Nestled behind Virginia Tech’s baseball stadium and stretched over nearly six acres, the Hahn Horticulture Garden has treated its visitors to an oasis filled with hundreds of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, and tropicals.
“We have a little bit of everything because we are a teaching garden,” said Holly Scoggins, garden director and associate professor of horticulture. “We try to have as much variety out there as we can. We need the basics because we have to teach our students everything from a red maple to a petunia. But we also like to have the newer and cutting-edge plants as well. We have plants from all over the world.”
Since the garden opened in 1984, it has grown from less than one acre to nearly six acres, with much of the expansion since 2003. Support from many individuals and businesses has helped the garden to flourish, expanding its educational mission beyond the classroom to become a community resource.
The addition of the Peggy Lee Hahn Garden Pavilion in 2006 – made possible by a gift from Marshall T. Hahn, president emeritus of Virginia Tech, and his wife Peggy – has been instrumental in making the garden a hub for educational programming and social activities.
The pavilion provides amenities – meeting space, restrooms, and a small kitchen – that were needed to hold gatherings such as workshops and garden weddings. Rental of the garden and pavilion for special events supports the general operation of the garden and the pavilion with increased revenue.
The garden has hosted school field trips and community groups, but as the garden continues to expand, so has the demand for educational programs.
In 2007, Scoggins hired Stephanie Huckestein as the garden’s education and outreach coordinator. Huckestein had just completed her master’s degree in career and technical education and was previously the garden’s horticulturalist.
As part of her new responsibilities, Huckestein has begun working with K-12 science teachers in Montgomery County to provide them with ways to incorporate gardening into to their classroom curriculum. “Most of the teachers were having difficulty knowing how to utilize school gardens with lessons that would align with the Virginia Standards of Learning,” Huckestein said.
Most recently she has begun working with future elementary teachers at Radford University and Virginia Tech. “We’ve received a great response from these college students,” Huckestein said. “They are very eager to learn what they can do when they get into the classroom.”
In addition to her efforts with teachers, Huckestein and Scoggins have expanded other educational activities in the garden.What started as a winter seminar series – featuring local and nationally renowned gardening experts – is now offered year round. The public and the campus community are also invited to attend free, regularly scheduled garden walks.
Scoggins attributed much of the garden’s success to the volunteers who contribute their time and talents to help make the garden what it is today. More than 50 gardeners from Blacksburg, Va., and the surrounding counties assist at the garden throughout the year, and many of them are Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners must complete at least 50 hours of classroom instruction, and then contribute a minimum of 50 hours of horticultural-based volunteer service within the first year of their classwork, and 20 hours each subsequent year. The garden provides an opportunity for them to meet their volunteer requirements.
Brenda Schnell of Pulaski, Va., has been volunteering at the garden since 1994. “I came a couple of times and got hooked,” Schnell said. “I’ve worked on other community gardening projects that weren’t kept up. Here, I can come and see the results of my effort and the enjoyment that others receive from it.”
The volunteers agree that they come because they love to garden and enjoy the company. They also like the perks: Volunteers often get to take home leftover or discarded plants after they switch out the plant beds.
“I’ve enjoyed the people that I’ve gotten to know in the garden,” said Tom Teates, who has been a garden volunteer since 1995 and resides in Pilot, Va. “It is a neat place to be associated with. It gives good vibes.”
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