The Herbaceous Garden was created in 1986 as an outdoor laboratory for students enrolled in the herbaceous plant materials class. At its conception, plants were laid out in rows within rectangular beds. The garden was maintained by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who later went on to found the membership group, UDBG Friends. In 1989, this same group redesigned the garden beds into a series of curvilinear beds with mulch paths. This garden iteration continued until the early 1990’s when an undergraduate student studying landscape design redesigned the bed and paths with grass pathways. With the donation of a gift to create Crossan Circle, the grass paths were changed to brick pavers in 2009, making the garden accessible to all.
In 2013, three professional designers were invited to participate in a design charrette to create a more enticing entrance that would facilitate movement between the Landscape Color Trials and All-America Selections Display Garden and the Lepidoptera Trail. The winning design created by 1980 Plant & Soil Science alumnus Shipley Allinson featured a wooden pavilion, swale, new borders, and a stone path leading to the Lepidoptera Trail in the Native Plant Garden.
The role of the Herbaceous Garden has evolved since its creation. In 2005, a change in the instructors of the herbaceous plant course ushered in a new wave of opportunities. With the garden no longer relied upon as the primary resource for students to study plant material, greater diversity and flexibility could be introduced into the plant palette, aesthetic focus could be considered, seasonal interest extended, and the garden could act as a showcase for UDBG plant sale material. Today, the garden fulfills its original purpose as an outdoor laboratory for students and researchers and also serves as an inviting space for students, staff, and visitors to study, relax, and enjoy events.