Garden Photo of the Day


Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

So I was in Columbus, Ohio, last week and someone there said I should really check out the Dawes Arboretum. So I took the trek out there, and it was very nice, but the biggest wow of the day came when I climbed an observation tower to discover this. A more-than-2,000-foot-long letter hedge that spells out DAWES ARBORETUM. It makes a big impact, but for the life of me, I can’t decide if I like it or not, which I think is really cool in itself. If an artistic statement doesn’t make you think, why make it? So….help me decide. What do you think? If you love it, tell me why. If you hate it, tell me why, but try to be somewhat polite… I’ll bring everything back down to human scale tomorrow, I promise. Now, let the debate begin!

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

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  1. user-1020932 07/02/2013

    i don't hate it but i don't love it either. it doesn't excite me , i would rather have spent the money, time and labor on something more interactive or visually stimulating.

  2. lepfan 07/02/2013

    If there is a point to this, I'm missing it big time. Boring and a waste of space and plants.

  3. user-1020932 07/02/2013

    i just read the reasoning behind the planting originally and understand but i'm still not crazy about it

  4. tree_ee 07/02/2013

    I think of stuff like that as advertising, rather than gardening. It's probably pretty impressive viewed from an airplane.

    There's a hedge like that in Hershey, Pa, right outside the original chocolate factory . . . but it's smaller and can be read from the road.

  5. lauravalentine 07/02/2013

    I think an arboretum's goal is to display a wide variety of species to educate the public and show the majesty of nature. Another goal is nature conservation and animal habitat This type of design and use of space does not meet any of those goals in my opinion.

  6. Annesfirst 07/02/2013

    Put me on the side of "dislike." it seems silly to me, and I would also classify it as advertising. Manicured hedges can be beautiful, as at Les Quatre Vints, but I wouldn't put this one in the same category.

  7. briandowns 07/02/2013

    I've been there many a time on my travels to Cincinnati, and all this time I thought it spelled out " DOWNS ", not Dawes. So, yeah, I used to like it, but maybe not so much now.

  8. Annedean 07/02/2013

    Hope the rest of the arboretum is more interesting. This photo to me shows a terrible waste of space. Dislike!

  9. GarPho 07/02/2013

    I would appreciate it when flying overhead, as it would tell me what I'm looking at. Perhaps that was the purpose. I can see no other.

  10. Jay_Sifford 07/02/2013

    I'm not a fan. I put it in the "cheezy" category, the same category I would put those advertising banners hanging on the tails of airplanes. With all the wonderful sizes, shapes, colors and textures available, more than ever before, why waste space with something like this?

    I hope this was "somewhat polite".

  11. SueLHommedieu 07/02/2013

    Dislike. I'd rather see something interesting or educational.

  12. grannieannie1 07/02/2013

    Think of the gasoline needed to mow around all that!!!

    The only positive: it is created with an American native tree. But, I agree with others it is boring. One expects more of an arboretum. And think of all the bee and butterfly nectar and color that land could provide. At the least they should surround it in a field of wildflowers or crops.

  13. user-7006948 07/02/2013

    It might might be nice on a smaller scale, but I think the space could have been better used with other botanicals. Just visited wonderful Green Bay Botanical Gardens and spend far more time looking at more diverse beauty than a "sign" made with just one variety. Too much work to create and maintain for what you get to look at.

  14. Aarchman07030 07/02/2013

    If they wanted to celebrate plants--surely one of the missions of an arboretum--they could have trained them into fantastic, over-sized topiary, visible from the air.

    Spelling out the name of the Arboretum seems so utterly lacking in imagination or style. It actually seems HOSTILE to the plants to force them into a lifetime of advertising drudgery in such a mundane and lifeless way.

    Hate it.

  15. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/02/2013

    There are lots of reasons to give it a thumbs down from a gardener's point of view but it does make a statement. It looks to be in its prime but, I would imagine, is very vulnerable to a downward spiral in appearance. Hmm, I was thinking the maintenance would be a nightmare but after reading about the Woodward American Arborvitae, it seems they made a good choice from that standpoint. I think my thumb is pointing up a little since the it was the idea of the original founder. The arboretum's website says the foundation he started and funded carries most of the financial load so it's fair that his vision lives on.

