The specialty gardens include a rock/alpine garden, and woodland and rhododendron gardens. The trees and shrubs on campus include many rare and unusual specimens, as well as more familiar species, and many are labeled. The Talcott Greenhouse displays a permanent, living collection of tropical, subtropical and temperate plants from around the world, including ferns, orchids, bromeliads, aquatic plants, cacti and succulents.
These rich botanical resources provide collaborative opportunities for academic departments, programs and centers across campus. The staff of the Botanic Garden seeks to work collaboratively and interdisciplinarily with academic departments, and it is also happy to assist with horticulture questions.
The Botanic Garden offers several events every year, including the annual spring flower show in March, which began in 1971, and the plant sale in May. The Botanic Garden also sponsors the First-Year Plant tradition, which also began in 1971. Students starting at Mount Holyoke College are invited during Orientation to pick up their “Firstie Plant” at the Talcott Greenhouse. Many alumnae still have their original plants.
Teaching science to women was one of Mary Lyon’s primary goals when she founded Mount Holyoke in 1837. One of the earliest science teachers was Lydia Shattuck, professor of botany from 1851 to 1889.
Under Shattuck’s guidance, the Botanic Garden was established in 1878, and the first head gardener employed. Construction of the Talcott Greenhouse complex was completed in 1899, with the stated purpose of adding the needed opportunity for a broader range of botanical study.
Two goals stand out consistently in the horticultural history of Mount Holyoke College: to increase the diversity of plants on campus in order to perpetuate and expand Lyon's vision of the campus as an outdoor teaching laboratory, and to arrange plants on campus in a visually pleasing manner. These two missions remain valid today and are the core concepts of the Botanic Garden’s mission.
Plants are essential to life. Through its programs and collections, the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden promotes an understanding and appreciation of the botanical world by serving as a plant-based resource for education, research, conservation and inspiration.