Writer: Kathleen Phillips, 979-845-2872, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION — Garden trowels pushed into potting soil at Texas A&M University today marked the beginning of The Gardens, a space officials said will be unique in its offerings for students and the general public.
More than 200 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony, which included a variety of garden activities.
Construction on the 7-acre Leach Teaching Garden will begin next week and is expected to be completed by early 2018, according to Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M. It will include a pavilion and thematic gardens such as a rain garden, food and fiber field, vegetable beds, butterfly and bee garden, and Earth-Kind plantings.
The Leach Teaching Garden is named for donors Tim and Amy Leach of Midland.
The Gardens ultimately will include 40 acres and a variety of themed spaces for teaching, research and community involvement and enjoyment, Hussey said.
The Gardens has been waiting to sprout for decades. At least 25 years ago, the Texas A&M University System’s board of regents designated the area along White Creek a greenbelt, meaning that no permanent construction could be built there.
“We had the option of leaving it as the post oak savannah it is or to try to do something else with the space,” Hussey said, noting that from that time a variety of people led mostly by the experts in the horticulture department have envisioned a garden boulevard along the creek toward the George Bush Library and Museum.
When the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service relocated to the land south of White Creek, the concept of an extended garden began to take shape.
But Hussey said to fulfill this concept, the agriculture officials wanted to include a broader group, so the team was expanded to include faculty and students from other colleges. Ultimately a group of landscape architect graduate students in the College of Architecture devised the larger plan for 27 acres, which was then overseen by Dr. Doug Welsh, professor emeritus and former horticulture department associate head.
“He shared a passion for the project and has been a great ambassador for getting it going,” Hussey said of Welsh.
Hussey said the project will provide a place to learn and relax for students but also for residents and visitors to Bryan-College Station.
“From the standpoint of students at Texas A&M, it’s going to allow us to demonstrate some of the technologies and discoveries that faculty have made in developing plant materials for ecologically sustainable urban landscapes,” Hussey said. “And it’s going to allow our students to have some hands-on research ability in the Gardens themselves.
“But I think what is even more important than that is that it is not just for the students at Texas A&M. We will be engaging the K-12 group, and people who come to visit the George Bush Museum will spend some time in The Gardens,” he said. “And it also will be viewed as a source of pride not only for us at Texas A&M but for the community.”
Hussey noted that the space also will have ecological benefits. More than 50 species of birds are found along the creek, so the protected garden will continue to provide habitat. And at least 100 locally adapted trees will be planted, slowing down stormwater runoff and enhancing the quality of water that flows through the site.
“Gardens have been part of the heritage of many universities,” Hussey said. “They vary tremendously. Most of them showcase ornamentals, offer space to relax or showcase art. We will have that in these gardens. But what is really unique about ours is that it is actually a teaching garden. It is one that is going to be used both for teaching as well as the more typical garden aspect that you’d have in a botanical garden.
“The former students and community have been excited about how we can take this post oak savannah and translate it into something that benefits the entire community as well as our students at Texas A&M.”
For more information about The Gardens at Texas A&M, see http://gardens.tamu.edu.