  16. Quiltingmamma 07/02/2013

    Not a fan. I expect they have a brand logo they could have used instead. I think the days of this sort of 'greeting' is passe.

  17. marymax 07/02/2013

    I am disappointed in today's GPOD. Dawes Arboretum is an AWESOME place to visit. It breathtakingly beautiful and the tree collections and different areas of the arboretum are very diverse. I've been there many times and am afraid that people won't go based on this post. There is MUCH more to see and do and I hope Michelle has other pics she can show. Personally I think today's GPOD is in BAD TASTE. We are not supposed to bash peoples gardens or designs in this forum and I'm surprised and disappointed that Michelle is started this!

  18. FaithRenfield 07/02/2013

    Dislike. It sets the wrong tone. An arboretum should be a place that showcases local plants and educates residents of that state about them. This 1950s style advertising scheme is very dated. . . And who visits an arboretum from an airplane, anyway?

  19. oldsquaw 07/02/2013

    When you go to the Dawes website and see just how rich an experience there is to be had there, these letters as an introduction really don't do the arboretum justice. There has to be a more attractive and inviting way to commemorate the founder.

  20. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/02/2013

    I'm ashamed to admit that I live about 30 minutes from the arboretum and have never been. :) When I fly, I always wish there were signs visible from the plane that would tell me where I was or what I was looking at. They have almost 2000 acres. Why not? And I'm sure no one on this blog would avoid visiting this arboretum because of a discussion about a topiary. Thanks Michelle!

  21. critterman76 07/02/2013

    I think it is great.I imagine the rest of the arboratum has the gardens ,plants and flowers others are looking for.I find this more interesting and unique than just an open field or a massive planting which would be even MORE work

  22. briandowns 07/02/2013

    A note to marymax- Ms. Gervais pointed out that she was just seeing who liked/disliked the photo, she wasn't bashing the arboretum itself, just soliciting opinions. I love the idea of stirring up something on occasion in this otherwise pc world.And she DID say to be nice! That spelled-out hedge in the photo is rather iconic, if not mis-directed horticulturally.

  23. tractor1 07/02/2013

    From the critter's viewpoint all that dense shrubbery with plenty of water nearby and acres of grazing lea makes this project a spectacular wildlife habitat. From the human point of view on the ground there'd be no way to discern that the shubbery is other than shrubbery. To humans flying over it's advertising, but to thousands of birds it's home. I can say more about many of the comments here but being polite all I'll add is I've seen much poorer examples of land management from many of the contributors here, especially all those with truck loads of cheapo gravel polluting their landscape. I will assume that those hedgerows take only a small percentage of the total space, I have no complaints about it, in fact I'd like to see it expanded with greater variety and larger plantings... and it's not permanent... I'm positive if next year it was removed and replaced with beds of daffodils spelling out the name most folks here (those who obviously know nothing of wildlife habitat) would have a totally opposite opinion. On another tack I think the Dawes Arboretum web site leaves a lot to be desired, it's cumbersome to navigate, doesn't even seem to have a section explaining "About". However there is a well hidden section alluding to the facility being primarilly about wildlife. Why do so many think this planet is all about them....

  24. jdonatelle 07/02/2013

    Hate is maybe a strong word but for sure I do not love. It is a feat like a corn maze but does not amaze, it is neither creative or beautiful. It's appeal if there is any fleeting.

  25. MichelleGervais 07/02/2013

    Ah, healthy debate. Ain't it grand? I honestly had no idea you guys would feel so strongly about this! But it's good to shake things up a bit once in a while, don't you think?

    The Dawes Arboretum really is a great place. I'd love to post more photos, but unfortunately, when I was there it was in blazing sun, and I rarely take photos under those conditions because we can't use them in the magazine. As far as the hedge letters go, I respect the history of the project, and commend the arboretum for respecting that history and maintaining tradition. It really is a grand statement, and sometimes we don't have to have a grand purpose to make a grand statement.

  26. janeeliz 07/02/2013

    I think it's uninteresting....except perhaps from a plane.

  27. greatdanes 07/02/2013

    I agree with tractor1. I garden 2 acres choosing first for wildlife then for myself. I'm trying to give back a little where a lot has been taken away. I find it pleasantly amusing to find that after letting us know the arboretum had made a BIG name for themselves that indeed they had.

