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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Secrest Arboretum Head Named Honorary Member of Garden Club of America

May 4, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kenneth D. Cochran, program director of Ohio State University’s Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, has been named an honorary member of The Garden Club of America, one of the group’s highest accolades. Cochran was recognized during a presentation at the GCA’s annual meeting here April 30. 

In honoring Cochran, the GCA acknowledged his “lifetime of devotion to furthering landscape and horticultural excellence.” Honorary members of GCA are men and women of distinction in the fields of horticultural or conservation who are not nor have ever been members of a GCA club. Honorary membership is limited to 75 individuals, and a maximum of four are selected each year. Named along with Cochran were renowned landscape architect Patrick Chassé and Brent and Becky Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The Akron Garden Club, a member of the GCA, nominated Cochran for the recognition.

Cochran has 47 years’ experience in the application of science and technology to landscape horticulture plus 22 years in the teaching field. His commitment to horticulture began as a youngster, when he helped grow vegetables for the family’s roadside market. It continued when he received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 1964 from the highly regarded horticulture program at Ohio State University. 

From 1967-1978, Cochran owned a nursery business serving residential and commercial clients. In 1978, Cochran became a professor at Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) in Wooster, which provides educational programs leading to associate degrees in agriculture, horticulture, environmental sciences, business and engineering technology. At ATI, he developed and taught courses in woody ornamental plants, plant propagation, and nursery operations and management, among numerous others. In addition, he developed and coordinated a container and field production nursery laboratory and developed a micro-propagation laboratory. Cochran received a master’s degree in technical education from the University of Akron in 1982. 

In 1984, Cochran became curator and program director of Secrest Arboretum, while continuing to teach at ATI. Secrest is part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), a division of Ohio State that conducts research on foods, agriculture, family and the environment. Secrest’s 120 acres of display gardens showcase landscape solutions that aid visitors in selecting appropriate sustainable plants. Cochran designed and implemented a plan for Secrest to provide funding for programs and expanded gardens, organizing the Secrest Arboretum Council, which has raised more than $1.5 million to date. This development enabled construction of an outreach building, the John Streeter Garden Amphitheater, the Nielsen/Herms Discovery Pavilion and wheelchair-friendly paths through specialty gardens, including a prairie garden, butterfly garden, unique collections garden, interlude garden and water gardens. Cochran’s seminars, propagation workshops, garden tours and plant sales heighten awareness of plants and of the arboretum.

Cochran is a leading authority in his field. He contributes regularly to numerous OARDC, ATI and other horticulture publications. He presents seminars locally, nationally and internationally and has received numerous awards, including the 2005 Outstanding Contribution Award from the Ohio Landscape Association, the 2003 Award of Merit from the Ohio Nursery Landscape Association and the 1986 Ohio Association of Two-Year Colleges Outstanding Faculty Award. Cochran personally replies to inquiries about sustainable landscape management from both professional and home gardeners. He consults with various municipalities and institutions concerning plant taxonomy, growth and development of woody plants, plant materials, propagation, and nursery production. 

The GCA is a nonprofit national organization composed of 200 clubs with 18,000 members who devote their energy and expertise to projects in their communities and across the nation. Founded in 1913, the GCA is a leader in horticulture, conservation and civic improvement. The purpose of the GCA is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening; to share the advantages of association by means of educational meetings, conferences, correspondence and publications; and to restore, improve and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and action in the fields of conservation and civic improvement.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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Beth Brumbaugh
Ken Cochran