Skip to main content


Open Main MenuClose Main Menu
Lush garden setting with a variety of plants and shrubs.
The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University is a multi-disciplinary living laboratory used by scientists at OSU. It is also home to the “Oklahoma Gardening” Studio Garden and a place where families can create memories. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agriculture)

The Botanic Garden at OSU serves as a learning laboratory

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Media Contact: Trisha Gedon | Sr. Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 |

Often referred to as the best-kept secret in Stillwater, The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University is where scientists make discoveries and families create memories.

Situated on 100 acres between Cow Creek and Stillwater Creek on the west side of Stillwater, Oklahoma, The Botanic Garden at OSU is a multi-disciplinary living laboratory for researchers and an outdoor classroom for professors and students. It is also the studio garden for “Oklahoma Gardening,” television’s longest-running gardening program.

“The Botanic Garden at OSU is much more than a pretty place to visit. It’s all about family,” said Lou Anella, garden director. “We have focused on elements that will attract families to the garden, but it also is critical to the functionality of teaching, research and Extension programming at OSU.”

Anella said the garden welcomes about 100,000 visitors per year who visit to experience everything from a children’s play area, concerts and demonstration gardens to yoga, festivals and more.

“A master plan was developed in the early 2000s, including a new entrance on the south side of the garden off Highway 51. It has made the garden more accessible and increased our visibility,” he said. “The garden is a beautiful place, and we want to share it with the public.”


Open houses, festivals and concerts

The garden is open to the public every day from dawn to dusk, and open houses are held the first and third Saturdays of the month from May through October, featuring activities for the whole family and ambassadors onsite to answer gardening questions. OSU’s Insect Adventure is hosted in the new Horticulture Education Center near the south entrance and features a variety of insects for children to explore. The garden also includes a children’s train garden with G-scale model trains.

Earlier this spring, the annual Herb and Succulent Festival featured plant sales, vendors and activities for children.

Laura’s Bandstand at the garden will host free concerts on select Friday evenings during the summer, and visitors can purchase pumpkins and mums while enjoying the colors of fall at GardenFest on Sept. 28.

Check out the garden calendar for more events throughout the year.


Children’s activities

The Botanic Garden at OSU offers a variety of hands-on activities geared specifically for children that promote good health and learning.

Shelley Mitchell, OSU Extension senior specialist, said the garden is a wonderful place for children to enjoy the fresh air outdoors, away from electronics.

“Kids need to be out in nature, getting dirty and soaking up vitamin D. It’s good for their development and mental health,” she said. “Kids love the chickens at the garden, and they can purchase mealworms to feed them.”

One popular children’s feature is the Treewalk Village, which is a play structure built into large trees with bridges, platforms and a slide. Young visitors to the garden can enjoy the walking trail and immerse themselves in nature. The Children’s Garden has a playhouse, a crawl-through tunnel and a library where they can nestle into child-size chairs for storytime. Beginning-reader sight words are also posted throughout the area to help children enhance their reading skills. Also, children can let their imaginations run free in the mud kitchen, making mud pies and cakes, in the Nature Play Area. A complete list of children’s activities is available online.

New this summer, a pop-up children’s museum will be held on the fourth Saturday of each month. Also, schools are invited to tour the garden. Mitchell will offer day camps this summer for youth ages 7 to 12. Contact her at for more information.


“Oklahoma Gardening” Studio Garden

Gardening enthusiasts have tuned in to “Oklahoma Gardening” since 1975 for the latest gardening advice and research-based information. The show was originally filmed in Oklahoma City, then at the home of Ray Campbell, former show host and director of OSU Extension. Eventually, raised beds were built in Stillwater as a new studio garden space for “Oklahoma Gardening.” This studio garden has now grown into The Botanic Garden at OSU where the award-winning show is still filmed today.

Casey Hentges, OSU Extension associate specialist and host of “Oklahoma Gardening,” said there are more than a dozen different gardens within the Studio Garden.

“The Studio Garden showcases shade, sun, patio, fairy, Japanese, herb and other gardens that serve as sets for the show,” she said. “We encourage people to visit and get ideas for flower and color combinations, and hardscapes they can incorporate into their landscapes.”

“Oklahoma Gardening” is the longest-running gardening show on television and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

“Oklahoma Gardening” airs Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. on local OETA-TV channels. Viewers can also subscribe to the “Oklahoma Gardening” YouTube channel.



Dennis Martin, OSU Extension turfgrass specialist, said the OSU turf research program develops insights into the adaptation and management of turf-type plant materials.

 “Information developed by the OSU program helps Oklahomans choose the best materials for their lawns, sports fields, parks and grounds, cemeteries and rights-of-way, as well as how to manage these areas,” Martin said. “In the past 23 years, OSU scientists have developed 10 improved varieties of bermudagrass that are grown on six continents.”

Turf may seem like a trivial crop, but more than 40 million acres in the U.S. feature turf, and it’s increasing in popularity.

“As rural areas urbanize, vegetated land with turf will continue to grow. Turf provides both human and environmental benefits because it stabilizes soil against wind and water erosion, reduces noise, moderates excess temperature and provides a safe surface for sports,” Martin said. “The low-growing nature of turf allows motorists long-distance visibility and provides defensible space against wildfires. The future focus of OSU turf scientists includes varieties with more drought-tolerance and turf systems comprised of many plant species providing pollinator, human and environmental benefit.”

OSU-developed turfgrass is used in many stadiums in the U.S., including the Lincoln Financial Field, Commanders Field, M&T Bank Stadium, Soldier Field, Dodgers Stadium, Churchill Downs and more.

In addition to turf research, the garden is a living laboratory for plant research. Bruce Dunn, a floriculture professor in OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, has conducted plant trials at the garden for many years.

“Plant trials are important because they allow the public to see how well different species and cultivars do in an Oklahoma landscape. They can also learn more about growth habits, foliage or flower colors, which plants serve as pollinator attractants and which plants tolerate summer high and winter low temperatures,” he said. “Proven Winners sends about 40 herbaceous selections each year. I also trial about 20 woody plants as part of the Garden Debut plants for Greenleaf Nursery.”

This research helps ensure gardeners purchase plants that have shown their ability to thrive in Oklahoma’s growing conditions.

Anella said entomology students also study insects, and professors and students have installed bluebird houses to help with avian research.


Horticulture Education Center

The new Horticulture Education Center opened in 2023 with support from OSU, industry partners and other generous donors, and a $750,000 grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Located by the south entrance to the garden off State Highway 51, the new building provides many educational opportunities.

The 2,100-square-foot facility features a large classroom for student, faculty and community learning opportunities, office space and restrooms.

“TSET is interested in outdoor learning opportunities and healthy outdoor living,” Anella said. “The building serves multiple purposes and allows us to form partnerships with other groups.  The Payne County Master Gardeners group hosts a lecture series there and it will be used for other community events. With easy access and parking, it’s another way to make partnerships easier.”

Visitors to the garden are encouraged to download the PlantNet app to help them identify the flowers they encounter. Visitors can learn more about a particular plant by taking a photo and uploading it to the app.

“The Botanic Garden at OSU is a great place to share with family,” Anella said. “It’s always beautiful and helps foster a love of nature.”

Back To Top