Scott Douglas has been named director of the Virginia Tech Hahn Horticulture Garden, the six-acre teaching and display garden in Blacksburg that is a campus crown jewel and a living laboratory for students.
Douglas will oversee the garden’s operations and programing in addition to teaching landscape design and construction classes in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Horticulture.
The Athens, Georgia, native is a licensed landscape architect and LEED-accredited professional. Prior to his appointment, Douglas taught landscape design at Iowa State University. He earned his bachelor of landscape architecture from the University of Georgia before pursuing his master’s degree in the same field at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
“This position is the perfect blend of garden management and teaching,” said Douglas. “It marries what I love to do.”
Douglas plans to introduce new classes that will explore sustainable landscape design. Green roofs, bioswales, and bioretention are just a few of the low-impact design techniques he is eager to share with students and others interested in learning how to filter and clean stormwater using natural processes.
He would also like to create a small test space for rain gardens and permeable pavers to demonstrate how they reduce runoff. Increasing awareness about these resources and technologies, he believes, is the key to more widespread adoption.
While working on his thesis at the University of Illinois, Douglas studied interstate corridors, shoulders, and medians, which the state spends more than $14 million annually to mow and maintain. Inspired by solar projects, butterfly corridors, and other creative, productive, ecologically friendly solutions, he explored how to better utilize these spaces.
“If you add in railroads and utility corridors, you could better utilize hundreds of thousands of acres,” he added. “This land just sits there unused. We could plant indigenous flowers and shrubs that support native bees and pollinators. And these are perfect places for solar power generation and for raising nursery crops.”
As a part of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership, Douglas is continuing to gather information about projects such as these in order to compile a resource guide and a website that will serve as a clearinghouse and forum for people around the country to exchange information and ideas. He believes that such projects could save states, including Virginia, millions of dollars each year, and that reappropriating these spaces could also create new jobs.
Douglas said he is most looking forward to the opportunity to create a new master plan for the Hahn garden.
“It has great bones,” he said, “but there is room for us to expand and to create new things."
He also wants to increase the use of Hahn as a teaching facility where he can conduct design work with classes.
“I want to create a lot of spaces, including a clipped boxwood hedge garden, and more shady places for people to go and relax,” he continued. “I want this to become a place where students come to study.”
The new director is eager to invite more students and members of the local community to treasure the garden as a source of learning, renewal, and inspiration. He is also working to raise awareness about the garden as a venue for special events. Although the space is thriving as a popular wedding site, he hopes to host other types of events as well.
“I’m thrilled to be here and to be back in the mountains,” said Douglas. “Finding the money to support implementing changes is a challenge. But, we are fortunate to have donors and alumni who are big supporters.”
One way to support the Hahn Horticulture Garden is through its Membership Program, which provides members with access to events, garden tours, speakers, and more. Anyone interested in volunteering to work in the garden can join a Monday night work group, which meets at 5:30 p.m. in front of the garden pavilion.
—Written by Amy Painter