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Get SMART with RCTC garden

Have you visited the SMART Garden at Rochester Community and Technical College?

The SMART Garden is an outdoor laboratory for RCTC’s horticulture program, serving as a demonstration garden for the community, and showcasing a wealth of great planting options for USDA Hardiness Zone 4. (Rochester is located in USDA Hardiness Zone 4.)

SMART is an acronym for sustainable, medicinal, artistic, resourceful and thematic.

The conceptual plan was completed in 2002 along with the completion of the new horticulture technology facility. The garden is a work in progress with something new added to the garden each year.

All of the different garden spaces and structural elements are designed, installed and maintained by students and faculty in the horticulture program. The garden includes a prairie garden, rose garden, butterfly garden, fall and winter garden, evergreen berm, hosta display, entrance court with arbor, pergola hung with wisteria, gazebo, two ponds, a labyrinth and golf green.

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The smaller of the two ponds was built in 2004 and the larger pond, which is three times the size of the smaller pond, was installed in 2010. Luckily the spring of 2010 arrived early (and stuck around), otherwise it would have been difficult to complete such a large project before the end of spring semester.

The two ponds are connected by a stream and share a bog filtration system. As the newly planted trees develop larger canopies, a woodland garden will be created around the ponds. The best place to enjoy the pond is sitting in the gazebo.

Another new installation is a 40-foot diameter, seven-circuit classical labyrinth. Not to be confused with a maze, a labyrinth has a single path to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.

One of my favorite places in the garden is the prairie garden. In its 10th season, the prairie is gorgeous this time of year. Meander through the mowed path to enjoy the prairie plants up close.

A butterfly garden was created to attract a variety of butterflies to the garden, but the prairie garden is a great place to watch the monarchs.

The garden includes a sculpture, "Bouquet for Most Occasions," created by artist Richard Szeitz. This art piece was commissioned through the Minnesota Percent for Art in Public Places program. The vase with its aluminum structure mimics the greenhouse support structure.

Rochester Garden & Flower Club (RGFC), Shades of Green Hosta Society (SOGHS) and local horticulture businesses have partnered with the RCTC horticulture program on several garden projects. The RCTC horticulture program welcomes any comments, suggestions or interest in volunteering in the garden. The garden is open to the public year-round. Please visit often and enjoy!

Q&A

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Can you please tell me if I will hurt my grape vines if I trim off the long trailers which are going every which way? I have grapes for the first year ever and do not want to jeopardize them in any way. If I cannot trim the long trailers, can I just weave them amongst the vines?

If you have any other advice for a first time grape grower I would welcome it.

I would prune some of the long vines back. Heavy foliage on a vine results in a shady canopy and poor air circulation, which can be a poor environment for the grapes to ripen.

The Minnesota Grape Growers Association has a great list of resources for grape growers. Go to mngrapegrowers.com/grape-growing .

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