse' and 'Burgundy Sun' coleus; 'Belinda's Dream' rose; 'Blue Princess' verbena; 'VIP' petunia and 'Laura Bush' petunia; Firespike (Odontonema strictum); 'Stars and Stripes' pentas; 'Moy Grande', 'Red River' and 'Flare' perennial hibiscus; 'Bunny Bloom' larkspur; Dwarf Bush Morning Glory; Purple Heart (Setcreasea pallida).

Stirring up a little controversy, he introduced a host of new Texas bluebonnets colors such as 'Barbara Bush' lavender, 'Abbott Pink', and 'Texas Maroon' — his own creations. He also developed the Texas state flower into a bedding plant, spurring what is now a multi-million dollar industry.

Parsons is without a doubt the most popular public gardening speaker in the Lone Star State, sometimes deriding but always delighting gardeners with his enthusiastic combination of irreverent and educational humor.

Click here to listen to "The Ballad of Jerry Parsons".

In Volume XXV, Number 1 of the November/December, 2005, issue of The
Texas Gardener Magazine, Greg Grant wrote the following about Jerry
Parsons on page 44 in his "In Greg's Garden" section:

Dr. Jerry Montgomery Parsons fashioned every being of my life as a horticulturist. Widely known for his antics, Jerry taught me long ago that if you truly want to teach, you'd better entertain first. I remember attending one of his lectures in San Antonio as a student and being amazed by the fact that he had hundreds in attendance while other speakers had handfuls. Drawing inspiration form his traveling, trick shooter dad, Jerry know how to work a crowd with the best of them.

On several occasions I've been chastised for my "evangelical" style of horticultural lecturing. Want to guess who inspired it? But Jerry's lasting legacy to me isn't his teaching, but his doing. The man doesn't know the meaning of "can't" and won't accept any answer but proven fact. Kind of odd, one would think, for a man widely known for fantastic "truth distortions"! Jerry too doesn't care what anybody thinks or says. If he knows or can figure a way to "git'er done," he will. He's sort of a cross between George Washington Carver, Luther Burbank, and a Sunday morning televangelist. No man has contributed more to Texas horticulture in my lifetime than Dr. Parsons. We now work as a team. I come up with silly ideas and crazy dreams and he comes up with silly plans and crazy solutions. I would have never developed or introduced the first plant to the Texas nursery industry if it weren't for his help and ability to "finish". If you've followed my career path, you've probably noticed I'm a "starter"! If Dr. William (Bill) Welch is my inspiration, the Dr. Parsons is my mentor. Without them, my career wouldn't have existed. Thanks for everything guys.

 

PARSONS MASS-MEDIA HISTORY

To see examples of video of Parsons television media work, go to:

http://plantanswerstv.tamu.edu/

a listing of the subject matter is at:

http://www.plantanswers.com/resources.htm#videos


Write-ups about Parsons are at:

http://www.plantanswers.com/sabbstory.htm

and

http://www.plantanswers.com/Pure_Parsons.htm

and

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/faculty/parsons.html

Parsons has been mainly concentrating on a web presence in the past few
years, creating

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/PLANTanswers/

and

http://www.plantanswers.com/

which answered questions for over 300,000 people (User Sessions) in the
month of April, 2004, alone.
=============================

A listing of mass media Parsons has done include:

He began the association with Margo Spitz (CBS newsperson) on February
11, 1977, and did the famously popular 'Margo's Garden' for the spring
and fall gardening seasons.

The first Margo's TV Garden Special was on Monday, May 29, 1978 6:30
p.m. on CBS


Margo, Parsons and Dr. Jerral Johnson did a Fall Garden Special --
Wednesday, August 2, 1978 7-8 p.m. on CBS.


Parsons and Steve George did their first television special on KLRN
Public TV Special on Friday, October 12, 1979 from 8-9 p.m.


Parsons, Sam Cotner, Everette Janne did a Fall Gardening Special on
Thursday, July 26, 1979 at 7-8 p.m.

