Groundbreaking ceremony held for OSU Horticulture Education Center

Mar. 30—The often hydrophobic potting soil many gardeners use to grow plants isn't suitable until it's thoroughly tended to, horticulture specialist Casey Hentges said, and the same applies to The Botanic Garden at OSU.

"The potential of this place has been seen by many like that of the potting soil," Hentges said. "Over the years, it has been watered — both physically and metaphorically — by many people. And because of that, we know that we now have the right environment that will nature and grow what is planted here today."

Thursday, the OSU Agriculture commemorated the groundbreaking of its future Horticulture Education Center at The Botanic Garden.

The new building, expected to open in August or September, is intended to enhance youth participation in horticulture activities and the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

The department's head, Justin Moss, said the project is a great opportunity for OSU.

"The goal is to have a beautiful and functional education space and one that fits with the garden aesthetics," Moss said. "This Horticulture Education Center will be important for formal teaching, for informal teaching, for extension, workshop events, as well as research events. It's going to be important to our community."

University practices and projects held at The Botanic Garden include drought response, water quality, sustainable practices and energy and reptile and amphibian studies.

The garden opened in 1975 when the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority partnered with Oklahoma Cooperative Extension service to produce Oklahoma Gardening — a half-hour show Hentges hosts today.

Thomas Coon, vice president and dean of OSU Agriculture, said the education center will introduce The Botanic Garden to a new generation of students.

"The discovery that takes place here, whether it's in children or adults, is always fun to watch develop as it happens," Coon said. "We look forward to having this education center become a reality later this year."

OSU Agriculture's ambition was to raise $500,000 to build the education center. The Botanic Garden Director Lou Anella amended the target number to $1.73 million, and the fundraising has gone beyond that.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is a major investor. Its executive director, Julie Bisbee, said the education center will help Oklahomans learn to be active and eat nutritious foods.

"This is a wonderful contribution to the community and to the state, and we are thrilled to be a part of it," Bisbee said. "I can't wait to come back and see it in its full effect."