The State Botanical Garden of Tennessee: The Gem of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

Category: Features

By Margeaux Emery

Gardens are peaceful sites where flowers bloom and tall trees sway. The grounds of the UT Gardens have flowers and trees in abundance yet visit any of their three locations—in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville—and you’ll also find all seven Be One UT values deeply rooted and flourishing among breathtaking landscapes. Together, the three locations form the State Botanical Garden of Tennessee, which has a mission to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials.

The UT Gardens are open every day, during all seasons and are free to the public.

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This gem of a resource has shone especially bright during the pandemic. In a typical year, the UT Gardens, Knoxville, hosts an estimated 100,000 visitors. That number has surged during the pandemic and the gardens’ operations have continued nonstop, from welcoming residents in search of respite to nimbly adjusting its teaching and outreach to virtual delivery: weekly Friday field trips on Facebook, gardening how-to programs on YouTube and free online workshops to coach community members about how to grow their own food.

The gardens hold symposia, camps, workshops, children’s programming, garden tours and field trips. All three are home to a vibrant horticultural therapy program. Each October, Bewitching Beasts is a fun, family-friendly event and so is the high-spirited Howl-O-Ween Pooch Parade and Pet Expo, held in partnership with the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.

The UT Gardens’ grounds are living laboratories and outdoor classrooms for students and faculty, while UT employees are among the varied audiences the gardens serve. Visit the gardens for a brown bag lunch or a Be Well break during the workday. Learn new skills in free workshops the university’s Be Well wellness program holds for employees. Become a volunteer with the gardens and engage in everything from assisting the garden staff in the greenhouses and gardens, serving as tour guides and docents, working with special events and programs, to assisting in plant records and labeling. Being a Gardens Vol is a great way to meet new people and make new friends, experience and learn new things and share interests and hobbies with others—all while growing a horticultural resource and making your community a better place to live. What could be better than that?

Learn more about these activities and more about the UT Gardens at

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