Shakespeare Garden being brought back to life
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Shakespeare Garden being brought back to life

Across from the Pardee Laboratory lies a small plot of land set aside for a garden. For years, it has lain forgotten and largely empty — until this year, when a process began to bring the Shakespeare Garden back to life.

Darlene Farabee, interim chair of the English department, said Shakespeare gardens are a nationwide trend. The point of the garden is to grow plants that are mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.

Farabee said Facilities Management has been corresponding with the English department to understand their expectations of the garden.

“At this point, the English department is just interested in helping Facilities and groundskeeping in any way we can, as far as offering some help, or maybe offering to organize volunteers to help weed the garden or something like that,” Farabee said. “They’ve been very kind about staying in touch with us and figuring out ways that we can sort of help.”

Bob Oehler, assistant vice president of Facilities Management, said the garden started its transformation during the summer of 2014.

“Until this past summer 2014, there was no certain future for this once beautiful space,” Oehler said via email.

The Campus Infrastructure Project renovated the garden before winter, planting roses and placing concrete dividers around the planting sections, Oehler said. This spring, a watering system was added, and perennial plants suitable to Vermillion’s climate were selected for planting.

“They bought a wholesale nursery for the garden. Once planted and established this spring or summer, the garden will require minimal upkeep and maintenance from the FM Grounds staff,” Oehler said.

The garden was originally built in the early 1980s by a group of volunteers from the English department, but as support for the project dwindled, the garden fell into disrepair, both Oehler and Farabee said.

Farabee said collecting plants that could survive South Dakota’s climate was a task easier said than done.

“I know (Facilities Management) worked really hard to locate plants that are appropriate for this region and will actually be able to make it, and yet are still connected to those quotations and ideas from the plays,” Farabee said.

Farabee said the garden’s landscape design is unique in the fact that students and faculty can walk into the space. A deck installation may also be added to provide a hangout area in the garden.

“We have lots of plantings and lots of those side-of-buildings kind of gardens, but this is one of the rare ones that you’re invited to walk into,” Farabee said. “I know a couple of faculty members considered it a meditative space.”

Graduate student Lacey Leichtnam said having a garden is important not only to those here now but also to those who have been or are not yet a part of the University of South Dakota’s community.

“It means a lot to returning alumni and future students to be able to come to a campus where they have nice little areas like (the) Shakespeare Garden,” she said.

Leichtnam said she hopes the garden will continue to be watched over and will be more appreciated by those on campus.

“I think it’s just really beautiful,” Leichtnam said. “I think particularly to people that are familiar with what that garden represents and the English department, I think it really means a lot that a part of our campus such as that is kept up and repaired.”

Leichtnam said she hopes the garden’s new landscape design will become a “point of pride” for the university.

“It can potentially be a really beautiful part of campus, and I hope that even when they give tours to prospective students and staff here on campus, that that’s something they point out,” Leichtnam said. “I think that’s something people walk past but don’t really know what it’s about, why it’s there or the importance of it.”

(Photo: A statue of William Shakespeare overlooks the Shakespeare garden at the University of South Dakota across from the Pardee Laboratory April 21. The garden was established in the 1980s by USD’s English department, and groundskeeping has recently resumed renovations. Jennifer Baggett / The Volante)