THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON ALUMNI MAGAZINE
As the trees grew in size, Hoyte's concept became reality. Not only were the March blooms impressive, but the changing leaves in the autumn added variety to the space. What was once a "mud hole" and an ROTC parade ground became a sacred space.
Why does the Quad work as well as it does? Architecture Emeritus Professor Norm Johnston says the unity of the Quad's architectural framework is one factor. "The landscape treatment deserves much of the credit: the simplicity of its floor of lawns and bricked walks and the ranks of Yoshino cherry trees that parallel its walls."
"Each season is so different," says Patterson. "In the spring it's like a fairyland. When the petals fall, it's like walking through pink snow."
During blossom time, she watches tourists and families coming to campus to take in the view. "It's an impromptu festival. What happens is what the University is all about-it becomes a community."
No one disputes that the space is a success and that the cherries are a major reason why. ("Those trees have done more goodwill for the UW than anything else we've done," comments Mann.) But there is some debate over how the University is going to replace them in the next 10 to 20 years.
One approach is to replace them piecemeal as the older trees die. This has already happened with two trees in the southeast corner of the Quad, near Smith Hall. Gardeners uprooted the dying cherries, took care to amend the soil, and planted saplings in the same spots.
The danger of direct replanting is that some disease may remain in the soil to attack the new tree, says Talley. So far, signs are good that this is not taking place.
But this piecemeal plan has its critics. The Quad will end up with trees of different sizes at different ages. "If you want an even-aged stand-which is more dramatic-you need to plant them all at once," notes arborist Sisson.
New trees of the same age could be planted in spaces between the old ones, Sisson explains. When the new plantings are established, the dying trees could be removed. "I've been agitating for this for many years," says Botany Professor Walker, who is a former chair of the UW Landscape Advisory Committee.
"You just don't know which old ones are going to conk out," Walker adds. By planting replacements now, between the old trees, the young trees can establish good growth and a large crown. As the older trees die over the next 10 or 20 years, "you could take them out and you'd never notice that they were gone," he says.
Forest Resources Professor Emeritus Dale Cole currently heads the UW Landscape Advisory Committee. This spring the committee began a major study for the entire campus on replacing its aging trees. "What's happening in the Quad is an issue that is happening all the way across the campus," he explains. "Trees mature and they die and they need replacement. One has to look at a long-range plan."
Cole says the study will take at least a year before recommendations will be sent to Executive Vice President Weldon Ihrig, and a plan for the Quad will be part of the proposal. As for replacing the cherries, Cole favors interplanting now with new saplings. "Then I would take out the mature trees. The uniformity is one thing that makes them impressive, as well as the blooming. But this is a personal opinion only."
Patterson cringes at the thought of workers chopping down the gnarled cherries. "You want to see them die a natural death," she says. But being a gardener herself, Patterson adds, "Trees have a cycle. You have to enjoy them for what they are."
Will there always be Yoshino cherries in the Quad? Unless there is a devastating disease or a drastic change in aesthetics, these trees will always be a part of the University of a Thousand Years. "I used to live in Washington D.C.," says Patterson. "In the spring I'd visit the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin. But the Quad outdoes that. It's unexpected. I can't explain it except to say that it's magic." · Tom Griffin is editor of Columns.
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