Old Military Base Maps Used For Garden Expansion

December 14, 2006
BY MARY JANAK, PAT PLOWMAN AND CARMEN PRICE
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust."

The above quote by renowned English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll appears on a plaque attached to the entrance to Victoria Educational Gardens. These gardens, Victoria County Master Gardeners Association's foremost educational and esthetic project, are located on Bachelor Drive adjacent to the old control tower at Victoria Regional Airport. We, as master gardeners, have learned much from Ms. Jekyll's words, as patience, industry and thrift are attributes, which have seen us through the completion of Phase I of VEG - and are once again carrying us on our journey through the gardens' expansion.

Our main purpose in creating VEG was to provide a unique garden where everyone in the area, regardless of age, could have the opportunity to grow in their horticultural and environmental knowledge while enjoying the beautiful and soothing surroundings.

When Phase I was opened in 2003 with the children's garden, greenhouse and vegetable garden, we began to see the results of our industry and thrift, but a healthy dose of patience has been necessary since then as we have strived to make Phases II-V a reality.

Thanks to the generosity of individuals, companies, and foundations in the area, very supportive in-kind assistance in preparation of the site by Victoria County and Victoria Regional Airport staff and the many, many hours of research, planning, fundraising activities and labor on the part of master gardeners, we hope to introduce these new phases to the community in May of 2007.

With this expansion, Victoria Educational Gardens will provide more than an acre of gardens and will encompass the entire surrounding grounds of the old Foster Field Officer's Club. Research of the old military base field maps is allowing us to put history into play when foundation structures, such as the previously existing swimming pool and patio with flagpoles and fountain, are used in creative and unique ways in the expanded garden.

The expansion phases will include 17 mini gardens, three demonstration areas, four permanent structures and several garden features, both educational and meditative. All are connected by 1,000 feet of wheelchair-accessible walkway. See the accompanying list of mini gardens and demonstration areas.

Various garden structures include a covered walkway, cathedral arbor, pergola and a tearoom gazebo. Special features demonstrate water conservation methods such as drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting and water management methods such as French drains, a dry creek bed, a bog filtration system and a rain garden. A labyrinth, a bubble fountain and a giant wind chime will entertain the young and the young at heart.

While adding exceptional beauty to the site, these elements also allow the public to gain knowledge through "careful watchfulness" - investigation, study and/or observation of the plantings and demonstration areas. Educational materials, such as plant labels, information leaflets, bulletin boards, and other signage describing the features, will be provided to aid the public in this quest.


As a salute to the military history of the garden site, a Military Honor Garden constructed of laser-inscribed brick pavers will allow us to pay tribute to the men and women who are serving or have served our country in its various military branches and conflicts. This project will provide family members and friends a unique and permanent way to honor their military loved ones. Honorees may be living, deceased, retired or active military. Military pavers are available at our cost of $25 - see accompanying details.

A concluding fundraising effort for these phases will allow the public to also own a piece of the garden by purchasing a paver for the Path of Family and Friends, a walkway that will go from the water garden to the tearoom gazebo. Two sizes and donation options are available as noted in the accompanying side box. An order deadline of Feb. 15 for all pavers will insure that they are installed in time for the grand opening of the gardens.

A future and final phase of the gardens will be a 6,000-square-foot pavilion with restrooms located adjacent to Phase I of VEG. Using the old slab from the Foster Field Air Base dining hall, the wheelchair-accessible pavilion will be multipurpose and will serve the needs of visitors to VEG, 4-H youth and VCMGA. The roof of the structure will be used as a second rainwater harvesting collection area.

As Jekyll states, "above all it (a garden) teaches entire trust"; therefore, the gardens are open from dawn to dusk, free of charge, for public enjoyment. Yes, "A garden is a grand teacher," and Victoria Educational Gardens is an outdoor classroom that uses nature's own plants and insects as learning tools. Schools and other groups may utilize these tools by calling Karen at 361-574-8176 to arrange a guided tour and planned learning activities. Several thousand schoolchildren have already learned about living things at VEG. They have learned that peanuts and potatoes grow underground, that some caterpillars grow to be butterflies, and that there are both good and bad insects.

Honor a military loved one or friend this holiday season with a paver at VEG. Help complete the expansion with a new year donation of a paver for the Path of Family and Friends. Watch for our grand opening in May 2007. We hope you will join us then when we celebrate the realization of our garden dreams.

17 MINI GARDENS CHARTED IN VEG EXPANSION Pavers available to honor a veteran, loved one or friend

Patriotic, heirloom, meditation, international, shade, xeriscape and rock gardens.

Tropical gardens surrounding the water garden and bog.

Patio garden with container plants.

Gardens of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, cut flowers, antique roses, irises and daylilies.

3 DEMONSTRATION AREAS PLANNED FOR VEG

Turf grass area - comparison of the features of various types of turf grass that grow in the mid-coast region.

Weed identification exhibit - ID of weeds and their management

EarthKind rose trial - testing selected rose cultivars to determine their suitability and endurance in the varied growing conditions.

Military Honor Garden Pavers

Path of Family and Friends Pavers