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Let's Get Green

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Photo by Arden Barnes. Light shines into greenhouse 12, part of the Agriculture Science Center North Greenhouse Complex, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky.

An "indoor rainforest" is hidden on UK's campus-- in the Agriculture Science Center North Greenhouse Complex.

"It is beautiful," said Kelly Pohlman, junior plant and soil science major and member of the Horticulture Club on campus. “There are always flowers blooming... and a whole wall of orchids.”

Unknown to many UK students, the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, including the hidden gem of the teaching greenhouse, sits on a far end of campus.

The complex is on the corner of Nicholasville Road and Cooper Drive and contains 12 greenhouses in total. Unless students have had a course in “Ag North,” they may have never passed the greenhouse complex before. Inside lives an abundance of plants that serve all different purposes for the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.

"For example, plants needed for PLS 220: Plant I.D. are grown there," Pohlman said.

“Students can go look at the plants and learn to identify them,” she said.

Maintaining the greenhouses can be very intricate. Shari Dutton, Staff Horticulturist in the Department of Horticulture, explained the intensely controlled environments in the greenhouses.

Lindsay Jarrell, a research analyst in plant soil sciences, waters hemp plants outside greenhouse 12, part of the Agriculture Science Center North Greenhouse Complex, on Sept. 11, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky.

“The environments within the greenhouses are controlled by a sophisticated computer-driven system that opens and closes air vents, moves air with the aid of fans, turns on heat or cooling needs, manages lighting needs, and monitors and adjusts for humidity,” Dutton said.

Due to the intricacy of the greenhouses, several groups of students help care for the greenhouses in various ways.

The greenhouses are renovated and maintained in the summer months to ensure that plants are blooming for the upcoming school year. Dutton said that not much other than plant collection happens during the summer.

Students participating in a College of Agriculture internship actively research greenhouses one through 11. These greenhouses remain locked at all times due to this and other, more restrictive private research being done during the school year.

“Some are even under USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), so access is very restricted to those,” Pohlman added.

Beyond students’ use of the first 11 greenhouses for research, agricultural education and plant pathology courses also use the greenhouse complex for educational purposes.

The Horticulture Club meets in greenhouse 12 to host workshops and weekly markets along with many opportunities for networking and hands-on experience. It is open to all majors, with a $5 fee to join. Meetings are held in the greenhouse 12 classroom every Wednesday at 5 p.m. For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page.

A member of UK's Horticulture Club plants Venus fly traps during the club's meeting at the Agriculture Science Center North Greenhouse Complex, on September 11, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Recent UK graduate and previous Hort Club member Sarah Atkins has extended her greenhouse experience to the real world. She became especially interested in horticulture after joining the club.

“Hort Club is what got me interested in the field, so it helped me pick out my classes and now my career path,” Atkins said.

Last summer, she interned at the New Orleans Botanical Garden. She now works in a nursery in Frankfort.

“I went from spending just my Wednesday afternoons in the Greenhouse at school for workdays, to working in one six days a week,” Atkins said.

Atkins said that the Agriculture Science Center North Greenhouse Complex is one of her “favorite spots on campus to just hideout and chill during a busy day.”

Although the greenhouse complex is out of reach for some, it is a trip worth taking to experience all that takes place there. If flowers, plants, or research on the subjects interest you, greenhouse 12 is open free to students from Monday through Friday during regular business hours.


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