in 2000 as a small beautification project by the
Victoria County Master Gardeners Association (VCMGA) has
become more than an acre of educational gardens
surrounding what had been the officer's club on the
former Foster Field Air Base, an area adjacent to the
old Aviation Control Tower at the Victoria Regional
The first phase of what is now known as
the Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) opened in 2003
with a children's garden, a vegetable garden and a
greenhouse, and subsequent phases have included 17
mini-gardens, four demonstration areas, and four
permanent structures, all connected by
property belongs to Victoria County, and both the local
Texas Cooperative Extension office and the 4-H were
located there before VCMGA members began their
beautification project. The group originally planned to
do some landscaping around the old officer's club, said
Pat Plowman, a VCMGA member who has been with the
project from its inception, but they soon realized the
Plowman said they drew up a
rough plan to create the gardens and were surprised when
the Victoria County Airport Commissioners approved their
ideas. There was only one problem, Plowman said, "We
didn't think of all the work."
groundbreaking was at our Garden Symposium in May 2001
and actual work was started in the fall," Plowman
explained. The VCMGA had about 50 members when they
began work on the VEG, Plowman said, and they provided
all the labor necessary to create the first phase of the
garden except installation of the pavers.
VCMGA now has about 125 members, some of them master
gardener interns, working on the VEG. (The interns are
required to do 20 of their 50 volunteer hours at the VEG
as they progress toward master gardener status.) Members
continue to provide most of the labor to maintain and
improve the VEG, but the county provided earthmoving
help when dirt had to be removed from an old swimming
pool, and crews from Aquascape built the water garden in
two days as a community service project.
of the development process for the gardens, members of
the VCMGA researched the former military base, using
field maps to locate a swimming pool, airfield dining
facility, patio with flagpoles and a fountain, and other
features that had disappeared or been covered over. Each
of these existing features has been or will be
accommodated in the VEG's growth. The patio with
flagpoles and fountain was used in the development of
the container garden, and the foundation of the dining
facility will be used for a pavilion with restrooms.
Because the VEG is located on a former military
base, Plowman explained, a few military elements are
incorporated into the design, including a military honor
garden with laser-inscribed brick pavers that pay
tribute to the men and women who are serving or have
served in the U.S. armed forces.
The original plans included six phases,
said Plowman. "We started with the children's and
vegetable gardens because we were most interested in
doing educational programs for children."
children's garden is located on the west side of the
building and includes butterfly, birding, sensory and
native areas. "The features in this garden lend well to
the science curriculum for the schools - butterflies,
insects, plant needs and growth," Plowman said.
The native plant area includes jasmine, Mexican feather
grass and horsemint, and the sensory garden includes
plants to see, touch and smell, such as lamb's ear,
foxtail fern and Shasta daisies. Even though it's a
sensory garden, Plowman said, "We don't let them eat
Two circles surround the children's
garden. "The rainbow circle and animal alphabet circle
were included for fun activities for the younger
children," Plowman said.
The rainbow circle is
planted with the colors of the rainbow and includes
bulbine and Carolina Breeze in the orange section of the
rainbow and Belinda's Dream and Variegated Ligustrum in
the red section. The animal alphabet circle features
alphabet pavers and features plants with animal names
for nearly every letter of the alphabet. "We made the
alphabet pavers, then tried to find plants with animal
names," Plowman said. "We did find a plant for the
majority of the letters." For example, B is for batface
cuphea and E is for elephant ears.
There's also a
huge purple birdhouse in the children's garden that
serves as a classroom.
In addition to the
children's garden, the west side also includes a
vegetable garden, a greenhouse and storage. The
children's garden is mostly flowers, but the vegetable
garden is "interesting to kids," said Plowman, because
so few children know where their food comes from.
"The children's and vegetable gardens are the ones I
consider most significant, mostly due to the potential
for teaching kids and adults about different aspects of
horticulture," Plowman said. "Kids enjoy learning about
the caterpillars and butterflies, the insects and the
vegetables, while adults can learn what plants to use in
butterfly or hummingbird gardens, what vegetables to
plant in each season or what plants are native."
The expansion area on the other
side of the officer's club includes 17 mini-gardens. The
gardens benefit the entire community, Plowman said,
because "the mini-gardens show what can be done."
