Professor offers tour of ‘hidden gem’ to promote campus retreat

By Laura Clark

Nothing brightens up a Monday afternoon like a midday meeting with the possumhaw or the American beautyberry.

Today from noon to 1 p.m., students will have the chance to go on a walking tour of Matthews Garden, located at the corner of Limestone Street and Washington Avenue, with biology professor Jim Krupa.

The tour is designed to gain campuswide recognition and appreciation for the garden, Krupa said in an e-mail.

“It is the nicest piece of wild green space on campus,” he said.

Surrounded by a white fence, a trail leads visitors through the garden’s variety of native plants. The plants have identification displayed in front of them on nameplates, and for guests who want to rest or study in the garden, benches and picnic tables dot the area.

Hundreds of species of native shrubs, trees and herbs join all of the flowers that fill the garden floor.

“It is unique for the garden’s plant diversity being available for plant classes without having to drive long distances to see the species,” Krupa said.

Various classes take advantage of the campus retreat, and students enjoy the secluded feeling of the garden despite its location in the middle of campus.

“For my biology lab class, we went to Mathews Garden to identify some of the native trees of Kentucky,” said Abby Oelker, a kinesiology sophomore. “When I was inside, it felt like I wasn’t on campus anymore. The garden was a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the university.”

Along with biology students, English and forestry majors also visit the garden. Krupa wants all UK students to take an interest in the campus’s “hidden gem.”

“Use and appreciation will keep future interests in building on it away,” said Krupa, who is charged with taking care of the Matthews Garden and keeping it from becoming overgrown and run down.

“I feel dedicated to caring for this little gem so it will exist well into the future,” he said. “There really is nothing like this anywhere else on campus.”