Parsons and Cotner did a gardening special for Corpus Christi on
February, 1980, with Doug Andrews - CEA

Parsons, Cotner, and Darwin Anderson (CEA) did a Spring Gardening
Corpus Christi Special on Friday, February 8, 1982

Parsons, Cotner, Darwin Anderson (CEA) did a Fall Gardening Special
for Corpus Christi in '82


Parsons and Bruce Kates did a Spring Gardening Special which was
televised on Saturday, February 18, 1984 from 4:30-5 p.m on CBS

A Parsons' Tree Special was televised on Saturday, February 6, 1988,
6:30 p.m. on CBS


A Parsons' Rose Special was televised on Saturday, February 13, 1988,
at 6:30 p.m. on CBS


A Parsons' Vegetable Gardening Special was televised on Saturday,
February 20, 1988 at 6:30 p.m. on CBS

A Parsons' Lawn Care Special was televised on Saturday, March 26,
1988, at 6:30 p.m. on CBS


A Parsons' 30 Talk Show Special was televised on KRRT on Saturday,
April 2, 1988, at 6:00 a.m.

A Fall Planting For Spring Bloom Special with Parsons, Greg Grant and
Steve George was televised on Monday, August 21, 1989, at 9:30 p.m.
on CBS (San Antonio)

This same Special was televised again on Saturday, Sept. 16, 1989, at
6:30 p.m. in Wichita Falls, Texas on KFDX-TV.

It was televised again on Sunday, October 1, 1989, at 7:30 a.m. in
Beaumont, Texas on Channel 6.

The Parsons' Bluebonnet Production Special was televised in Wichita
Falls on KFDX.

It was televised again on Sunday, October 8, 1989, at 7:30 a.m. in
Beaumont on Channel 6. It was also televised in Denton and San
Antonio. This Bluebonnet Special can be view online at:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/movies/bluebonnets/index.html


Parsons' Gardening Assistance In The Spring was televised on Saturday,
March, 1990, in San Antonio on ABC on KSAT-TV (Channel 12)

Parsons' EARTH-KIND Gardening was televised on Saturday, February 2,
1991, at 12:30 p.m. in San Antonio on CBS-- KENS-TV (Channel 5)
It was televised again on Saturday, April 20, 1991 11 a.m. in Dallas


WOAI (AM 1200) Clear Channel RADIO SPECIAL (Parsons, Cotner, Janne) on
Tuesday, February 26,1980, from 8-10 p.m
==============================

Parsons began doing the 'Weekend Gardener' segments live on the noon
newscast and taped on the 6 o'clock news segment with Bruce Kates on
February 5, 1982. He continued doing the noon and six o'clock news
horticulture segment until 1998 when the station was sold to Belo by
Hart Hanks and the management stopped using local subject matter
specialists.

Parsons also did an interview program with Chris Marrou and Dan Cook
named 'Eye on SA with Chris Marrou' on KENS-TV (CBS) on every Friday at
4 p.m. beginning on March 31, 1989, and ending on August 31, 1990 - 17
months. The show was discontinued because of low ratings.
==================================

Parsons was a regular on the weekly syndicated television series hosted
by Neil Sperry and called 'Gardening Texas' and broadcast statewide in
the 1990's.

==========================================
Parsons did his first gardening program with Bill McReynolds in 1977 on
Clear Channel radio WOAI-AM (AM-1200). He did an 8-minute horticulture
program on Monday and Thursday at 11:45. Shirley Johnson, the Home
Agent for the Texas Cooperative Extension, did the Friday
program and Terry Wilbourn, Bexar County Extension Horticulturist, did
the Tuesday program. The programs were rebroadcast the following
morning at 5:15 a.m. and because of the Clear Channel status, the
programs were heard all over the U.S. and Canada.

The final WOAI Bill McReynolds Garden Show was Thursday, September 22 ,
1994 after 17 years of broadcast. The station management wanted to
discontinue the agricultural information and appeal to "a younger
audience".
===========================

May 7, 1990, was Parsons' first show on KKYX - AM Classic Country
Music Radio with Bill Cody. After Bill Cody went to Nashville in 1993
to work for WSM-AM, Parsons worked with Carl Becker who went to
Virginia in November, 1994. After that, , Parsons worked with Country
Music Hall of Fame Broadcaster - Jerry King. The KKYX-AM (680)
program was canceled after the November 11, 2000, show because of a
'buy-out" of the show by the Wolfe Nursery. Parsons' tenure on KKYX
lasted 10 years.