  28. literatejo 07/02/2013

    I LOVE it! I think it's fun & funky, a nice bit of Americana, and a grandiose gesture in the best way! It reminds me of those old postcards showing a map of the U.S. with place names splashed all across it. Imagine walking through that huge park and hedges, and then realizing that you're actually so small you can't see the forest for the trees! I think gardening is an art form and, as such, is large enough to express all kinds of tastes. The hedge is obviously healthy, the plants are happy, and its shape serves a purpose. There's also an argument that, like the best of art, it sparks interesting conversation and even debate (obviously). With 2000 acres, they can afford to do something very grand while still devoting most of their space to ornamental and educational plantings. While I love flowers and mostly flower garden myself, a bold statement like this has its own beauty. The fact that it may advertise the arboretum doesn't detract in any way from its lush greenery. Rock on, Dawes!

  29. GrannyMay 07/02/2013

    As its Mission Statement says "The Dawes Arboretum is dedicated to increasing the love and knowledge of trees, history and the natural world. Founded in 1929 by Beman and Bertie Dawes, The Arboretum was inspired by the couple’s love of trees and nature. Today we remain dedicated to our mission through providing exceptional educational programs and events as well as maintaining incredible horticulture collections on over 1,800 acres of beautiful grounds."

    In his mind, Beman Dawes had a good reason for planting the original letter hedge. I think it is important to honour the founder of such a place by respecting his decision, if at all possible.

    Personally, I like the idea of being able to read the name from the air, though I prefer a mixed hedge to monoculture.

  30. freshwaterbabe 07/02/2013

    Have you ever seen the Serpent Mound? It is one of the mosti mpressive human structures left from this continent's prehitory , and it is in Ohio. Seen from above these two creations have a very similar affect. I feel this garden design is an homage to or was inspired by the Serpent Mound. It's big, it's unusual, it's impressive, and it says, "We're here!" I like it very much.

  31. janetsfolly 07/02/2013

    Good job, Michelle! You wanted opinions, you got 'em! And funny, I've been tp Dawes several times, in all seasons, and never went up the tower or realized this was there. Usually had a specific "mission" and/or my mom along so sort of missed the trees for the forest! This feature makes me think of golf courses, but as time goes on will probably become more respectable as nostalgic Americana. I think honoring the vision of the founders is important and isn't always easy in these economically difficult times. Opinions change, gardens endure. Thankfully!

  32. solossong 07/02/2013

    It's interesting but not my cup of tea. I would rather see something more practical. Does it do anything for the environment? I wouldn't go to see it.

  33. briandowns 07/02/2013

    My favorite Dawes Arboretum moment was a few years ago- I was wearing one of my University of Delaware Botanic Gardens tee-shirts with a rendition of Stewartia pseudocamillia
    ' Ballet ' ( I know, what a plant nerd...)on the front , and realized I was standing in front of that cool tree as I wore the shirt. How do you plan something like that?

  34. Cay442 07/02/2013

    like it a lot! always enjoy creative expression, even if it would never occur to me!

  35. nsands 07/02/2013

    Not a big fan of words spelled out with plants, in general. But in suburban Philadelphia when I was a kid, someone used to plant crocuses on a hillside that spelled "WELCOME SPRING" when they bloomed. I always looked forward to that.

  36. GracePeterson 07/02/2013

    That's an awful lot of lawn to mow, fertilize and keep watered. I think in this day and age when we're more eco-conscious, this might send a mixed message. However, from a design standpoint, I like it.

  37. azulverde 07/02/2013

    The comments here just proved the saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. On the ground, I probably would not appreciate it as much as when I'm at least a thousand feet in the air as in an airplane, a hot air balloon or in an airliner coming from the east and descending towards the Columbus airport. The feature is only a small part of the arboretum which after viewing their website showed that they have a lot more to offer. The aim of the founders was to inspire people to plant trees and I'm sure they have accomplished that. The giant letter hedges are only a minuscule part of the arboretum and distinguish it from other arboretums, and if some people do not like it, then there are other outstanding features that would make it worthwhile visiting.

