KSU gardens offer peaceful escape

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Tucked away behind an iron gate on Denison Avenue, the well-manicured lawns of the K-State Gardens might go unnoticed by a passerby. Wander around for 10 minutes and you will find that after 100 years of history and traditions, the plants are as beautiful as ever. The buildings may be a little run-down, but that doesn’t take away from the grace and smells of such a peaceful place. Strolling around the water fountain, enjoying the seclusion of the central garden is a nice way to take a break from classes and studying.

“Unfortunately we don’t get many student visitors; we always see more of the gardeners and horticulture enthusiasts,” said Amanda Thatcher, junior in horticulture. “[It] is a shame because students don’t know what the gardens are like; they should come and hang out in the pergola and eat lunch sometime.”

Thatcher said they have a large variety of plants in the gardens. This includes all kinds of tropical plants that are housed in the conservatory along with herbs, vegetables and all varieties of flowers.

The gardens also maintain three specialty gardens which are devoted to preserving dayilies, irises and roses. The daylily collection is one of the garden’s most popular collections. Every year in July, the K-State Gardens hosts an iris sale, and all benefits from the sale go toward finding a permanent home in the conservatory. Visitors can observe over 300 plants in the rose collection.

“We hold a lot of social events in the gardens, like weddings, because it’s such a wonderful place to get married, but we also give tours and participate in the K-State open house,” Thatcher said.

Funding to maintain the gardens, however, is a major concern because they operate on donations only. There is no charge to get into the gardens, and the university does not include the gardens within their budget.

“Raising funds is a challenge for us right now. With the economic downturn, people are less willing to turn out their pockets,” said Scott McElwain, research assistant for the horticulture department. “Our current focus is on renovating the conservatory.”

McElwain said that due to recent hail storms, they would have to completely redo the conservatory, which was originally built in 1907. However, the future plans also include the completion of a 19-acre garden complete with a reflecting pool. Right now the gardens serve as an educational resource for the students of K-State and the surrounding community.

“It is basically an outdoor laboratory at our fingertips; it’s a great place to get outside of the classroom and get some hands-on experience,” McElwain said. “We like to see classes incorporate our gardens into their schedules. It’s a good benefit for students and faculty to use a different learning environment.” Some departments that currently use the gardens include apparel, textiles and interior design, architectural engineering, entomology, horticulture and landscape planning.

They work closely with the Manhattan Convention & Visitors Bureau to draw in visitors. McElwain said that the gardens admit over 10,000 visitors in one year. They also work closely with local schools and the insect zoo to educate the general public about horticulture.

“I had no idea that we even had a garden here on campus; I might have to go and check it out sometime when I have a free moment,” said Abby Landers, sophomore in biology.

The gardens are open every day of the week, March through November, from dawn until midnight.

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