In April 2013, Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill designating the University of Tennessee Gardens as the official State Botanical Garden of Tennessee. At the time of the signing, the UT Gardens, operated by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, managed sites at the UTIA campus in Knoxville, the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, and the then recently added location at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville. The Plateau location was formally announced April 26 at the Cumberland County 2013 Flower and Garden Show.
“Everyone associated with the Gardens, from faculty, staff, and student interns, to the many volunteers, Master Gardeners, and donors, has worked hard to present an outstanding collection of public gardens. To be recognized as the state botanical garden is a great honor,” UT Gardens Director Emerita Sue Hamilton said of the event. “The designation also heightens awareness of one of Tennessee’s best botanical resources.”
State Senator Becky Duncan Massey, of Knoxville, and State Representative Jimmy Eldridge, of Jackson, were primary sponsors of the legislation. The designation passed unanimously in both the state senate and house.
Previously, Tennessee did not have an official botanical garden. A botanical garden is defined as a garden where experts study, exhibit, and teach about plants.