Arboretum hopes to build Heritage Garden in the near future

By Bryan Boccelli

Work has officially begun at the University’s Arboretum as staff hope to construct the Heritage Garden, which will feature plants from across the state. Workers began to cut down the poplar trees overlooking Lincoln Avenue about two weeks ago to make way for the project.

Bill Kruidenier, director of the Arboretum, said he hopes to see the Heritage Garden complete as soon as possible. 

“What we’re working on is (finding) a donor or donors because it’s a significant investment,” Kruidenier said.

The garden itself is estimated to cost somewhere between 3.5 and 4 million dollars, and Kruidenier also expressed the arboretum’s need for an endowment of around $3 million dollars for garden maintenance. 

The design that is in place “is a conceptual design, and there’s quite a bit of work yet remaining,” Kruidenier said. 

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    He said the design was put together by University graduates, who collaborated with faculty and the then-director of the arboretum, along with campus and college-level administrators.

    “The garden will serve as an essential gateway and point of orientation for visitors to the Arboretum,” according to a press release from the arboretum. “People enter through the Visitors Center where they can learn more about the garden that awaits them. With a framework of main brick pathways laid out on axial rays and in concentric rings, the Heritage Garden has an underlying logical structure that facilitates exploration.”

    The garden was designed completely by University alumni as a way for them to give back to the school. 

    A group of five graduates of the University’s Horticulture and Landscape Architecture departments worked pro-bono and did not charge the University a design fee.

    “What made (this project) so special for me personally was that I’ve always wanted to give back to the University, and this is a great way to do that,” said Robert Milani, senior landscape architect at Chalet Nursery.

    The garden took about a year and a half to design, and when completed, it will serve the Champaign-Urbana community in various ways.

    “It was a collaborative effort, we’re very proud of it, very happy with it,” Milani said.

    Kruidenier said he hopes the garden will have a positive impact on the community.

    “We hope it will be both an active educational experience (for students) as well as what’s called a passive educational experience for those that are going to look at the gardens and experience the plant material itself,” Kruidenier said. 

    The completion of this garden has been on hold for about five years now, as it could not be completed because of funding shortages due to the recession in 2008.

    “Funding has always been an issue,” said David Williams, professor of crop sciences and collaborator on this project.

    The garden was meant “to emphasize the heritage of plant developers (and) plant explorers from the state of Illinois. Illinois has been very influential in plant breeding works that introduce a wide variety of plants that are commercially very prominent now in the landscape industry,” Williams said. “So my idea was to have a garden that would feature the plants that they developed and their contributions — that was the idea behind it.”

    It is anticipated that the garden will be spread across seven acres, which will include the parking lot. The garden itself would be somewhere around five acres. There is no date yet available as to when construction will begin.

    Bryan can be reached at [email protected].