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Garden features designed by students

An arch designed by students is under construction in the Thomas E. Ricks Gardens. Each year horticulture students add a new feature to the gardens. KRISTEN PLANER | Scroll Photography

For 35 years, the Thomas E. Ricks Demonstration Gardens have been a place where students can see nature on campus and learn landscape construction.

Since its beginning in 1977, the gardens have been built almost entirely by students.

The maintenance and refinement of the gardens is mostly done by students in horticulture classes and student labor gros.

Douglas Steed, a senior studying horticulture, is one of 15 students in the landscape construction class. He said he loves the opportunity to get out and get his hands dirty.

“I can’t imagine learning this in a classroom,” Steed said.”It wouldn’t work.”

Byron John, an instructor in the Department of Horticulture, has been at the head of the garden’s projects since the late ’80s. He teaches the landscape construction class that does the brunt of the construction work in the gardens.

John said the hands-on experience balances out all the book work.

Twice a year, the landscape construction class begins a new project in the gardens or finishes a longer project from previous semesters, giving students hands-on experience with landscape construction.

This semester’s project is a woodland garden path in a grove of aspens on the northern edge of the gardens.

Students installed a dragonfly design on top of the concrete pavers and worked to complete an antique-style arch at the entrance to the path from the garden’s main walkway.

Kristen Murdock, a senior also studying horticulture, shared her appreciation for being in the class.

“I probably learn more in this class about the design process than in any of my other classes combined,” Murdock said.

Besides creating and building, students also learn a lot about working together.

John has designed the class so that each day new team leaders are assigned to head the various parts of the project. The team leaders then make the decisions regarding the projects for that day.

“Everybody has a chance to be a leader as well as listen and follow,” Steed said. “Every day, we encounter a problem, and every day, we get to solve it.”

Murdock, who has been a team leader several times, said she felt very much the same.

“It’s great to learn, not only teamwork but leadership because you get to teach, and teaching is the best way to learn,” Murdock said.

Both Murdock and Steed said that one of the biggest rewards of the class was the enduring nature of their work.

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