The Houston Horticulture Center (HHC) is envisioned as providing a facility and programs through which anyone can learn to use horticulture and sociohorticulture, nature, gardens, and gardening to improve quality of life in the urban environment. The HHC is the brainchild of Dr. Joe Novak, a lifelong gardener and a former professor of horticulture at Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University. The HHC, located on the grounds of the White Oak Conference Center (WOCC), will be a one-of-a-kind asset that offers educational programs, provides in-the-ground demonstration gardens, and draws gardening and horticulture enthusiasts from across the region and the nation.
The HHC is in the conceptual stage at this time; planned programs include gardening for children and youth; neighborhood gardens; sociohorticulture; horticulture business management; and the art and science of gardening/leisure learning. The following features will be incorporated into the HHC plan: arboretum or trail of adapted landscape plants for Houston; garden ecosystem trail; enabling/therapeutic garden; contemplative garden; food gardens; children's gardens; community garden and farmer's market; and support facilities (nursery, greenhouse, teaching kitchen, lab rooms, meeting rooms, office space).
Dr. Novak has taught community horticulture classes in the District and elsewhere since retiring to Houston. He offers spring and fall hands-on gardening classes and workshops through the White Oak Conference Center.
The HHC program will offer many benefits, including: the opportunity to grow food for a more nutritious and cost effective diet, to participate in physical activity, to gain therapeutic effects, and to create a space for relaxation and contemplation. Neighborhoods and communities will benefit from the maintenance of idle land, and the opportunities for neighbors to gather, become acquainted, solve community problems together, and to deter crime through increased community cohesiveness and awareness. The HHC could provide more places and ways to obtain fresh produce in areas that are often deficient in produce markets, and garden-related activities in housing/apartment complexes and subdivisions; improve blighted neighborhoods that lack the aesthetics provided by gardens and the communication that happens when people spend more time outdoors; help neighborhoods and communities develop a sense of place and identity; create small business that generate income, jobs, and tax revenue; and improve flood control.
The first step in the implementation of the HHC will be a one-year planning process, during which the framework for the Center will be fully developed.