Confused? Mother Nature gave College Corner an upgrade!

Winter Weather?

Let’s hope the groundhog is right & that spring is just around the corner. Why? Because our favorite corner, College Corner, was literally confused last winter. Wait — maybe I am confused — because it technically wasn’t even winter yet, it was Sunday, December 9th, 2018!

Mother Nature threw us a snowy curve ball with an afternoon of snow: cold, wet & heavy. Even though her wrath landed on a weekend, the next day we started a cleanup that didn’t end for many Sundays to come. Downed trees, broken branches, dozens of “hangers” (which are cracked limbs still dangling within the tree). We slogged around for weeks finding breakage caused by that wet, heavy snow. Bob Chretien, one of our Tribe Arborists said, “We’re still finding damage from that early snow. It’s almost graduation, for crying out loud!”

Snow Storm Victims

Most of the leaves were off the trees, so who paid the price in that wet, heavy snow? Our lovely anchors of the 4 season landscape: the broad-leaf evergreens. Think magnolia, boxwood, camellia, laurel, gardenia, live oak, & the many species of holly. Not only did it break their gorgeous branches, it broke this gardener’s heart! Our wood-chip pile was stacked high with the shredded remains of many beautiful boughs.

What about Pine? Cypress? Fir? Redwood? We call these plant types needle or scale leaf evergreens. Which holds more food, a chopstick or a spoon? Same goes for snow on a leaf: a broad-leaf holds more, a needle-leaf, not so much. More surface = more weight = more damage. A sad day, indeed, thanks to Winter Storm Diego.

Maybe you’ve heard of one of our native trees, the yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria? It’s a broadleaf evergreen with rounded, blueish leaves; bark that is pale gray with white blotches & tiny, shiny, red berries. Yaupons have been growing in Tidewater since Chief Powhatan, and they grew at College Corner, serving as backdrop for the W&M sign. Diego took most of them out on that snowy day.

Diego’s Aftermath

Even though change is hard, change is good. John McFarlane, Associate Director of Grounds & Gardens, saw an opportunity for change at College Corner. “I always thought we needed a proper sign at College Corner, one with permanence. I’ll bet more photographs are taken of that sign,” he said, “than all the pictures of the rest of campus put together!” W&M is famous for history & educational excellence. So we needed a proper sign, one that matches the beauty of historic campus: a brick & mortar statement. Diego gave us a reason to upgrade College Corner.

Adding more flowers makes everything better, if you ask me. We just finished planting the upgraded College Corner: over 1,000 pots of colorful violas & pansies, 151 low-growing junipers, 540 white flowering liriope, and 5 crapemyrtles, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez. Crapemyrtles sport muscular peeling bark that’s cinnamon & beige colored. Their white blooms last for the whole summer, and they’re deciduous! That means their rusty, yellow leaves fall to the ground each October. We learned our lesson, no more broad-leaf evergreens. There are still 3 yaupon hollies that Mother Nature & Diego missed, stalwartly holding their ground by the pedestrian crosswalk on S. Boundary Street.

Illustration showing aerial view of College Corner landscape plan and photo inset of a juniper bush

Experience the upgrade!

As you’re strolling from campus to Merchant’s Square, or strolling through the Wren Yard, see how change is good. The Natchez crapemyrtles match the existing ones across the street in front of the Reves Center, they’ll grow just as big and beautiful. On the corner, the debris is gone, the mortar is set, new flowers and trees are growing, resulting in a fabulous new look at College Corner! We hope you admire our work, we’re proud of it too!

Brick and mortar William & Mary sign surrounded by mulched beds of junipers, crepe myrtles, liriope and violas

Mulched area behind sign in College Corner showing sweeping rows of freshly planted liriope, crepe myrtles and violas.

Thanks, Mother Nature, for allowing College Corner to have an upgrade. Now, please don’t prove your friend, the groundhog, to be a liar, I really am ready for spring. My tired planting muscles are ready for some warm, rejuvenating sun!

Categories: Campus Life, Faculty & Staff Blogs, Williamsburg Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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