Perennial plantings add year-round color to campus landscapeBy Rob McManamy
There is a new flower scheme on campus this summer, and it has been sprouting debate since late May. Changes to campus aesthetics often give rise to a number of varied opinions, but the University Facilities Services Department is just happy people are noticing.
“Yes, we shifted gears this year on the Kramer beds lining the walk to the Administration Building,” said Richard Bumstead, University Planner for Facilities Services. “We opted out of the continued planting of annuals every year so that these beds, along with the circle garden, can look lush for the Reunion/Convocation weekends.”
In that regard, the efforts certainly succeeded.
Many visitors to campus for those events could be heard commenting, usually approvingly, on the horticultural overhaul on the Main Quadrangle, as well as in front of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel along 59th Street. Craig Bergman Landscape Design of Wilmette, Ill., hired last fall by the University, designed the landscaping. “(Craig) is a very talented garden designer here in Chicago,” said Bumstead, who has made it a point to use as much local talent as possible.
“Richard wants to highlight the best design folks in the city,” said Bergman. “So, we were honored to be included.”
As for the new landscaping plan, Bergman said the driving theme has been to replace seasonal plantings with perennials that will inhabit the beds year-round. In fact, some 90 percent of the plantings on the Main Quad now are perennials, he noted.
“The whole thing is a new idea, so this is the first time those beds have been planted with perennials,” said Bergman. “Richard really wanted a dramatic effect, and I think he got it in the brilliant colors we have there now.”
Specifically, in addition to its traditional tulips, the Main Quad now showcases hybrid cone flowers, geraniums, salvias and climbing clematis draped over temporary bamboo towers, each about 5-feet tall. Plans call for those towers to eventually be replaced, perhaps this summer, with iron towers of roughly the same height.
“The idea is that we want to have a structure there that will be visually interesting all year-round, instead of just looking like a series of giraffe graves in the winter,” said Bergman.
At Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the plantings themselves take on more structure. The 20-foot-long rectangular flower beds on either side of the main entrance now bear designs that intentionally mirror the patterns in the large, vertical stained-glass windows on both the east and west sides of the chapel.
“The beds there are new since last fall, but this spring the ornamental artichokes bloomed, surrounded by the annual lantana, both of which are seasonal,” noted Bergman. “The perennials in that pattern are Artemisia.”
While the Rockefeller plantings seem much more structured than the lush wildflower effect on the Main Quadrangle, both are part of the University’s larger, overarching theme. In fact, next spring will see even more floral evolution take place on the Midway Plaisance South Winter Garden. Bergman and Ernest Wong of the Chicago-based Site Design Group already have been retained for that project.
“There have been many upgrades to the landscape on campus, especially in the Quads, and they have involved numerous participants,” added Mary Albanese, Supervisor of the Grounds Service Crew for Facilities Services.
“With all the events held in the Quads during the spring months, culminating with Convocation, it takes the time and effort of many people to produce such a pleasing environment.”