The mini-gardens include an annual/seasonal garden,
antique rose garden, daylily garden, heirloom garden,
international garden where plants are labeled with their
country of origin, iris garden, meditation garden,
military honor garden, ornamental grass garden with
large wind chimes made from cylinders, patio container
garden with the original fountain, patriotic garden,
perennial garden, pocket herb garden, shade garden,
tropical garden that surrounds the water garden,
Xeriscape with a bubble urn fountain, and a water garden
with a waterfall, bog and land bridges.
garden is the only one of the 17 mini-gardens that the
VCMGA created with extensive help from outside the
organization, according to Plowman. "When we started
this part of the garden we had planned to build the
water garden ourselves." After digging the hole with the
help of a backhoe, Plowman said, "We decided it was more
than we could handle."
"I made a call to The Pond
Crew (an Aquascape company) in San Antonio for a
consultation," Plowman said. After learning about the
purpose of the VEG and VCMGA's concern about the water
garden's progress, representatives from Katy and
Rosenberg agreed to help the VCMGA create the water
garden. "They met with us and incorporated their design
ideas with ours. We coordinated all the deliveries.
Their guys were here two days and we had a wonderful
water garden," she explained.
"This water garden
is another tool which will be used to teach children
about ecosystems," Plowman said. "Several individuals
from the community donated some large koi to the garden,
and we already have babies!"
In addition to the gardens, the VEG
includes four demonstration areas.
Rose Trial area features 15 roses, three each of five
different varieties. The program, associated with the
Texas A&M Agriculture program, is for testing selected
rose cultivars to determine their suitability and
endurance in varied growing conditions, according to
The Ground Cover Demonstration area
features four different ground covers. "This was a late
change," Plowman said. "We needed to cover up some old
The Turf Grass Demonstration
area features 11 different turf grasses and is useful
for comparing the features of various types of turf
grass that grow in the mid-coast region, Plowman said.
The Weed Demonstration area is useful for
identification of weeds and information on their
management. "We are rethinking this demo," Plowman said,
and in the future may use the bulletin board to label
various weeds and their controls. "The weeds overwhelmed
"After all the
rain we had this July it is hard to think about having
to conserve water," Plowman said. "But learning to
conserve water at this time is very important. We have
two 3,000-gallon tanks to collect rainwater from the
roof of the officer's club. Plans are to use this water
for the container plants on the patio and for the
gardens closest to the tanks. Also, we had an irrigation
system installed and we will set up drip irrigation for
the other gardens. Drip irrigation helps save water by
less evaporation and supplies the plants with a deeper
level of watering."
They also intend to harvest
rainwater collected from the pavilion's roof once the
pavilion is erected.
Other water conservation
techniques at the VEG include French drains, a dry creek
bed, a bog filtration system and a rain garden.
The sixth and final phase of the
VEG is to build a 6,000-square-foot pavilion with
restrooms on the existing slab that once supported the
Foster Field Air Base Dining Hall. After that, VCMGA
plans to maintain and improve the existing facility.
The front gate is always open for
visitors and the Victoria Educational Gardens take about
an hour to walk through - longer if visitors stop to
read all the signs and plant identification tags,
The VEG is supported by donations,
grants, two plant sales each year, and a garden tour in
partnership with a local school, Plowman said.
"This project was a grand learning experience for our
members," Plowman said.
Thanks to the efforts of
the VCMGA, a small beautification project has become an
excellent resource for both avid and weekend gardeners,
and an example of how much dedicated volunteers can
accomplish when they garden together.
|About VCMGA and VEG
Victoria County Master Gardeners Association
began when the Texas Cooperative
Extension-Victoria County launched a Master
Gardener program with 23 trainees. The VCMGA
formally organized in 2000 and received 501(c)3
not-for-profit status in 2001.
Victoria Educational Gardens is part of the
educational program of Texas Cooperative
Extension and Texas A&M University, and is a
scientific-based educational project based on
good gardening that is completely planned,
constructed and maintained by the VCMGA.
|For More Information
Master Gardeners Association
Victoria, TX 77902
333 Bachelor Drive
Victoria, TX 77902
VEG is by the
old Aviation Control Tower at Victoria Regional
Airport. Drive out Hwy 59N, turn left on Big
Bend Drive. Turn left on Waco Circle. You will
dead-end into VEG.