Hahn Horticulture Garden unveils long-range plan for expansion
More event spaces and new gardens are among the improvements planned as part of a donor-driven $4 million fundraising effort to enhance the garden as a regional destination.
Virginia Tech’s Hahn Horticulture Garden has completed a new $4 million planning study outlining potential growth and expansion for the six-acre public teaching and display garden, a popular destination on the Blacksburg campus.
Elements proposed in the study, driven by gifts, would significantly upgrade the Hahn Horticulture Garden’s amenities for holding events and vastly expand its array of gardens and sustainability features. Highlights proposed in the study include a spacious open-air marquee structure, a Japanese-style zen garden, a glass house, a formal garden, water-conserving rain gardens, and multiple spaces for teaching, learning, and relaxing.
Hahn Horticulture Garden Director Scott Douglas said the goal of the planning study is to recommend ways to elevate the garden as a regional attraction and to capitalize on its allure to host more revenue-producing events, such as weddings, conferences, and reunions.
“Items identified in the study help us better utilize our 6-acre footprint,” Douglas said. “It allows people to stay longer, see more things, and be exposed to different styles of gardens. I’m hoping this will make us more of a destination.”
Open 365 days a year from dawn until dusk, the Hahn Horticulture Garden is western Virginia’s largest public garden and serves students and the community as a hands-on learning resource for gardening, landscaping, and environmental awareness. It operates entirely on donations and public generosity.
“People assume that because we are on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, we are in the university’s budget,” Douglas said. “We are an independent operator, so we are heavily dependent on people renting this place, making donations, and attending the Garden Gala in June. We are looking for donors to help us make the long-range plan a reality.”
Douglas said event rentals cover more than 50 percent of the garden’s operating costs. To increase that potential, the garden is proceeding with design and construction of a 2,800-square-foot open-air marquee structure to be built on the lawn next to the Peggy Lee Hahn Garden Pavilion. The wood framed structure, designed by Hill Studio in Roanoke, will have a concrete floor, wood columns with Hokie Stone bases, and a dramatic green metal roof that matches the neighboring pavilion. It will meet the demand for a large open-air covered event space while eliminating the need for tent rentals that damage the lawn.
The marquee is the first project slated for completion. Douglas said his hope is to break ground as early as November so it can be completed for the 2024 wedding season and Hahn Horticulture Garden’s 40th anniversary.
To complement the marquee structure, the study proposes a caterer hut with a roof and concrete floor that would be placed between the new building and the parking area, enabling a convenient, sheltered workspace for event caterers. When not in use, the hut would offer a shaded, dry location for students and visitors.
A new “glass house” is also proposed to display a variety of tropical plants and orchids and house temperature-sensitive plants over the winter and seed-starting each spring. The glass house would function as a unique space for smaller rental events.
The study additionally proposes the introduction of a formal garden to feature clipped boxwood hedges and a variety of flowering plants to expose students and the public to a highly managed and controlled landscape style that is distinctly different from other spaces in the Hahn Garden.
Also under consideration is a Japanese-style zen garden with an open-air tea house surrounded by a raked stone garden and bordered by a small pond. The garden would introduce an international style and provide a peaceful space for relaxation and meditation.
Other improvements proposed in the planning study include:
- A prominent Hokie Stone entry gate at the garden’s main entrance on Washington Street.
- Directional signs to the Hahn Horticulture Garden from Route 460 and additional directional campus signage to guide visitors to the garden.
- Rain gardens to capture building runoff, highlight water conservation, and demonstrate a bog area.
- A plant collection database presented on a searchable map interface so students and visitors can locate and learn about the wide variety of plants in the garden.
- Landscape lighting to increase the overall safety of the garden for night events.
- A home gardening demonstration area featuring a collection of raised garden beds and a composting area.
- A shade garden with pathways, rhododendrons, a seating area, and a sculpture.
- A sidewalk along Garden Lane to provide a safe walkway from the greenhouse parking spaces to the pavilion.
- New accessible pedestrian pathways throughout the property.
The growth plans create more opportunities for students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Agricultural Technology program, who intern, work, volunteer, and take classes in the gardens throughout the year. Douglas said students will have a role in the installation and maintenance of many of the projects outlined in the study, from planting and pruning to building ponds and walkways.
“We’ve been so grateful to our community and volunteers who have supported the garden over the last 40 years,” Douglas said. “We look forward to involving them in the next chapter of growth to make the Hahn Garden the premier venue to visit, learn, relax, gather, and celebrate.”