Every great botanic garden needs an outstanding greenhouse facility to establish and acclimate the many varieties of plants, florals, and vegetables it plants.
For more than a decade, the Dallas Arboretum searched for appropriate land and greenhouse space, and in 2017 found it just seven miles away on an eight-acre parcel that straddles Dallas and Mesquite.
After preparing the land and installing approximately 17,000 square feet of climate-controlled greenhouses, the Dallas Arboretum has dedicated the space in honor of Tom and Phyllis McCasland.
“Owning our greenhouses allows us to grow many small batches of unique specimens our guests look forward to seeing in the gardens,” said Dallas Arboretum Board chairman Alan Walne. “We can now cost-effectively grow 60 percent of the plant specimens used in our gardens. With the installation of the first greenhouses, we have achieved a major goal of our master plan and protected ourselves for the future.”
The land was acquired in 2017, and the greenhouses were built in 2018, through the support of generous sponsors, including Phyllis and Tom McCasland, the Jeanne R. Johnson Foundation, and the Hoblitzelle Foundation.
The Horticulture staff moved onsite in November 2018 and started producing in December 2018.
Mary Brinegar, Dallas Arboretum president and CEO, said, “This facility is a game changer. Tom and Phyllis are among the most generous supporters of the Dallas Arboretum—from seed money for the Chihuly exhibition, the impetus behind The 12 Days of Christmas celebration, and the renovation and permanent site of the sunken garden.
“They provided the money for the land purchase for these greenhouses, paid for fencing, security, utilities, communications, and a portion of the greenhouses with a challenge grant to encourage others to complete the greenhouse construction as it is today.”
The McCaslands ask for no publicity, but the Arboretum’s Executive Committee voted to name the Horticulture Center and acreage in honor of them as a tribute to their generosity, Brinegar said.
“These greenhouses have tripled how many high-quality plants we can grow and that our visitors have come to expect,” said Jenny Wegley, Dallas Arboretum vice president of horticulture. “Before, we had limited capacity at the Arboretum and another facility. We’re now able to grow different varieties of plants, larger, and better quality produce for A Tasteful Place, and a variety of cereal plants (i.e., wheat, oat, rice, etc.) for our Incredible Edible Garden in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.”
One highlight of the Horticulture Center is the new technology incorporated into the greenhouses. Called the Wadsworth Control System, this system operates the greenhouse at the touch of a screen, increasing the quality of plants grown.
“This new technology is a first for us, and it’s helped us become better growers,” said Ana Swinson, Dallas Arboretum greenhouse manager.
From a tablet screen, Swinson and other staff have the ability to heat or cool the greenhouse via heaters; monitor how much water to use for various plants; how much shade the plants get; and control the percentage of humidity based on plants’ needs.
“In addition to being able to control many functions, the system provides us with information to monitor how the greenhouses are working and send this information to a computer,” Swinson added. “If I have a successful grow one season, I can reestablish my greenhouse for the following season using the same variables.
“This technology allows us to grow, control and see what we’re doing and how we impact what we’re growing. Plus, a controlled environment is more predictable than being outside in the elements.”