Located on the north end of campus, URI’s Botanical Gardens and Horridge Conservatory serve as both a quiet area to observe natural beauty, and an active site of education and research. Since its humble beginnings as the College of Agricultural and the Mechanic Arts, URI has evolved into a modern, industrialized institution. The Botanical Gardens and the Horridge Conservatory are some of the last remaining ties to the agricultural tradition the University was built upon. Even still, they are sadly often overlooked by students and faculty outside of the Department of Plant Sciences and Entomology.
The Botanical Gardens find their roots in the same earth that the original formal gardens occupied more than fifty years prior. At that time, the garden was meticulously symmetrical, with geometric designs, curved walls, and neatly clipped hedges. The gardens as they appear today did not begin to take shape until the nearly twenty years later, in the 1980s. The transition to the new landscape was originally intended to create a setting for teaching sustainable lawn and garden practices. This “Learning Landscape,” as it was called at the time, was the product of a massive undertaking that required a great deal of time, money, labor and plant material. In 2003, the name was changed to the Botanical Gardens, which are the gardens students recognize them today.
Next-door to the Botanical Gardens is the Horridge Conservatory, which is comprised of greenhouses 112 and 113. This special pair of greenhouses displays an assortment of stunning and exotic plant specimens for public viewing. They only account for two of the seventeen total greenhouses, the remainder of which are used to conduct research by students and faculty in the Department of Plant Sciences and Entomology and other organizations on campus.
Even those without a strong interest in botany or entomology can find something to appreciate in the Botanical Gardens and the Horridge Conservatory. If nothing else, students and faculty can use them as a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of college life.