Designing a Legacy

November 28, 2022

The stately live oaks that line the roads on LSU’s campus are one of the most charming and beloved parts of the university. For nearly a century, these oaks have greeted students and alumni as they pass through the parade grounds and quadrangle. 

While live oaks are native to Louisiana, it is no coincidence that these oaks are planted in the center of campus. 

In 1926, the main campus moved from downtown Baton Rouge to the location it is now. The space was a former farm and cattle field without trees or shrubs less than a century ago. 

A landscaper envisioned the campus with lively shade trees and colorful florals. Steele Burden brought that vision to life in the early 20th century. 

Landscape architecture is much more than planning and designing landscapes. It involves looking into the future and envisioning a natural environment that can be enjoyed for generations. 

Just as Burden influenced the look and feel of the LSU campus, Bill Welch has influenced the landscape of southern garden for more than 50 years.  

Welch is a three-time graduate of LSU, earning his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and master's and doctoral degrees in extension education and horticulture.  

"The landscape architecture program at LSU was one of the best in the nation," said Welch. "I was a native of Houston, and I didn't know a lot about LSU, but I quickly learned about it.” 

Welch recalled his decision to come to LSU and major in landscape architecture. When Welch started his degree program, he was unfamiliar with landscape architecture. He had a strong interest in horticulture and enrolled in many horticulture course electives. 

After completing his undergraduate degree in 1962, Welch returned to Houston to work in the nursery industry. 

He would use his landscape architecture and horticulture background throughout his career, often providing home gardeners with advice on garden and landscape design. 

After several years of working in the nursery industry, he returned to LSU to pursue his graduate studies while working part-time as an extension landscape horticulturist for the LSU AgCenter. 

Welch accepted a job as an extension landscape horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension in 1972, where he spent the remainder of his career until he retired in 2021. 

During his tenure as an extension horticulturist, he spent much of his time traveling to the 254 counties in Texas to speak with extension agents, nursery professionals, civic groups and the general public. 

He has been recognized for his involvement with Texas garden clubs and nursery organizations throughout his career. Welch is well known among southern rose and garden enthusiasts for growing the popularity of Peggy Martin rose. 

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Welch discovered that the rose survived being under saltwater for nearly two weeks. He began to propagate the resilient rose and sell it to raise funds for the residents of New Orleans. 

Writing has been an important part of Welch's educational outreach to gardeners. He contributed to columns in many publications highlighting horticulture practices, including a monthly column he wrote for Southern Living for many years. 

Welch published several gardening books that extended his mastery of designing a southern garden and harmonizing the plants within a landscape. He often taught his readers about heirloom gardening and the heritage of native flowers in southern landscapes.  

Welch has dedicated his career to the advancement of the horticultural profession. He has given $100,000 to establish an endowed scholarship for LSU College of Agriculture students. 

Students pursuing a program of study in horticulture will be eligible to receive the William C. Welch Scholarship for Excellence in Horticulture. 

He hopes that his scholarship endowment will advance the next generation of students passionate about horticulture. 

"I hope students get some encouragement and financial support out of it," Welch said.