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Hahn Horticulture Gardens reign over Va. Tech campus

By JANE W. GRAHAM

A Virginia Tech jewel sits on top of the hill on the Blacksburg campus and is a welcoming spot for students, faculty and staff, visitors and the community at large.  This is the Hahn Horticulture Garden. The garden, established in 1984 by the Virginia Tech horticulture faculty, has continued to grow and attract new fans through the years.
Dr. Holly Scoggins, associate professor of horticulture and director of the garden, reported that the garden has many goals.  First of all is its use as an outdoor classroom for students in the department, helping them to learn in several ways, including hands-on work with the soils and plants.
The garden of approximately 6 acres has developed over the years.  The latest addition to the garden is a meadow that faces the setting sun and gives visitors a chance to see what kinds of plants grow in a meadow. 
“The Meadow Garden was funded by a gift from Dr. T. Marshall Hahn, the 11th president of Virginia Tech. It was dedicated in June 2008,” Scoggins said. “It was designed and planted in honor of his wife Peggy; the meadow proper is called ‘Peggy's Meadow.’"
She explained that the meadow, adjoining lawn and amphitheater were designed by the firm Nelson Bird Woltz of Charlottesville.
“Construction and planting was done in-house with the help of Virginia Tech Facilities personnel,” Scoggins continued. “Horticulturists Paul Chumbley and Dabney Blanton led the planting efforts, with the help of students and garden volunteers,” she continued.
“A winding dry creek-bed swale helps guide rainfall runoff down the hill,” Scoggins said. “The site was previously a grassy parking lot used by VT athletics for football and baseball games. The soil was incredibly poor and compacted.”
The garden started on about one acre of land fronting on Washington Street.  After grading for pathways and drainage was complete, compost from the Town of Blacksburg was added by the truckload. This provided a meager layer of soil amendment.
“Many of the planting holes had to be dug with pick axes,” Scoggins recalled. “We were careful to explain to the Landscape Establishment students helping with the project that this wasn't an ideal situation!”
Scoggins worked with several Virginia nurseries including Saunders Brothers, Inc. of Piney River and Bennett's Creek Nursery of Suffolk, who donated hundreds of perennials, grasses, and shrubs.
“I worked with them to select tough yet beautiful plants that could be readily found by gardeners,” she continued. “The native range of most of the plants includes the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Some are cultivars, some are straight species. It's been marvelous to watch these drifts of perennials expand and meld together — it looks more like a real meadow every year.”
Scoggins noted that the center “lawn” of garden is planted with no-mow buffalo grass.
“Although the lawn is beautiful and drought-resistant, control of broad leaf weeds and other warm season grasses has been a challenge,” she said. “But that's what we're here for — to try new things, to demonstrate different landscape designs and gardening techniques to both our students and garden visitors.”
As with any garden feature, Scoggins said, they continue to edit the plant collection as some things are more rambunctious than other.
“Faculty and students from several horticulture courses utilize the meadow, including our plant identification classes,” she reported. “Our public gardens maintenance class and garden volunteers help pull the inevitable army of weeds that show up each season.  Please come enjoy the garden any time of year, and enjoy the product of years of work by horticulture students, staff and faculty.”
In addition to the meadow, the Hahn Horticulture Garden has many other features to be enjoyed year round.  These include the Peggy Lee Hahn Garden Pavilion: the Jocylene Couture Nowak Memorial Terrace Garden; the Utility Line Arboretum; the Jane Andrews Memorial Stream Garden; the Conifer Display; the Trident Maple Allee; the Shade Gardens; the Small Pond; the Xeriscape Garden; the Spectrum Border; and the Bright  Perennial Border.