“I’ve taken a couple of classes at the Cornell Botanic Gardens where they act as a medium for the course, so I spend a lot of time down there. I’m a landscape architecture major and horticulture is a big interest and passion for me. I also worked in landscape construction for a few years before coming back to school, so the Botanic Gardens have been a good outside-of-the-classroom place for me to keep my hands in the dirt and get to be around landscapes. Coming back to school and a classroom, and then being on Zoom all day every day I think would have been a lot more challenging if I wasn’t able to get my hands dirty at least once in a while; if I go out and spend twenty minutes pruning or doing something else I can feel like I’m where I want to be and that helps to ground me.

I had my parents come to visit and we got to walk around and it was really sort of an eye-opening and exciting experience for me to realize how many plants and pieces of the landscape I could teach them after spending more time there. Everything is so well laid-out, and with the signage as well you are really able to learn the plants as you experience them. So after finally going with others, it was a positive experience to feel like I’m truly digesting the things that I’ve been walking around.

As far as layout goes, one of the places that I feel the most connected to is the Arboretum since it’s incredible how it is organized and how you are able to get all these viewpoints of different areas from each section. I actually proposed to my fiancé up in the Arboretum’s birch collection, so it holds a pretty special place for us on several levels. Then with the Robison Herb Garden, I love that area since it is such a classic landscape design–and you can really appreciate all of the color and seasonality in those stone planters because of the way you walk through it and find yourself in an entirely unique part of the garden.

It is so important for people to spend time out in nature. Being in the major that I’m in allows me to use the Cornell Botanic Gardens as a building block since I’d really like to be able to design spaces like these that can positively influence and benefit a lot of people. So for me, it’s a good learning experience on how to replicate it in other places”.

Gavin Ratliff is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying landscape architecture and has taken several courses that use the Cornell Botanic Gardens as an immersive out-of-classroom learning experience. Gavin is eager to share his love for landscapes and horticulture with others, in the hope that more people will discover the personal benefits of getting their hands dirty every so often and stopping to smell the flowers.

More stories!


Kevin’s Story!

Student and Public Engagement Coordinator Kevin Moss tells a heartwarming story stemming from his love for a past tree in the Botanic Gardens.


Teresa’s Story!

Garden Guide and Master Gardener Teresa Craighead shares how a space in her life was filled and grew into bountiful opportunities with the Cornell Botanic Gardens.


Valerie’s Story!

Valerie Aymer speaks on how our gardens have been of great use in her students’ practice of Landscape Architecture, as well as her own.