College Gardens


Traveling Gardener

The spring semester has ended and the last notes of pomp and circumstance have faded away on college and university campuses.  Students have packed up and wandered off campus for their summer adventures and the education that may bring.  Right now until late August acres of college and university gardens cared for by fulltime groundskeepers are blooming and growing just hoping to be noticed!

The ivy-covered halls of academia are available all across this country and are remarkable public spaces.  In between the buildings for classrooms, libraries, laboratories and sports facilities there is landscaped space with shade and benches for enjoying the views.  So whatever direction you plan to travel consider a visit to a college or university specifically to enjoy the gardens and landscape.

If you are traveling north, the Montana State University in Bozeman is worth a visit.  As a land grant agricultural college it was founded in 1893. Snow covered mountain peaks surround the campus of 1781 acres in the Gallatin Valley.  If you think mountain landscape means pine trees and nothing more you will be surprised.  Planted along side the Old Main building are flowering crabapples and Japanese maples.  Campuses established as part of the Morrill land grant colleges act of 1857 have old stately trees that have been consistently cared for over the years.  The magnificent trees are reason enough to stroll such a campus.  In the Montana summer you can enjoy cool breezy temperatures with the sun peeking through wild puffy white clouds.

Traveling Gardener

If you find yourself in the San Diego area consider a visit to the University of San Diego. High on a hill the university overlooks the Pacific Ocean andMission Bay.  This university was founded in 1949 and has 180-acre campus to wander. The Spanish renaissance architecture of the university buildings alone is worth a visit.  The tropical plant palette of hydrangeas, lilies, and hibiscus provide color everywhere you look.  The variety of trees from pine, palm and floss silk are mixed in among the beautifully landscaped grounds.

College gardens contain amazing surprises if you have time to notice! Looking down from the balcony of the USD Shiley Science building you see a patio space named Strata Plaza.  According to Starla Tudor, building manager, “the layers that you see represent the earth’s crust in San Diego County.  The layer closest to the building represents the oldest layer, which is the Peninsular Range Plutonic.

There are 13 layers represented spanning from 100 million years ago to the most recent dated at 200 thousand years ago.  The rocks and shells that are imbedded in the concrete are actual samples dug up from where they are exposed in San Diego County.  Resident geologists dug up the samples and worked closely with the building contractors to put the rocks and shells in the appropriate layers.  Concrete dye was used to match the earth’s true color for those strata.”   Certainly this is an example of an outdoor classroom patio!

Traveling Gardener

If you are planning a “staycation” here in Maricopa County consider a visit to the Tempe campus of ASU.  The entire campus of approximately 750 acres is considered an arboretum and is recognized by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta as the principle public garden collection of date palms in North America. Campus Harvest yields around 4500 lbs. of dates each year that are sold through the college bookstore.

The ASU Arboretum staff, assisted by their volunteers, cares for a collection of conifers, citrus, tropical plants, native plants and cactus, roses, as well as many unique plant cultivars.  Individual spaces include a Secret Garden near the Dixie Gammage building and West Hall, a Zen garden, Herb garden and a Computer garden.  A computer garden you might be asking?  Yes, using recycled materials student volunteers constructed a design by grounds keeper, Zoltan Tresz to create the shape of a computer motherboard.  The best viewing is from the 3rd floor of the Computer Commons Building.

Traveling Gardener

Though the heat is on now at ASU, the grounds are inviting, the students are fewer and there is much to enjoy exploring the campus.  Deborah Thirkhill, the coordinator of volunteers for the arboretum would be glad to have master gardeners volunteer to assist on campus.  A current project is an organic vegetable garden.  Think about it while you sit on a bench in the shade enjoying this wonderful public space we have here in our own community.  Just remember wherever you travel college and universities while they are place of important learning are also public spaces of landscape, architecture and surprises for traveling gardeners.

originally published

RS June 2009

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