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NMSU receives a grant to begin work on a botanic garden

  • By Melissa Rutter
  • 575-646-4211
  • Dec 16, 2019
Rendering of garden

New Mexico State University will soon have the only botanic garden in New Mexico within 100 miles thanks to a grant from the Stanley Smith Horticulture Trust to the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. The money will go toward building a public garden that also supports ornamental horticulture research.

Chris Cramer, professor of horticulture in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, will be using the botanic garden to evaluate plants native to New Mexico and the Chihuahuan Desert that might attract bees and other pollinators.

“There’s a lot of interest in growing plants that attract pollinators because there’s been research to show that their population levels are declining,” Cramer said. “So, we’re hoping on a research side to evaluate different plant materials and species to see how attractive they are to pollinators, but in a more visually pleasing way like a botanic garden.”

Rachel Gioannini, assistant professor of horticulture in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, is leading the design of the botanic garden. She took Cramer’s scientific parameters and designed a garden that would be welcoming to visitors.

“The parameters I was given were to have four repetitions with the same plants in each plot,” Gioannini said. So, what I did was take the paisley pattern which is more visually appealing than straight rows of plants.”

The plan incorporates paths throughout the garden and a large gazebo for shade and outdoor events.

The botanic garden, which will be free to the public, will be located along East College Ave. within walking distance from the Las Cruces Convention Center, the Courtyard by Marriot hotel, and NMSU’s Heritage Farm. It will be 81,000 square feet include parking.

Gioannini and Cramer predict it will take several years for the garden to be completed.

“The first thing we need to do with our funds is to get the science part up and running and then raise some funds for the rest of the garden, which will be probably be privately funded,” Gioannini said.

The botanic garden offers many benefits for the community and NMSU including a teaching tool and health benefits.

“I hope the garden will blend science and aesthetics and provide homeowners with the opportunity to see some new plants that can be worked into their landscapes,” Gioannini said. “I also plan to use the space as a teaching lab for her students in ornamental horticulture classes.”

Gioannini explained that there have been all kinds of research done on the mental health of being outside.

“It takes five minutes to lower your blood pressure and relax your face and lower your heart rate, and the garden takes longer than five minutes to walk through,” she said. “I give in my class a lecture about the mental health benefits of being outdoors––there are benefits for people with PTSD, there are benefits to putting your hands in the dirt, there are micro bacteria that are beneficial to you as a human being. Five hours a month is the minimum dose to help you stay happy and healthy”

The garden will not only further campus research and education missions but also will be a space for the Las Cruces community to appreciate and learn about the region’s native plants. Anyone interested in contributing to the garden’s educational space is encouraged to reach out to the NMSU Foundation’s Cindy Nicholson at 575-646-4665 or Allison Layfield at 575-646-1958.

The Stanley Smith Horticulture Trust supports education and research in the art and science of ornamental horticulture to foster human interest in shaping, nurturing and appreciating nature’s beauty.