Located on the north end of campus, the University of Rhode Island’s Botanical Gardens can serve as a getaway for some students.

The approximately four and a half acre garden averages about 3,000 visitors per year. The goal of the gardens is to maintain the plants in a completely healthy and chemical-free way.

Brian Maynard, professor of horticulture at the university, is faculty director of the gardens. “It’s a sustainable landscape, so what we’re trying to show is that residential landscapes can be developed and maintained without using any chemicals,” he said. None of the plants in the garden are treated with pesticides. Maynard said that all of the plants that have been in the gardens are chosen to be easy to maintain.

There are many different uses for the gardens. They serve as an educational tool for people from all around to take advantage of, and Maynard said that there are classes associated with the university that meet in the gardens. “Really it’s just an area for people on campus to go to hang out and study and get some refuge there,” said Maynard.

Credit: Sampson Jacobs/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
Credit: Sampson Jacobs/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

Gabrielle Torphy, who has been head gardener for seven years, works from May to November in the gardens. During the summer she works with one or two other students doing grading in Greenville, SC. “I love to see people in the gardens,” Torphy said, “whether they’re relaxing, studying, or taking pictures or drawing.”

Not only do the gardens serve as an educational tool for students, professors and community members, but they can also be rented out as a place for weddings and prom pictures. According to Maynard, they get about five weddings per year in the Botanical Gardens. The area reserved for formal events contains a stone stage and a place where users can put a tent in the center of the gardens.

The staff members of the gardens maintain all of the flowerbeds and take care of the trees and shrubbery. In addition to the typical work that goes into maintaining the plants, the staff is also there to get the garden looking its best for weddings.

Due to spring coming a little late this year, the garden has yet to be cleaned up from the winter. Torphy said that as soon as it starts to warm up and the soil starts to dry out, the staff will start cleaning up. However, the garden is open to the public every day out of the year so that anyone can stop by.

The original greenhouses and Horticultural Building within the Botanical Gardens were built in 1906 on what is presently East Alumni Ave. The Horridge Conservatory is part of the garden that is open everyday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the spring and summer seasons, Torphy gives Tuesday Twilight tours of the gardens at 5 p.m.