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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blooms of a Different Nature

Temporary student art project installation on 12/14/11 in the West Courtyard Garden behind the Benjamin Building.
This time of year, we often have blooms of a different nature spontaneously sprouting up around and near the Art/Sociology Building.  At the end of the fall semester, final art projects are due and many of them are placed outdoors.  They suddenly magically appear overnight like ephemeral flowers, often bringing beauty and freshness to our campus landscape at a time when it appears somewhat dreary as most trees and shrubs have lost their leaves in preparation for winter and even the late fall blooming plants are well past their prime.

While the majority of the student projects appear to be conceived without thought as to how that they will be integrated into the existing landscape, the artist of this installation in the West Courtyard Garden at the Benjamin Building appears to have given quite a bit of thought to this issue.  This site appears to be an integral part of this project.  The narrow triangular form between the two sidewalks is repeated in the narrow triangular form between the legs of the wooden tripod and in the adjacent wire cloth cone.  The triangle formed on the top edge of the red brick Maryland 'M' decoration in the middle of the patio is emphasized with a triangle of carefully placed mulch on the square and wood frame placed over the circle in the middle of the patio.

The use of the square over a circle on the patio reminded me of a simplification of the complex circle and square motif decorating the front of American architect Louis Sullivan's Jewel Box in Grinnell, Iowa.  The Jewel Box is a bank that Sullivan designed that is still in operation as a bank to this day.  It is well worth a side trip if you are traveling along I-80 in Iowa.  Be aware of short lobby hours as I think they closed the lobby at 2:30 pm the day we were there.  Even though we arrived after the lobby was closed, an older, kind hearted gentleman from Grinnell came to our rescue.  He told us that he banked there and then proceeded to pound on the side door so hard that the staff inside could not ignore him.  They opened the door for us and we were allowed to enter the bank from the new addition behind the Jewel Box. 

It appeared like any other bank until we reached the Sullivan designed part of the bank that had been preserved in its original condition and included the original check writing desks designed by Sullivan in the lobby.  My jaw dropped and my mouth was hanging open in disbelief at the beauty before me.  The feeling was very similar to a deeply moving religious experience.  The black and white pictures that I had seen of the exterior years ago did nothing to prepare me for the beauty of the interior with its fine woodwork, incredible light fixtures, wall of stained glass windows behind the cashiers and overhead skylights etc.  It was a work of fine art that you could walk through and be totally immersed within.  It is wonderful that this building and its contents have been preserved for us all to enjoy.  I can't think of many buildings built in recent decades that will stand up to the test of time and still be so beautiful so many years after that they were first built.  BBC Scotland has an excellent video on man's pursuit of beauty and why beauty matters.

The extensive use of white in the above student project also reminded me of one of my favorite artists, Louise Nevelson.  Louise used white almost exclusively in many of her projects during a certain period in her career.  She was quite an insightful person as you can see in her wonderful quote below.

When people lose their center, they go in for material things.  But they can come back to it, sometimes with a difference, and sometimes they blossom more.  I think we all fall, but some of us have something that we pick ourselves up and go on, to greater things, and I think the difference between not going on and going on is where life really fulfills itself.  Life isn't one straight line.  Never.  Most of us have to be transplanted to the proper environment, like a tree, before that we blossom.   -Artist, Louis Nevelson

I am betting money, marbles and chalk that the artist that designed and installed the project in the West Courtyard Garden at the Benjamin Building was not inspired by the things that I was reminded of, when that I viewed the artist's work.  However, I think good art sparks the imagination and psyche of the viewer in a positive manner, even if that it was not in the way that the artist intended.

Below are some photographs of other student projects that caught my eye on Wednesday, December 14, 2011.  One picture was taken at an earlier date and it is noted in the caption.  We have photographs of some of the previous student art project/sculptures included in a Flickr photo album of campus art work and fountains. 

The above two photos were taken on the upper end of Mayer Mall near Preinkert Field House.

The above photo was taken in the courtyard area East of the Art/Sociology Building.

The above photo was taken on the South side of the Architecture Building.

The above 5 photos were taken on the pedestrian bridge on the North side of the Architecture Building.

The photo of this wispy creation was taken on December 5, 2011 on Tawes Plaza, just North of the Art/Sociology Building.

The above three photos were taken at a construction site where that a retaining wall is being reconstructed Northwest of the Art/Sociology Building. 

The metal sculpture above reminds me of a wind tossed Hare's Foot Fern (Phlebodium aureum) as well as other plants.

We are lucky to have these projects that spark our imaginations suddenly appear, to be able to live in the moment with them and enjoy them in our landscape, even though like blossoms, they may be gone tomorrow.

