Traversing through the “pancake”-flat region of northwestern Ohio—on the way to Chicago for family Thanksgiving—I am taken aback by the stagnant landscape. The trees are brown, the grass is brown, the corn is brown, the sky is grey, the earth is flat. We race across the countryside with relative ease, with only the howling wind preventing us from ceaselessly accelerating long past the horizon. The highway slices the terrain into two equivalent components, symmetrically suggestive of the Smith Botanical Gardens and Conservatory. Through the texture, color, composition, and placement of the plants and gardens, the Smith Botanical Garden’s intent to educate and diversify the student body is evident.
As I was striding through the rows of the Smith Botanical Garden, I was astonished by the lack of overt variety. Immediately, I perceived the small, dull cow-pond, adjacent to the busy road. The rows of plants are organized by family, separated by a grassy pathway—no more than four feet wide. I observed the shortage of trees and plants that rise above waist-height. The deciduous trees are particularly peculiar, as the trees have lost all of their leaves, yet the leaves are absent from the ground. The taller trees have been delegated to the back of the garden—providing a buffer from the neighboring campus buildings while also “defining the hillside,” concealing the elevation change. The botanical garden is littered with disheveled, tall grasses, their fragile frames damaged severely by the snowstorm. Every plant is labeled with the Latin name, their common name, as well as where the plant is from. Though the labels are beneficial to differentiate between neighboring varieties, the abundant signage clutters the landscape.
As the day turned to dusk, I began to focus my attention upon the quaint Rock Garden. The name “Rock Garden” is contradictory, as rocky soil—like that of New England—does not present favorable conditions for planting and growing. I cautiously approached the plaque, discovering that the plants within the rock garden are those that grow in the tundra ecosystem. The outward appearance of the garden was subpar, as undersized, gangly shrubbery dominated the bleak landscape. Juxtaposed to every taller, majestic tree was a muddled clump of weeds. Indeed, upon first glance, most of the less significant plants appeared to be intruding weeds—but these “weeds” also have a botanical label. The differing varieties of moss sprawled on top of the rocks are also critical aspect to the Rock Garden. Although the desolate, sub-arctic plant-life fashioned an uninviting atmosphere, the meandering pathways produced an inviting and aesthetically appealing environment. These crushed rock paths were no wider than two feet across—skinnier than the grass pathways—ambling throughout the Rock Garden with purpose. Overall, the placement and growth of the vegetation was chaotic disorderly; however, the cinder trails structured my particular journey through the Rock Garden, designating a purpose to my expedition—to grasp a better understanding of the plant life of the tundra.
With the outdoor botanical garden fresh in my memory, I returned two days later to observe the Smith College Conservatory. Upon entry, I was offered a map of the conservatory. Planning out my approach to the network of indoor rooms, I began to wander through the more “interesting,” or exotic, rooms. Holistically, the conservatory rooms were grouped by ecosystem, or climate. Examples include the scorching Palm House and the arid Succulent House. The rooms, or houses, are not assembled by country or continent; In fact, most of the houses included plants from more than one continent—conveying that ecosystems are global phenomena, not isolated, or regional trends.
Coming to the conclusion of the labyrinth of rooms, I settled upon the Cool Temperate House, which is divided into four regions: Asia, New Zealand and Australia, Latin America, and Africa. Like the Palm Room, the Cool Temperate House possessed a commanding presence of my five senses. The odor struck me initially—a volatile mixture of wintergreen and sweaty feet. Unlike the humid, arid, or uncomfortable climate of the previous rooms, the Cool Temperate House was both cold and temperate, with an estimated room temperature of sixty degrees. My sinuses—which had been bothersome throughout, flaring up upon entry into the earliest room with the Chrysanthemums—calmed considerably within the welcoming confines of the Cool Temperate House. I moseyed on back to the bench in the corner, meditating to the tranquil hums of running water and chirping birds—due to a nearby waterfall and a sound recording, respectfully. The buzzing honeybees were replaced by microscopic gnats—harmless, yet more irritating. Specifically, green was the dominant color of the Cool Temperate House’s vegetation, but various shades of purple flowers and red berries complemented and accented the monotonous color scheme of the landscape. In respect to the other indoor rooms, the Cool Temperate House appeared to be in the most “natural” state. The vegetation is growing among soil, mud, running water, and rock. Though the Cool Temperate House resembles the climate of Massachusetts or Ohio—the sub-tropical vegetation contradicts any sensory and preceding knowledge.
The Rock Garden and the Cool Temperate House equally contribute to the overall purpose of the Smith College Botanical Garden and Conservatory: To educate the student body. Both rooms are organized in according to the Humboldt’s findings, or in the Humboldtian method of classification by climate: “he sought to identify all the 'organic entities' that were adapted to the land and to the prevailing climate.”1 The Rock Garden includes plant-life of the tundra, while the Cool Temperate House contains sub-tropical vegetation. Though the Cool Temperate House is organized by region, both the interior and exterior rooms remain largely disorderly—lacking any regularity or symmetry.
Both the indoor conservatory and outdoor garden represent Smith College’s intention to educate. Initially, the disorder of the outdoor botanical garden led me astray; however, the intentional grouping of the conservatory’s plants by houses, or climate, displayed the college’s intent of a structured education. Within in each individual house, the primary objective was to assemble the maximum amount plant-life that grows at that particular climate. The purpose was not to accumulate an assortment of plants from one particular ecosystem, but rather to express the diversity of the student body by, in turn, diversifying the ecosystems. For example, in the Cool Temperate House, a variety of sub-tropical vegetation was grouped across four different continents—Australia, Asia, North America, and Africa. Likewise, instead of comprising of plant-life from only the Canadian tundra, the Rock Garden embraces vegetation from numerous environments.
