A University and community landmark, the TWU Greenhouse and Gardens have developed in tandem with the University which holds them. Built in 1918, the Greenhouse was the anchor of a vibrant rural arts program which used the current site of the Gardens as a hog farm and peach orchard. In 1930, the Exterior Beautification Committee of Texas Woman’s University set out to convert this patch of land into a series of gardens that would become famous throughout the nation. The Gardens became overgrown and neglected after World War II; fortunately, President Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey undertook an extensive restoration effort. The future site of a butterfly refuge, and a popular spot for weddings and events, the Greenhouse and Gardens continue to be both an educational tool for the University and a popular refuge for students and the community.
The Greenhouse and Gardens have a long history
that coincides with the history of Texas Woman’s University (TWU) itself. Originally
the site of an orchard and vegetable garden, the Gardens have grown with the University
to reach national significance. The purpose and goals of the Greenhouse and
Gardens are continually changing to meet the needs and challenges of both the University
and the wider community.
In its early days, more than half of TWU’s (then known as the
College of Industrial Arts) students came from rural areas. Because of this, the University had a robust Rural Arts Program. The area that now contains the Gardens
was set aside for the program’s use. In 1918, the Greenhouse was built, and in
1920 the University built a one-story rural arts building connected to the Greenhouse.
A working site, the program maintained a poultry flock and a pig farm near the
Greenhouse. The area that now contains the gardens originally consisted of a home garden, small fruits, and orchard.
In 1930, a faculty committee composed of Willie Birge, Fred Westcourt, and Mary Marshall began the
arduous task of converting the old site of the pig pens and peach orchard to
the gardens we see today. The Exterior Beautification Committee started with a
pound and a half of flower seeds and plants from around the campus. Bedding
plants were grown in the Greenhouse by the students of Westcourt and Birge. The Committee intended the Gardens to be a showcase of the many different types of
native Texas plants. By 1935, the garden held more than three hundred native
Texas flowers and plants. A rock garden, completed in 1932, added to the
Garden’s beauty. From the start, The gardens served both a practical and
aesthetic purpose; It served as a lab
for biology students and as a refuge for garden lovers.
continued to grow in beauty and stature and eventually gained a national
reputation. The fame of the gardens allowed the university to host yearly garden
conferences. However, the Gardens became neglected and overgrown after
World War II. At the start of her presidency in 1976, Dr. Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey sought to reverse this decline. On January 4, 1977, the University
announced that a committee would be established to restore the gardens to their
former glory. From the outset, this was a community project. The Rainey
Greenhouse (a local business in Denton) donated one hundred dollars worth of
bedding plants to help get the project underway. Alumnae and others wrote Blagg-Huey letters of support that contained their memories of the gardens and sent
donations for the project. In the course of restoring the gardens, cleanup
crews rediscovered original structures such as ponds, rock gardens, and
watercourses. The restoration of the Gardens proved to be an unmitigated
success. Once again, the Gardens achieved state and national prominence. Recognized
by Governor William P. Clements, in April 1980 he designated the TWU Gardens as
a wildflower preserve.
The Greenhouse and
Gardens have continued to grow and change with the university. Dr. Jeffrey Robb, a Professor in the Department of History and Government and an expert in the study of butterflies and their environment, spearheaded an effort to add a butterfly sanctuary to the Gardens. In 2017, the
Butterfly Advisory Committee obtained a $15,000 grant from the Environmental
Protection Agency. The Dr. Bette Myers Butterfly Garden will serve
as a sanctuary for butterflies and be used as an educational tool for both University
students and the community.
expect the Greenhouse and Gardens to continue to evolve while remaining true to
their original purpose as an educational tool and a quiet place for students
and community members to enjoy. They are also a popular spot for community weddings and events.