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(October 19, 2000, Gazette)

‘Welcome stranger, to this place’

Horticulturist Chris BairdPhoto by Mary MacGillivray

Horticulturist Chris Baird stands beside a magnolia plant and an English ivy in Toulinguet Close.

By Mary MacGillivray

The cultivation of nature here on campus is a worthwhile endeavour. Thankfully, some plants around here are still in bloom. How sweet it is – a lot sweeter than a campus of concrete alone. University is among other things an institution. The institutionalization of learning brings with it necessities such as classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, parking and ... a hair salon? Welcome to the “great indoors.” A lot of big businesses are now including malls inside of their office buildings. This means that many will not need to leave the building all day. One can work, have lunch, and ride a stationary bike while watching television and checking e-mail without ever seeing the light of day. Ugh.

It is necessary for us to breathe fresh air for health and relaxation. Green grass and wide expanses of ground improve the moods, and therefore the productivity levels of students. Relaxing in the mall-like atmosphere of the University Centre does not meet this need. When looking for a place to relax outdoors on campus, there are comfy spots such as Burton’s Pond with its ducks and the Botanical Gardens on Mt. Scio Road. Trees grow inside of the atrium found in the arts building. This is a place where many relax and eat lunch when it is too cold outside. Until winter comes, there is one area that is close to school buildings and stands out as being particularly inviting. Here there is a place to relax and enjoy the view.

Plaque which sits in Toulinguet CloseThis plaque, inscribed with a quote from William Blake’s Song First by a Shepherd, sits in Toulinguet Close.

The long courtyard between the music and arts buildings has shelter from the wind. The science and math buildings are on either side of it. Here there is an interesting variety of colourful and hearty plants. These plants continue to impress though it is, for many of them, late in their growing season. In the circular garden surrounding the lovely armillary sphere, a shrub known as the burning bush stands out shockingly red. Also of interest is the lavender that grows here. Its distinctive scent lingers though it has long since finished blooming. Snails, bees and wasps inhabit this space along with blue lobelia, dusty millers, and many other annuals and perennials. The fall flowering sedum is currently in full bloom. The irises have come and gone, as have the huge peony flowers of yellow, red and white. While these members of the garden have already died, the purple and yellow flowering kale will keep its colours until Christmas. This garden has been planted as a sort of fireworks to last as long as possible before winter comes along. Next to this welcomed garden is Toulinguet Close.

Toulinguet Close is the area located directly in front of the music building here on campus. This area was named after Georgina Stirling, a famous opera singer from Twillingate, Newfoundland. Among others, apple and Shammy cypress trees line a healthy group of large rose shrubs growing here. There are mossy cracks underfoot and cedar globe bushes are a welcomed sight during stressful times. Fresh air is rejuvenating for students, and growing trees are certainly more inspiring than concrete. The steps to Toulinguet Close lead down and, voila, the flourishing shrub roses are heavy with their fleshy rose hips. These seed-heads are a pleasant reminder of the regenerating forces of nature. Blushing tea roses peep out as well. Many of these flowers are in bloom for the second time this season. Amidst all of the cement on campus, this is so nice to see. The starkly grey expanse of concrete leading to the doors of the University Centre is less appealing by far. There is really no shelter from the wind here. This amount of unsheltered concrete is really not practical during the cold winter months.

Chris Baird, a horticulturist employed by Memorial, is proud of his work. Horticulture is the art of garden cultivation. Each year in January, Chris is busy placing orders to plant nurseries and planning exactly where everything will be planted. Attractive colours are considered very important. Snap dragons, Jacob’s ladder, and PG hydrangea with their dusting of pink have been planted and are finished blooming by this time of the year. Juniper bushes with their pale berries will bloom into the winter. Evergreen plants have been placed around campus so that there will be greenery in our winter months. Most of the soil used in these gardens consists of screened topsoil, sand and peat.

Chris is able to point out a few surprises growing successfully on campus. One is a large magnolia plant cushioned beside the climbing English ivy on one side of the Science building. Usually this flowering plant would not be compatible with our climate. However, it is able to flourish in its own microclimate with protection and heat from the Science building. It has already set its buds and will bloom large white flowers in the spring. Japanese maple trees have been planted by the new University Centre. Aesthetically speaking, this is greatly appreciated.

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