Fall 2012: Get to know Elon's botanical garden
Elon’s botanical garden is much more than rows of pretty plants in a flower bed.
Martin Fowler has walked the brick paths of Elon’s campus more times than he can count, yet the lecturer of philosophy had never stopped in front of Moseley Center simply to admire the landscaping around Young Commons until this summer.
One day he paused, noticing for the first time the multitude of bees and butterflies flitting around the flowers in the large oval planter in front of the building. Those particular plants, Fowler realized, were planted with that purpose in mind. And that is the whole premise of the Elon Botanical Garden.
“It sets expectations for how we should interact with nature,” Fowler says. “It speaks well of Elon that the university is interested not only in the landscape’s aesthetics but also the educational value of nature.”
To establish a botanical garden, an institution has to dedicate its land for that purpose. President Leo M. Lambert did so in November 2004, signing a resolution declaring Elon’s more than 600 acres a botanical garden. Once the dedication was made, the university was able to become a member of the American Public Garden Association.
After the presidential botanical garden declaration, “there was an added emphasis on expanding the diversity of the plant collection on campus and finding ways to facilitate its use,” says Tom Flood, assistant director of Physical Plant and director of landscaping. “It also changed the perspective a lot of employees had of the campus. They’ve come to see many different uses for the landscape.”
In general, botanical gardens must be open to the public, and they must be designated for educational, research or display purposes. Different pieces of the Elon campus landscape advance those goals. The Environmental Education Center on the Loy Farm property southeast of campus serves as an active educational venue. The wilds of the Elon University Forest north of campus offer resources for research in the sciences and inspiration for creativity in the arts. And the meticulously maintained main campus grounds provide an eye-catching display of diverse colors and species.
“Elon’s campus is recognized as one of the most beautiful in the nation thanks to the great work by Tom Flood and his landscaping staff ,” Lambert says. “In addition, many creative faculty working with students in the Elon Forest and on the Loy Farm property help make the physical campus part of the larger learning experience at Elon.