Sam Bahr, author and photographer


  1. What a great way to spend a Sunday morning, reading your blog and relaxing with my hot coffee and bagel. I got several things out of it, and the quote by Nevelson is particularly inspiring for me right now. Keep writing, Sam!

  2. Sara, thanks for the comment! Louise Nevelson shared a number of thoughts that impressed me in a book that I read years ago. Unfortunately, they are complex and lengthy and do not lend themselves well to short quotes. However, a number of years ago, Reader's Digest did share a condensed version of Louise Nevelson's quote that I shared above.

  3. Loved reading your post on the Artists!! Quite inspiring they are!! Thanks Sam for sharing, will be coming back often to see what I will find here. Hoping you have a very Merry Christmas!

  4. Debi, thanks for checking out our post. We appreciate your interest in checking out our future posts.


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Contact Information for the University of Maryland Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Mailing and Shipping address (This is the location of our partner, UMD Landscape Services, and the office of our Assistant Director, Karen Petroff):
University of Maryland
Wye Oak Building (428)
4201 Landscape Ln.
College Park, MD 20742-7215
phone: 301-405-3320
fax: 301-314-9943
hours: 6 am to 2:30 pm, M-F

Horticulturist's Offices and Meeting Room (No mail delivery or shipping to this location):
University of Maryland
Arboretum Outreach Center (156)
3921 Stadium Dr.
College Park, MD 20742
phone: 301-405-3320
fax: 301-314-9943
hours: 7 am to 3:30 pm, M-F, by appointment or prescheduled times only, as sometimes everyone is out on campus and the building will be locked

Click on the below link to a campus map, click on the address search tab and then enter the campus locations to find out where buildings are located. As of September 10, 2015, Google does not have the correct locations, while this map does. http://maps.umd.edu/addressing/ There is a second, more complex, interactive campus map that has much more information on it such as parking locations, public transportation etc. when you use the red 'layers' tab. http://maps.umd.edu/map/ The red 'directions' tab will allow you to get directions from one building to another.

blog administrator, Sam Bahr, 301-405-7926 or 301-405-3320
e-mail: sbahr@umd.edu

updated 10/6/2015


Our gardens are free and open to the public. There are some parking lots (read the signs for that parking lot carefully) that are free to park in after 4 pm and before 7 am and on weekends, except on game days and during other special events. There is public parking in four large parking garages at the rate of $3 per hour with a daily maximum of $15. On weekends in the garages, the rate is $3 per hour with a daily maximum rate of $5 per hour. There is a small amount of additional pay parking along some streets. Navigation around campus is much easier with these interactive campus maps: http://maps.umd.edu/map/. You can look up parking locations and building locations using this map. Use the search tab to bring up the page to search for campus building names, locations and addresses.

updated 10/6/2015

Butterfly feeding on the nectar of Russian Sage blossoms

General Information about the UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The University of Maryland, the state’s flagship campus, is located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. The American Association of Public Gardens, by designating the university as an arboretum and botanical garden in 2008, recognized former President C.D. Mote, Jr.’s commitment to becoming a green campus. Maryland is also the first university in the state to be honored as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Arboretum and Botanical Garden consists of our entire 1,250 acre College Park, Maryland campus. The Campus collection of over 8,000 trees, garden plantings and nearly 400 acres of undeveloped urban forest is a beautiful reminder of Maryland’s history and a harbinger of Maryland’s future. The university looks at the campus’ green space as a major resource for its educational, research and service missions.

Hornbake Plaza

Hornbake Plaza
Honeylocust fall foliage color

UMD Arboretum and Botanical Garden Plant Inventory

You can look up the identity of many trees and a few other plant materials using this interactive campus map: http://maps.umd.edu/map/. Click on proceed to map. Then click on the dark red 'layers' tab in the upper left corner. Next select 'Arboretum and Botanical Garden' and then click on the box in front of 'campus plant inventory.' Wait for green dots to slowly fill up the map, then click on the green dots on the campus map to identify the plant materials.

Our plant inventory or plant collections database can also be considered a plant database, plant search, plant locator, plant finder, plant collection database, living collections management system, plant records system or plant mapping system for campus plantings.

updated 1/6/16

Photo of the Interactive Campus Map Showing the Campus Plant Inventory

Photo of the Interactive Campus Map Showing the Campus Plant Inventory

Tawes Plaza Gardens

Tawes Plaza Gardens
Kim's Knee High Purple Coneflower, Russian Sage, White Out Rose and Dwarf Pampas Grass are featured in this planting in 2010.