Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Petite Plants: New Hershey Gardens exhibit teaches sustainable gardening on a small scale.

The Hoop House, a new sustainable gardening exhibit at Hershey Gardens.

Fruits and veggies have taken root where butterflies once took wing, as Hershey Gardens recently debuted its new sustainable teaching garden.

This space, formerly the Butterfly House, is now the Hoop House, containing multiple varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs, planted in ways promote sustainable gardening.

“What we were lacking in here were vegetable gardens,” Hershey Gardens Associate Director Dan Babbitt said.

The exhibit opened the week of Memorial Day following six months of preparation.

But don’t worry about the butterflies—they’re doing just fine. Last year, they were captured and moved to the new Butterfly Atrium, leaving space within Hershey Gardens for something new.

In Hoop House, crops will be rotated with the seasons, so each trip should look different. Current varieties include mid-summer crops like cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers and more, all grown to maximize resources.

“You don’t need a lot of space to grow your own veggies,” Hershey Gardens Horticulture Specialist Alyssa Hagarman said.

Throughout the exhibit, small signs teach visitors about sustainable gardening techniques. Some of the recommendations include choosing smaller varieties of each plant, growing vertically on poles or trellises and planting natural pest repellents like marigolds or peppermint.

Hoop House itself was designed to promote sustainability. Plants are watered with rainwater collected in a barrel, lowering electricity and water costs. Food produced from the small garden feeds Hershey Garden’s bugs and butterflies, as well as some hungry staffers. In the future, extra food may be donated to a local food bank.

Although this inaugural season has been mostly trial and error, the Hoop House has been well received by visitors, said Hagarman.

“Interest [ranges] from toddlers to the elderly,” she said. “Everyone is really excited about it.”

In the future, staffers at Hershey Gardens hope to use Hoop House to explore new programming opportunities, including cooking, canning and children’s activities. There will be an observational beehive installed by August, where visitors can watch bees work without the danger of getting stung.

Hershey Gardens is located at 170 Hotel Rd., Hershey. Regular admission to the Hershey Gardens is $12.50 per person, and includes entrance to the Hoop House. For more information, visit

Author: Allison Moody

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