UT Gardens-Crossville:  The Plateau Discovery Gardens

An open letter to our friends...

The Plateau Discovery Gardens started as a Cumberland County Master Gardener Project in 2004 with a goal to educate community members and visitors of the challenges presented when one gardens on the Plateau. The gardens are open to visitors daily during sunlight hours, without charge.

The first garden theme was designed and planted in 2005.  Since that time 18 demonstration plots have been added.  In 2009, the gardens became host to ornamental research trials allowing visitors the opportunity to observe plants under trial by the UT Research Plant Science Department.

The first annual Fall Gardeners’ Festival was held in 2009 offering 9 presentations and welcoming 150 visitors.  This festival has grown both in size and attendance and now offers 12 educational sessions and registers over 800 visitors from as many as 42 Tennessee counties.  It is held on the last Tuesday of August.

Based on requests from those visiting the gardens, three gardening classes were offered in 2010.  This year, over 33 classes have been confirmed.  Classes include a variety of topics: gardening in general, crafts from and for the garden, as well as the series “From Garden to Table”. 

In 2012, a college internship program was initiated.  This annual internship allows one college student a 10-week paid opportunity to work alongside Master Gardeners in the demonstration garden and AgResearch staff in the various ornamental and vegetable trials.  The experience is individualized based upon the student’s educational interests and often times includes field trips to other locations. 

As the gardens have grown, so too has its recognition.  The state of Tennessee Master Gardener program has recognized the Plateau Discovery Gardens with the Search for Excellence Award for its excellence as both a demonstration garden and as an educational opportunity with the Fall Gardeners’ Festival.  In 2013, this garden became the 3rd UT Garden.  Governor Haslam designated the UT Gardens system as the official botanical garden of the state at that same time.    

What many do not realize is...this garden and the opportunities within it have been coordinated by the volunteer efforts of the Cumberland County Master Gardeners.  Each themed garden plot has been designed, planted, and maintained by master gardener who volunteer hours on a weekly basis throughout the growing season.   Expenses for the gardens and opportunities within (Fall Gardeners’ Festival, classes) have been raised thru master gardener fundraising events and private donations.  With the exception of a few classes (whose fee covers the materials participants receive), all of these opportunities remain free of charge.  

And based upon the successful opportunities associated with the gardens (daily visits, classes, internship), another project has emerged-the construction of an accessible outdoor, open walled pavilion with a separate public restroom facility.  

In addition to our spring plant and mulch sales, fall mum and bulb sales, community members may support the gardens in three ways: 

Become a Friend of the Gardens for an annual donation.  Once a Friend of the Gardens, members will receive a UT Garden magazine twice yearly, a monthly e-newsletter, and reciprocal admission at nearly 300 gardens across the country.  Envelopes to become a member are available at the Gardens or can be requested by contacting Jennifer at 931-484-0034, jburns35@utk.edu

Contribute to the tax-deductible Plateau Ornamental Research and Discovery Garden Fund (R#117515016) using the form provided and mailing to Thomas Looney, Development Director, UT Institute for Public Service, Student Services Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-0213.  100% of the monies contributed to this fund are used to enhance the gardens, by either providing healthy gardening supplements (mulch, fertilizer, etc) or additional garden opportunities (decking, seating, walkways, etc).  For additional information, please contact Walt Hitch (UT PREC director at jhitch@utk.edu, (931-484-0034) or Thomas Looney (UT Development Director, 865-974-8622).   Click here for form. 

Contribute to the tax-deductible Plateau Discovery Gardens Pavilion Building Fund (#R117515028) using the form provided and mailing to Thomas Looney, Development Director, UT Institute for Public Service, Student Services Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-0213.   100% of the monies contributed to this fund will be used to construct the accessible outdoor pavilion and public restrooms.  For additional information, please contact Walt Hitch (UT PREC DIrector at jhitch@utk.edu , 931-484-0034) or Thomas Looney (UT Development Director, 865-974-8622). Click here for the donation form.

On behalf of the members of the Cumberland County Master Gardener Association  and the Plateau Discovery Gardens, I thank you for your financial consideration to our project.


Nancy L. Christopherson
Co-Chair, UT Gardens-Crossville: Plateau Discovery Gardens


Click here for the pledge form and thank you for your support