After Bill Cody went to Nashville in 1993 to work for WSM-AM (The Grand
Old Opry Station), Parsons did a weekly segment on his Friday morning
show and made appearances on that show when he was in Nashville. This
lasted for two years until Bill Cody was moved to the FM station.
====================
Parsons began writing for the San Antonio Light in 1975.

The final edition of the San Antonio Light was printed on Tuesday,
January 26, 1993, after a buy-out of the Express-News by the San Antonio
Light. The buy-out stipulation required that ALL of the employees of
the Light be dismissed and the staff of the Express remained. Since
the Express had a garden columnist (Calvin Finch, Bexar County
Horticulturist), I stopped writing two weekly columns, a
question-and-answer section and stopped furnishing black-and-white
photos for the articles. These columns are now available at:

http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_columns.htm

Parsons wrote for the San Antonio Light for 18 years.
=================
Parsons was one of the horticulturists who contributed to the beginning
of the Texas Gardener Magazine in Waco. In the early years of the
magazine, he contributed articles to almost every issue.

In 1999, Parsons began contributing the Season-to-Season Calender for
South Central Texas to every issue of the Neil Sperry Magazine. He also
contributes articles periodically. The circulation of the magazine is
30,000.

==========================================
Parsons actually launched KENS-RADIO (AM 1160) with his gardening show
on October 14, 1994. The radio show was ended on February 25, 2000, and
Parsons was replaced with Manuel Flores who had just been fired from
WOAI after 11 years. The radio station was purchased by Disney two
years later and the garden show as well as all original programming
ceased to exist.

The KENS-radio 1160-AM Parsons Gardening Program lasted for 6 years.
=========================
Parsons' first show for the TXN Network was January 26, 2000 and the
show ended with the June 17, 2000, show when TXN went bankrupt.
========================================
Parsons has been doing a call-in radio program with Dr. Calvin Finch,
Bexar County ex-Extension Horticulturist and Director of the San Antonio
Water System Conservation Department, on Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to
2:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KLUP Radio (AM 930)
since 1999. To have gardening questions answered, people call
210-308-8867 or 1-866-308-8867 during show hours.

=====================================
Parsons was the gardening Expert for Encarta of Microsoft in 2000. The
department was eventually eliminated. However, this association lead to
Parsons' becoming the Garden Expert for the Microsoft Network
HomeAdvisor which is part of Microsoft's MSN network which has the
largest website in the world. This occurred in 2002 and continues at:

http://houseandhome.msn.com/Garden/Experts/NipCommonGardeningMistakesIntheBud.aspx




Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Horticulturist – tired and retired
E-mail: jerryparsons@PLANTanswers.com

FOR A MORE COMPLETE LISTING: http://plantanswers.com/parsons_30_years.htm

B.S., Agricultural Education, University of Tennessee (Martin), 1969
M. S., Horticulture, Mississippi State University, 1971
Ph. D., Horticulture, Kansas State University, 1974

HONORS AND AWARDS:
  • 1982 Superior Service Award from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service
  • 1987 Extension Covington Award from the American Society for
  • Horticultural Sciences (ASHS)
  • 1987 Award in Excellence of the Texas A&M University System
  • 1990 Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award In Extension from the Association of Former Students of Texas A&M University
  • Professional Agricultural Workers of Texas Award, 1995
  • 1991 Award in Excellence - Group of the Texas A&M University System
  • The 1993 Garden Communicator's Award from the American Association of Nurserymen
  • Vice-Chancellor's Award in Excellence - Member of PLANT answers Internet Team-1997
  • 2008 Career Achievement Award from Texas AgriLife Extension Service
  • The first TNLA Region I Hall of Fame Award for "Outstanding Contributions to Our Industry", Texas Nursery and Landscape Association (TNLA), Nov. 10, 2009
 


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