By Juliette Coulter
Jenny Wegley has loved to watch her personal garden grow, as well as the garden she tends to in her job as vice president of horticulture at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Her work has now been acknowledged with another recognition from her alma mater, Stephen F. Austin State University, where she recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award in Agriculture.
A 2005 graduate with a bachelor of science in agriculture and an emphasis in horticulture, Wegley has been interested in this field for many years. After graduation, she worked in horticultural retail until she was hired at the Dallas Arboretum in 2009.
Wegley has lead the landscape design and planting selections for the entire garden for more than six years. This past year, she and Mark Bullitt, senior director of garden development, selected all the varieties of vegetables for the newest garden at the Dallas Arboretum, A Tasteful Place. This 3.5-acre edible garden teaches people what grows well in the North Texas climate, when to plant and how to harvest fruits, vegetables and herbs. In addition to the four signature potager gardens, which are working kitchen gardens, A Tasteful Place has a one-acre lagoon with aquatic plants that Wegley selected, a pavilion with a teaching and demonstration kitchen, an orchard, shaded porches and walkways.
Wegley said, “The movement toward growing and eating sustainable fresh, locally grown food has been evident by how many people have visited A Tasteful Place, attended gardening workshops, watched chef demonstrations and asked our gardeners questions.”
This was not the only award she has received. She was honored with one of the “40 under 40” who are making a difference in horticulture in America today.
Wegley said, “I love the vast array of what you can do with horticulture. There’s so much to learn.”
Her position gives her the perfect place to learn, especially as the Dallas Arboretum trials more than 5,000 cultivars annually. Before A Tasteful Place was open, Wegley and her horticulture team trialed vegetables for nearly six years before they planted anything in the garden.
The Dallas Arboretum is one of the few places in the region that has been trialing vegetables in a large-scale way. This type of learning helps the horticulture staff and those who visit the garden learn what varieties grow best.
When she’s not working, Wegley tends to her own garden in Oak Cliff where she’s growing tomatoes, artichokes, soybeans and carrots. Whether it’s at home or work, she enjoys making her gardens grow.