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Humanities Garden gets a facelift

As part of a $1.9-million landscaping and infrastructure redesign project, the Harper Humanities Garden has received a facelift. Some of Harper’s water features have morphed into water gardens complete with water lilies, lotuses, cattails, rushes and wild rice. Nearly 100 plants have been installed, including two giant South American lilies. The ponds were resealed, and bio-friendly black coloring was added, turning them into reflecting pools. Once it is determined which aquatic plants thrive in DU’s ponds, other sections of the waterway will be transformed into water gardens next summer.

The Humanities Garden is the centerpiece of DU’s Alter Arboretum, which is billed as a “living fossil forest” and sports the nearest living relatives of the fossilized plants found in the Rocky Mountains. Arboretum Director David Christophel notes that DU incorporated water lilies — the most primitive plants now growing in the U.S. — because “a forest is more than trees,” and there is fossil evidence for aquatic plants in Colorado.

Denver Botanic Gardens has provided design and planting expertise as well as some of the plants themselves. Chancellor Emeritus Dan Ritchie has offered his personal greenhouse to over-winter the plants.

In addition to these improvements, Carnegie Green, located between the Mary Reed Building and Penrose Library, also is getting a new look. When landscaping and replacement of underlying 100-year-old utility pipes are complete in October, the area will feature brick walks and a granite retaining wall that will incorporate carvings depicting the DU rose. Flowers and deciduous shrubs will be planted along with 11 new trees, including five specimen trees. “This garden is the first since Harper where the focus is on the natural landscape,” says University Architect Mark Rodgers.

Christophel believes that the landscaping changes will do more than add to the list of ancient and primitive plants growing in the arboretum. “We are providing an aesthetically beautiful place for the people of DU and greater Denver to relax and contemplate,” he says.

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