SAMUEL: Exciting things are happening at the West Virginia Botanic Garden


The year is drawing to a close, and what a crazy year it has been. COVID-19 has changed things. Businesses closed their doors. There were shorter work weeks, because businesses couldn’t find employees.

On the positive side, more people were enjoying the outdoors.

One great local place to get outdoors is the West Virginia Botanic Garden.

The Garden had to cancel some fund raisers, but modified others and did well. People pitched in. Volunteers gave their time. The staff was amazing. Contributors supported the garden. It was the busiest, most productive year ever at the Garden.

The West Virginia legislature designated the Garden as the state’s flagship garden. The new service building was finished and dedicated on May 7.

The legislature made May 8 as the West Virginia  Botanic Garden Day. The event lawn pavilion was dedicated. Six outdoor concerts were held this summer, and three of those were free.

Instead of their normal fund-raising dinners, the Garden went to ticketed take-out dinners and those went well.

The Great Gatsby Garden Party was the biggest and best annual fund raising party they ever held. The Garden hosted the second Morgantown Area Nonprofit Scarecrow Spectacular to increase autumn visitation and good will.

They held their second Howl O Ween Doggie Trick or Treat event.

They also held their first Young Run for Wellness with 37 runners. The Garden hosted 145 weddings and 5 elopements. Donation boxes were installed in three locations and people responded.

Many donations allowed the planting of Blooming Beds and Planter Dedications. Five memorial benches were installed. A new-look newsletter (The Leaflet) was designed and published by the staff at the Garden.

Dave Davis wrote a weekly column for the Dominion Post that featured the latest “bloomers” at the Garden. That column was a huge success.

Facebook followers increased 16%. Instagram followers also increased. WBOY and WDTV covered various events at the Garden. Leadership Monongalia shot a video promotion on site. Only In Your State, a Facebook Publication, ran a feature on the Garden.

The Garden’s Education Specialist, Erin Smaldone, was a featured interview for a state PBS show organized by WVU Extension.

All together there was an amazing amount of publicity and good press for your botanic garden.

The Garden hosted school groups, summer camps, and other groups during the year. There was more site development projects than ever before, made possible by the many donations from various foundations, organizations, Garden members, and other donors.

 A new powered, lighted awning now exists off the deck of the education center. New signage was everywhere. An educational exhibit was posted by the WVU Libraries.

Many of the trails were resurfaced to improve ADA accessibility. New drainage and culverts were installed.

 A new boardwalk over wet areas of the Pixie Cub trail were put in. A state-of-the-art Hydrowise irrigation system was installed throughout the Yagle Garden and in other locations around the Educational center.

The Children’s Adventure Garden is being constructed. It will be a huge attraction come spring. New flower beds were planted in several areas. Around the big boulder at the top of the driveway near the entrance you will see blooms all next spring, summer and fall thanks to the planting of 500 tulips, 200 daffodils, 300 crocus, and 100 allium bulbs. Bulbs and plants were added to the Sporobolus bed, around the gazebo, in the Rhododendron Garden, around the Secret Garden, in the pollinator garden, the lifetime giving garden and the entrance bed.

The Visitors Center house at the entrance has a new roof, gutters, and downspouts. Plus there is a new parking area there. Two solar-powered ventilation units were installed. Perhaps the biggest development in the history of the botanic garden was the beginning of the construction of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Event Center.

 You can see it grow at the bottom of the hill on the right when you visit the garden. It is expected to be completed next summer.

Watch for pedestrian and automobile counters coming soon, as well as expansion of the irrigation system. The loop around the reservoir will be resurfaced and there will be new windows and doors for the visitors center.

There’s more, but as you can see, the botanic garden is fast becoming one of the jewels of our community and state. Consider becoming a member and I will see you there.

Dr. Samuel is a retired wildlife professor from West Virginia University. His outdoor columns have appeared, and continue to appear, in Bowhunter magazine and the Whitetail Journal. If you have questions or comments on wildlife and conservation issues, email him at