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When many students, faculty, and staff need a break to think, exercise, or just a place to take in nature, they head for the Thomas E. Ricks Horticulture Demonstration Garden. This 10 acre garden on the south side of BYU-Idaho campus began in 1977. Over the years it has evolved into one of the finest show gardens in the western U. S.
The dream of the gardens.
The Ricks College Horticulture Demonstration Garden was a dream of Doctor D Kim Black, who chaired the Horticulture Department in its early years. Division Chairmen and College Administrators gave their support, and in the late 1970's 10 acres of land east of the Ezra Taft Benson Building, then the Life Science/Agriculture Building, were designated as the Horticulture Display and Demonstration Gardens. Jim Long, a Landscape Architect, and Allen Wilson, a well known expert on intermountain gardening, with the able assistance of garden manager Don Miller carried on the project by incorporating the development of the gardens into their respective classes and student labor groups. Byron John, an award winning Landscape Design Build expert replaced Jim Long who retired in the late 1980's, and continued the development and refinement of the gardens. In the early 2000's the gardens underwent a major redevelopment, when Brad Weaver, LA, Rulon Nielson, BYU Idaho Campus Architect, and the Horticulture Department Faculty consulted on a plan to incorporate paved walkways, and lighting into the gardens to accomodate the growth of the campus, and the recent addition of the new Ricks, Hinckley, and Benson building construction.
Giving practical experience to students in horticulture classes and offering educational demonstrations for the community, and the Horticulture industry, have been the motivation for over thirty years of garden development.
A living laboratory for class work.
Construction began on the gardens in 1977. The original ten-acre site was primarily pasture land with some cultivated cropland, and even an old landfill and a private airplane landing strip. Since then, the Horticulture Demonstration Gardens have grown to become the largest research and display garden in Eastern Idaho, and now a central park of the BYU Idaho campus.
The gardens are constantly changing. Each year a new feature is added. Throughout the years, students in the Design Build emphasis in Horticulture have designed, and constructed most of the major features.
Students from advanced design courses are responsible for developing the conceptual design image of the garden feature which is then put together by the landscape construction class. Each year a project either creates a new feature or reconstructs an aging one.
During the summer, those plans on paper are transferred into lumber, stone, and plants as the landscape construction class goes to work. Thus, the Horticulture Demonstration Gardens grow, and will continue to expand each year.
The purposes of the Gardens are many.
Although used by the entire school and surrounding communities, the garden was originally established to facilitate outdoor teaching for the Horticulture Department at Ricks College. More recently, it has been completely revised and is now the Thomas E Ricks Horticulture Demonstration Gardens, a main focal point of the BYU Idaho Campus.
The garden today is a result of collaboration of students, faculty, and professionals. Over the years many other campus departments, wards, clubs and community members have used the gardens for various activities. Often students perform service in planting and maintaining the beautiful beds of flowers, shrubs, and trees. The gardens are open to the public, and have become a popular site for visits to the area from many parts of the world.
Some features in the garden are various water falls and ponds, a formal European Garden, a Picnic Pavilion, the Gazebo Reception area, test gardens where the All American Selections plants are evaluated and displayed, small fruits and orchards, Poteger gardens, raised bed fruit vegetable and flower gardens, annual and perennial flower beds, a conifer collection, and more. Many formal and informal receptions are held in the garden each summer. The Gazebo and Picnic Pavilion may be reserved for wedding receptions, company parties, reunions and other group events. Please contact the BYU Idaho scheduling office at 208 496-2248 for availability and cost information. The Thomas E. Ricks Gardens provide beautiful venues for memorable events.