Not only is the diversity of the student body expressed by the gardens, furthermore the international reach of Smith College is unmistakable. The botanical garden and conservatory directly represents the international students and the countries from which they hail from. The plant-life is collected from the far corners of the earth, yet still able to thrive when grouped with other plants of similar climates. Indeed, Smith College’s international students congregate from different countries, able to prosper as a student in a diverse educational environment.
The separation of the Smith Botanical Garden and Conservatory plant-life by climate conveys the objective to diversify the student body. The structure and organization of the indoor houses and outdoor gardens express the intent to internationalize the student education. The variety of vegetation trumps the clutter and disorder of the gardens. Juxtaposed to the unchanging Midwestern landscape, the botanical garden and conservatory transcend the ordinary and dull, stimulating the dynamic educational experience.
Positive: (interested) After reading your first sentence I was curious to see where you were going to take it and how you were going to relate your road trip to the gardens.
Negative: (confused) Your thesis seems very disconnected to the majority of your first paragraph. The Ohio part seems a little random.
I hope you explain further the relation between Ohio and the gardens, at the same time I hope you support your thesis and delve into how the gardens are educational.
Positive: ( Interested) The ideas that you bring up very curious, although I think that they would be great to include in your thesis or somewhere in your introduction.
Negative: (confused) I think that if you had already mentioned the idea of diversifying the student body in your intro, the introduction and conclusion would be a lot more cohesive.
i hope that in your body paragraphs there is a progression of ideas that relate beginning to end
Thanks for your comments, I appreciate your insight and will take another look at my essay! Here's what I thought about yours...
Positive- Excited. Loved the first few sentences and the vivid image created in mind. Great hook for readers giving a solid sense to where you want to go with your essay.
Negative- Confused/Thought-provoking?- I struggled to find any negatives but the sentence "The highway slices the terrain into two equivalent components, suggestive of the symmetry of the Smith Botanical Gardens and Conservatory" confused me as to what parts of the garden/conservatory were symmetric that you'd be referring to in your essay.
Positive-Pleased. First sentence shows me that you developed the ideas mentioned in your introduction.
Negative- I would have liked to have seen where the rest of the paragraph was going but it seems to all be heading in the right direction of wrapping up a solid essay.
I hope that you make it clear what exactly you are comparing and contrasting in the indoor/outdoor parts of the garden throughout your essay as you develop a strong argument. As far as pitfalls go, I hope the bulk of your essay avoids being to vague about what exactly you're talking about and takes a more specific approach.
Im sure you have a great essay. Looks good!
Positive Emotion = Agreeable
- “Unfortunately, the aesthetic beauty of the garden was hindered by the combination of most plants not being in blooming season and the damage from the recent storm.” This is a very astute observation that I too found striking upon visiting the gardens.
Negative Emotion = Lost
- I felt that I was reading a body paragraph at times. I would recommend that you slim down on the detail and instead, focus on more broader, generalized statements.
Positive Emotion = Enlightened
- I really enjoyed the historical perspective of the garden’s patron: Smith College and President Seelye. I did not dive into the historical background of the botanical gardens (perhaps I should), but I think it made your concluding paragraph more purposeful.
Negative Emotion = Confused
- You seem to be focusing quite a bit on the “systematics beds”. Your introduction did not mention these beds, yet your conclusion has a major emphasis on them. Perhaps you have been working towards them in your body paragraphs?
Issues that I hope you address:
- Quite simply, I hope that you address all of the issues that you plan on addressing in your introductory paragraph. You seem to have a lot to talk about—from the jungle to the systematic beds—hopefully all to prove a point.
Pitfalls that I hope you avoid:
- Likewise, I hope that you avoid hopping from idea to idea, failing to focus on one specific trait to analyze. Overall, I would love to see what two rooms you chose to compare and contrast (I know that one is the Palm Room).
From: Gregory Turissini 15
Sent: Tue 11/29/2011 7:14 PM
To: Ariana Twomey 15
Subject: RE: Paper
I really was impressed with what I saw, I hope my comments help!
Positive Emotion = Satisfied
- I think your introductory paragraph as a whole has a solid direction. I really liked how you even outlined the two specific indoor and outdoor gardens that you chose to compare.
Negative Emotion = Disconcerted
- I think that there are a few superfluous adjectives that don’t necessarily take away from the paragraph, but it might flow better if they were expunged or replaced. Additionally, I think there are some grammatical errors, but I’m not trying to be nit-picky about that.
Positive Emotion = Stimulated
- Like your introduction, your concluding paragraph is both structured and powerful. It really slams your idea home. I’m impressed with you concession of the two specific rooms: “Despite their obtrusive differences the interior and exterior complement each other.”
Negative Emotion = Detached
- I realize that my positive emotion is contradictory to my negative emotion, but I feel as though your concluding paragraph is so structured that it lacks emotion. I think ending on a more abstract notion might “spice” up the paragraph a little bit.
Issues that I hope you address:
- You really didn’t mention anything about this in your introductory paragraph: “Both styles are centered around education yet when comparing both, the evolution of the construction of gardens as well as the evolution of the ways in which we view nature become apparent.” So, I really hope that you addressed the evolution of how we view nature at least somewhere in a body paragraph.
Pitfalls that I hope you avoid:
- I really hope that you don’t just dwell on the Rock Garden the Palm House. I think that both the exterior botanical garden and the indoor conservatory could be analyzed as a supplement to the two specific rooms.
From: Gregory Turissini 15
Sent: Tue 11/29/2011 6:37 PM
To: Ariana Twomey 15; Christopher Tamasi 15
Subject: RE: Paper