Introducing the Learning Garden for Horticultural Science: Renewing, Renaming, and Planning for the Future

September 30, 2019

The Department of Horticultural Science Trial and Display Garden was established in the late 1970s on a small plot near the corner of Gortner and Folwell Avenues where it still stands today. Originally, the garden was used to trial and assess annual flowering plants for their suitability to Minnesota summers. Each year, hundreds of annuals--including All American Selections--were planted, observed, and assessed by different faculty members. Today, the purpose of the garden is largely educational, supporting a wide variety of uses from our garden intern program, to courses that use this space for plant identification, to public outreach.

Through our garden intern program, we prepare students to work in modern horticultural careers by providing them with opportunities to gain valuable skills. Students gain hands-on experience in planning and maintenance of managed landscapes, managerial experience operating a public garden, as well as practice conducting public outreach in horticulture. “When I chose to switch my major to Plant Science, I didn’t really know anything about it,” said undergraduate garden intern, Quinn Johnson. “Working in the garden has helped me learn how the industry works, which is valuable to my future career.” Both Quinn and her fellow garden intern, Maigao Yang, discovered the garden internship through Plant Propagation, the main introductory course to careers in horticulture. 

Garden manager Laura Irish is also the instructor for Plant Propagation’s laboratory section. Irish uses the garden to grow plants for the upcoming academic year. “ It’s great to see students using the skills they learn in lab and applying them in the garden. Using the garden to grow what we need for class helps bring some context to plants. Students can see exactly where they are coming from.”

The garden's public mission has also expanded. The garden now hosts numerous programs such as the Extension Master Gardener led children’s programs and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum intern programs. “So many people use the garden,” said former intern Yang. “ We get to share so much about plants with different people!”  

With the revitalized mission of the garden, we’ve realized the time is right for a name change. We are proud to announce the garden’s new name as the “Learning Garden for Horticultural Science.” Along with the name change, we are making a concentrated effort to ensure the sustainability of the garden as a learning space for years to come. We recently received a generous donation to establish an endowment for the garden - but we need your help to grow the fund to continue educational programming for our students.   

This year for Give to the Max Day, we are excited to announce a 1:1 match from an anonymous donor to help us reach our goal of raising $3000 to support undergraduate garden internships. We invite you to join us in supporting students on November 14th - Give to the Max Day, Minnesota’s statewide day of giving. Keep an eye on your email and social media for updates!