April 11, 2001

Class Erecting Eden Beside Mann Library

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New shoots and crocuses are not the only ones breaking ground this spring. Students enrolled in “Creating the Urban Eden,” a landscape architecture/horticulture class, are nurturing their own patch of spring growth on the east terraced section of Mann Library.

“The class project is designed to both improve what has been a disappointing garden space until now and to allow students to gain some hands-on landscape and horticultural experience,” said Eveline Ferretti, administrator of special projects at Mann Library.

The project aims to replace the garden Cornell had planted alongside the library three years ago. The old garden could not thrive because the quality of the soil was poor and the plants chosen were not suited for the conditions of the area.

With new aspirations of success, students worked in groups to analyze the landscape and draw up new plans for the space. Afterwards, they collaborated with Mann Library officials to choose a design.

“Its great that we had real clients,” said Prof. Nina Bassuk, horticulture. “The director of Mann Library gave us feedback and voted with the students on the final scheme.”

The Grounds Department of Cornell is furnishing plant material and other supplies.

“It’s a good deal because we put in the labor of design and installation which could cost several thousand dollars,” said Bassuk.

In two five-hour planting sessions, one held yesterday and the other to be held on Thursday, the group hopes to have the project completed. Yesterday, organic material derived from food composite waste of Cornell cafeterias was incorporated into the soil.

“During the original instillation, there was no site remediation,” said Dan Otis grad. “There is no oxygen in the soil and very few plants are flourishing. Right now we are amending the soil.”

After the oxygen has been reintroduced to the soil, the group will install plants, ground covers and shrubs, some of which include: golden princesses, Virginia sweetspire and hummingbird clethera.

“After the class did soil testing, they came up with better species for the [garden’s] environment,” said Peter Schrempf, administrative manager of Mann Library. “We are excited to be getting better plants back there. Not only will it look nice, but it can be used as an outdoor classroom for future classes to see how the site matures.”

According to Prof. Peter Trowbridge, landscape architecture, the garden will include three to four times the number of plants which adorned the previous garden. Rocks for sitting will be installed as well.

“The rocks weigh over one ton,” Otis said. “And on this squishy soil, the forklift sinks — but we overcame that setback.”

To involve both landscaping and horticulture, the class is team-taught by Bassuk and Trowbridge. The class is open to both graduate students and undergraduates.

“To a certain degree in either field, you have to get involved with both. In this class we have a hands-on opportunity to see where the two fields overlap and intersect,” said Ferretti.

Besides landscaping and plant-selection, the class provides hands-on experience with a real life situations involving actual clients.

“It clearly brings home how hard it is and how much material goes into [creating a landscape],” said Michael Meric grad. “It illustrates an aspect of the business you might not see in design.”

“[The class] involves a lot of preparation and behind the scenes coordination,” Trowbridge agreed. “It’s picking stones from the quarry and ordering plants on time. It’s not just planting and design, but getting materials.”

The completion of the garden will not only provide Mann Library with a new garden and sitting area, but it will educate students in more than one discipline.

“I am happy with the transformation so far,” Trowbridge said. “By the end of Thursday we hope this will be a very different place.”

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag