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Gardens, Not Statues, Will Mark University’s 150th Birthday

Gardens, Not Statues, Will Mark University’s 150th Birthday

In 1867, long before the modern bustle of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a modest Illinois Industrial University devoted itself to the development of hard-working folks in agricultural and mechanical industries.

With a name change and a span of 150 years, the current University of Illinois has broadened its educational scope and enrollment — as well as its standing as a research powerhouse in not just agriculture and mechanics, but also humanities, engineering, technology, and liberal arts and sciences.

Yet there is something special about Illinois’ simpler times and its agricultural roots. As part of the yearlong festivities celebrating the University’s 150th anniversary, a new garden planted at the Illinois Arboretum will capture some of that heritage.

For more than five years, staff members at the Arboretum southeast of the main campus have been planning and contracting an honorary Sesquicentennial Garden to celebrate the school’s milestone birthday. On Friday, Oct. 13, the garden will be revealed to the public for the first time during a dedication ceremony emphasizing the University’s past century and a half of accomplishments.

The project features Illinois loyalty from beginning to end. The honorary project was made possible by a generous donation from College of Media Alumna Jo Ellyn Downey, and the final garden design sketches by Illinois Landscape Architecture Alumnus Ryan Kettelkamp were based on the original vision by Emeritus Professor of Landscape Architecture Terry Harkness. The process has also included several current Illinois students.

“Arboretum staff have been heavily involved ensuring that everything is done to the highest possible standards,” Arboretum Director Kevin McSweeney said of the strong Illinois ties to the garden. “All of the people who have worked on the project thus far have really bought into the uniqueness of the garden. Their workmanship has been perfect.”

Located south of the president’s house, the honorary space will be equipped with ADA-accessible walkways and boast more than 40 flowering trees, an edging of yew hedges, and a spray of perennial plants to be enjoyed seasonally.

Due to the large size of the Arboretum grounds and current gardens, perennials were chosen to create a year-round landscape that won’t need replanting every year.

“We wanted a garden that’s aesthetically pleasing yet can be managed sensibly under the resources we have available to keep it up to a high standard,” McSweeney said, explaining the importance of the plants within the design. “The garden is phased with the variety of the seasons to be enjoyed year-round, not just during the blooms of summer.”

The main importance is not what the garden will look like come October, but rather how it will change throughout the passing years at the University. Walking around campus today, you’ll find an array of monumental statues, memorials, and buildings celebrating dignified people and influential ideas that color a celebrated part of University past and present. However, when it comes to celebrating both the past and future, what better way to commemorate 150 years of institutional greatness than with a medium that is ever changing through seasons, weather, and time?

Much like the humble beginnings of the University of Illinois, the garden’s roots are fit for expansion and are just a suggestive design of what’s to blossom and flourish in years to come.

“What you see now with relatively juvenile trees will look appreciably different in, say, 50 years,” McSweeney said. “There will be some permanency to it, but it will develop and evolve over time.”

— Story and photos by Katie Watson, iSEE Communications Intern

 

 

 

 

In 1867, long before the modern bustle of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a modest Illinois Industrial University devoted itself to the development of hard-working folks in agricultural and mechanical industries.

With a name change and a span of 150 years, the current University of Illinois has broadened its educational scope and enrollment — as well as its standing as a research powerhouse in not just agriculture and mechanics, but also humanities, engineering, technology, and liberal arts and sciences.

Yet there is something special about Illinois’ simpler times and its agricultural roots. As part of the yearlong festivities celebrating the University’s 150th anniversary, a new garden planted at the Illinois Arboretum will capture some of that heritage.

For more than five years, staff members at the Arboretum southeast of the main campus have been planning and contracting an honorary Sesquicentennial Garden to celebrate the school’s milestone birthday. On Friday, Oct. 13, the garden will be revealed to the public for the first time during a dedication ceremony emphasizing the University’s past century and a half of accomplishments.

closeup of bright orange marigold flowers in planter

 

 

 

 

The project features Illinois loyalty from beginning to end. The honorary project was made possible by a generous donation from College of Media Alumna Jo Ellyn Downey, and the final garden design sketches by Illinois Landscape Architecture Alumnus Ryan Kettelkamp were based on the original vision by Emeritus Professor of Landscape Architecture Terry Harkness. The process has also included several current Illinois students.

“Arboretum staff have been heavily involved ensuring that everything is done to the highest possible standards,” Arboretum Director Kevin McSweeney said of the strong Illinois ties to the garden. “All of the people who have worked on the project thus far have really bought into the uniqueness of the garden. Their workmanship has been perfect.”

Located south of the president’s house, the honorary space will be equipped with ADA-accessible walkways and boast more than 40 flowering trees, an edging of yew hedges, and a spray of perennial plants to be enjoyed seasonally.

closeup of bright orange marigold flowers in planter

 

 

 

 

Due to the large size of the Arboretum grounds and current gardens, perennials were chosen to create a year-round landscape that won’t need replanting every year.

“We wanted a garden that’s aesthetically pleasing yet can be managed sensibly under the resources we have available to keep it up to a high standard,” McSweeney said, explaining the importance of the plants within the design. “The garden is phased with the variety of the seasons to be enjoyed year-round, not just during the blooms of summer.”

The main importance is not what the garden will look like come October, but rather how it will change throughout the passing years at the University. Walking around campus today, you’ll find an array of monumental statues, memorials, and buildings celebrating dignified people and influential ideas that color a celebrated part of University past and present. However, when it comes to celebrating both the past and future, what better way to commemorate 150 years of institutional greatness than with a medium that is ever changing through seasons, weather, and time?

Much like the humble beginnings of the University of Illinois, the garden’s roots are fit for expansion and are just a suggestive design of what’s to blossom and flourish in years to come.

“What you see now with relatively juvenile trees will look appreciably different in, say, 50 years,” McSweeney said. “There will be some permanency to it, but it will develop and evolve over time.”

— Story and photos by Katie Watson, iSEE Communications Intern

About this article …

In honor of the University of Illinois sesquicentennial, iSEE is doing a series of pieces on the rich history of ecological and environmental research and breakthroughs on campus. Our articles, photos, and videos also will touch on student, faculty, and staff activism and leadership on behalf of Mother Earth in the past 150 years — which have ramped up considerably in the past few decades! And this series will explore the future of sustainability, clean energy, and environmental efforts at Illinois and abroad.

Full list of iSEE articles >>>

Check out the U of I sesquicentennial website at 150.illinois.edu >>>