July 9, 2009 — The University of Virginia's Grounds can be a great place to shape bodies, not just minds.
This summer, U.Va. Today will highlight several walking routes and areas around grounds that offer beautiful scenery and shade – and a little lunchtime exercise.
A natural starting point is in the Academical Village. The scenic gardens behind the 10 pavilions lining the lawn echo the architectural beauty of the Lawn.
This 20-minute tour highlights the gardens of the East Range; a later story will feature the West Range gardens.
The slope of the East Range distinguishes it from the flatter West Range and makes it an easy way to add an incline to a walk.
The gardens' styles also differ because two different designers restored them in the mid-20th century. Landscape architect Donald H. Parker designed the East Range gardens, which were dedicated in 1964, after assisting Alden Hopkins with the work on the West Range.
All of the pavilion gardens are open to the public, U.Va. landscape architect Mary Hughes said, which many people do not realize. In addition, many of the gardens can be reserved for private events through the Newcomb Hall reservations office.
While the flowers peak in the spring, the gardens are beautiful year-round – even in the dead of winter.
"The gardens are planted with species that bloom throughout the year, but the 'bones of the garden' – the serpentine walls, walks and woody plants – are beautiful in and of themselves, perhaps best appreciated in the snow," Hughes said.
Entering at the lower entrance of the Grounds, closest to University Avenue, the Pavilion II garden welcomes walkers with yellow daylilies. Beyond the gate, the garden opens with a view of a white bench that invites walkers to relax with a book.
The success of many of the trees in the garden is thanks to Dean Ivy F. Lewis, who planted an umbrella magnolia and large pecan tree, among others, as a biology professor from 1915 to 1953.
Continuing to Pavilion Garden IV, the rectangular design of the middle terrace complements the circles that shrubs form on an upper terrace. Keep an eye out for the marigolds and salvia, which are doing well this summer.
The limestone Merton Spire distinguishes Pavilion Garden VI from the other gardens and serves as a focal point in the lower terrace. The spire, originally an ornament atop a buttress of Oxford University's Merton College Chapel Tower, was restored in 2007 after being damaged in a 2005 storm.
During the summer, Pavilion Garden VIII is the place to be. Crape myrtle, bottlebrush buckeye and oak of hydrangea all thrive in the summer. Several of the trees are marked with names, making identification of the sourgum and shadblow serviceberry trees easy for amateur arborists.
At 150 feet wide, Pavilion Garden X is one of the largest gardens. With large trees and bushes, it is just as suitable for a game of hide-and-seek as it is to studying. In addition, the garden boasts unique half-circle benches.
All of the gardens offer many shady spots to "stop and smell the roses" – both literally and figuratively, with bountiful flowers and nooks.
For a nice rest area outside of the gardens, Hughes recommends a corner right outside of Pavilion X. After exiting Pavilion X's garden, a weeping Japanese cherry tree stands between the garden and the range, near the "Crackerbox" house. A sorority donated the tree and bench during the 1995-96 academic year in memory of a member, Kate Conway, who died during her time as a U.Va. student.
If you want to continue exploring Grounds, Hughes recommends heading down to the intersection of University Avenue and Jefferson Park Avenue to reach U.Va.-owned Clark Park. This ideal picnic area is named for George Rogers Clark, a Virginia soldier during the Revolutionary War billed as the "Conqueror of the Old Northwest," and features a statue by Robert Aitken.
More information about the gardens is available here.