    If you want a good view of the giant letter hedges, go to googlemaps and zoom in just south of the Dawes Arboretum Pond.

  38. Rosella49 07/02/2013

    Sadly, a giant waste of space.

  39. ancientgardener 07/02/2013

    I think it's pretty cool, but there should be a couple of small signs along the way advising to climb the tower to solve the mystery.

  40. cwheat000 07/02/2013

    I don't have a strong opinion on it , but it is kind of cheesy. I can say my 4 year old would love it. Sometimes cheesy is fun. Pink flamingos and garden gnomes are gaining popularity again. ( for the record, I don't have either, lol)

  41. cwheat000 07/02/2013

    It is a good destination after seeing the the world's biggest ball of twine and the world's largest frying pan.

  42. lej619 07/02/2013

    I think its fun. I am always well almost always impressed when I see farmers that do this sorta thing with their crops.
    I do agree they should have a sign letting you know you should go up the tower to check it out.

  43. dadeo1 07/02/2013

    why not embelish it? fill in some of the letters with.. roses, another with daylilies....something for us, on the ground to 'see'. or weave a 'ribbon' of lilacs thru the letters....
    otherwise, quite boring and not willing to 'pay' to climb the tower to see the words. hohum.

  44. user-1020932 07/02/2013

    wow, who knew this would draw so many comments?!?!? now i'm gonna go plant my name on the back bank with crimson pygmy barberries

  45. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/02/2013

    crimson pigmy're a glutton for punishment!

  46. user-1020932 07/02/2013

    no, meander, my hobby is thorn removal

  47. PattyLouise 07/02/2013

    I think it's a waste of plants & space. What a great garden that could have been. Imaginative tho not my style.

  48. sheila_schultz 07/02/2013

    Hey Michelle... have you stopped giggling yet? What a fun day of 'polite' opinions from so many GPOD'rs! Love it! My opinion? Whether or not I like his vision doesn't really matter... when you are thoughtful enough to fund an arboretum, you deserve to have your dreams implemented.

  49. crizmo 07/02/2013

    About five miles from this mega font hedge is the worlds largest picnic basket:

    Also in the neighborhood is another faunic phrase, this one in yew and owned by The Church of God at God's Acres. It reads simply "GODS ACRES". What I like about it is the D looks exactly like an O. It persists in my mind as "GOO's ACRES"

    Back to Dawes. My favorite feature there is a set of paving stones arranged in an open patch of lawn so that you can be the gnomon, provided the sun is out.!i=2487825863&k=nFwZcfx&lb=1&s=A

    There are only two arboretums in central Ohio, Dawes and OSU's Chadwick Arboretum. As far as Arboretum's go, Dawes is the king. The Chadwick is small and the trees are far from mature. If you want big script though, go see OSU's marching band, they preform in the autumn adjacent to Chadwick. Not only is it big but it sings!

  50. Arian 07/03/2013

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. If I can't see it from the ground, I'm not going to see it. Scared spitless of heights.

  51. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/03/2013

    Oh, shoot, I think I have to pop back in for one more comment because that will put us at 50 (or over if someone else has jumped in also). The different observations have all been interesting. I've enjoyed following the discussion.

  52. cwheat000 07/03/2013

    Thanks crizmo for the links. That is one big basket!

  53. scba 07/03/2013

    I think you already said it... you can't decide if you like it or not, and that's cool in and of itself. Well, cool is good. Plus a bit of mystery always makes a garden better.

  54. JonMoss 07/03/2013

    Check out the satellite view courtesy of google maps. The hedge has been maintained with great precision. It reminds me so much of a title block that I can imagine that it was mistaken by Mr. Dawes to be a design element that got approved for development.,39%C2%B058%2708.75%22+N++82%C2%B025%2701.62%22+W&ei=o4zTUd2OFojBOOKrgIgO&ved=0CC4Q8gEwAA

    BTW ...Outstanding comment to thumb's up ratio. I have never seen it greater than 1.

  55. arboretum 07/03/2013

    What an egregious and unimaginative waste of energy. NOT something to be proud of.If I were a donor, i'd funnel my funds elsewhere.

  56. cindyno1 07/06/2013

    I agree, its OK, but I would like to see a maze maybe or something similar

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