The University Record, September 10, 1996

New entrance will greet visitors at Gardens

Gardens superintendent Mike Hommel (foreground), with senior horticulturist Tom O'Dell and part-time employee Becky Bullington, remove brush to give a clear view of the Gardens from Dixboro Road.

Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services 

Recent work along Dixboro Road has opened the door for the Matthaei Botanical Gardens to create a new entrance for visitors.

The first phase of the reconstruction actually began about four years ago with the removal of barbed wire that topped the Gardens' perimeter fence running along Dixboro Road. "While the original fence remains an eyesore," says Mike Hommel, Gardens superintendent, "it is at least an eyesore not highlighted with barbed wire, an improvement by any standard."

In conjunction with paving and culvert projects scheduled on Dixboro Road by the Washtenaw County Road Commission, the second phase of the entrance project for the Gardens involves clearing and grading the drainage ditches on either side of the main entrance. This work will offer travelers along the roadway a clear line of sight into the Gardens.

"This line of sight will include a long neglected crabapple collection that will be refurbished and presented within a newly established area of turf," Hommel says. "The clearing and maintenance of these ditches, combined with a new line of maintained turf, will create a physical as well as visual link to the surrounding community that is growing so quickly along the Dixboro Road corridor."

The third, and most challenging phase of the work, according to Hommel, will be the planning and establishment of ornamental plant material that must meet the demanding criteria defined by the site. "The gravel and sand glacial till that constitutes the `soil' in this area of the Gardens without access to water, defines a plant palette of drought resistant materials," Hommel says.

Hommel hopes that the new plantings will serve as a successful demonstration for homeowners who face similar situations.

The final phase of the work will include fencing, signs and other architectural elements included in the update of the Gardens' Master Plan. "Once the design parameters are established to create a consistent image throughout the Gardens property," Hommel says, "we will be able to move forward on improved signs, gates and fences that will create a physical manifestation of our commitment to public service and outreach."