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Y.'s beauty wows judges

Landscape expert calls Provo campus the Disneyland of U.S. universities

America in Bloom judges Leonard Perry, right, and Lee Nelson, second from left, are escorted by campus landscape architect Bruce Maw, left, and grounds director Roy Peterman as they check out flowers and shrubs Tuesday on the BYU campus.
America in Bloom judges Leonard Perry, right, and Lee Nelson, second from left, are escorted by campus landscape architect Bruce Maw, left, and grounds director Roy Peterman as they check out flowers and shrubs Tuesday on the BYU campus.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — Tidiness and attention to detail make Brigham Young University's campus the Disneyland of American colleges and universities, a landscape design expert said Tuesday.

Leonard Perry and Lee Nelson spent Monday and Tuesday touring the BYU campus as judges for the America in Bloom national beautification contest.

"The level of detail put into everything is tremendous, and it definitely shows, and it makes a great impression," said Perry, a professor from Vermont who is well-known among horticulturists for the Web site "Perry's Perennials."

"Every shrub and every (flower) bed is accounted for."

America in Bloom is a nonprofit organization pattered after Britain in Bloom. The program also exists in France and Canada to encourage communities to consider beautification as well as environmental issues.

BYU impressed the judges with its recycling program, for example.

"They could package that and teach a lot of people a lot of things," said Nelson, a retired horticulture educator from New York.

However, neither judge was ready to hand the award for the top university campus to BYU, even though they have already visited BYU's competition — the University of Arkansas and Oberlin College in Ohio. The results will be announced in September.

Utah State University defeated the only other entrant in the university category last year but did not reapply this year. Vernal won the American Horticulture Society's AIB award for community involvement at the AIB awards banquet in 2004.

The contests began four years ago, and Nelson said it is building through word of mouth. New York City competes in the largest city category and even proclaims an annual America in Bloom Day.

The judges were struck by the scope of BYU's efforts. The grounds crew maintains the Provo LDS Temple grounds as well as the LDS Missionary Training Center, the Aspen Grove Family Camp above Sundance and the BYU Motion Picture Studio. Perry and Nelson loved the mountains, especially the block Y that dominates the skyline and is used as a natural frame for the campus.

"A lot of attention was given to photo opportunities at ponds, around fountains and at entries to campus," Nelson said. "Angles at many of those places are created to emphasize the Y. You just don't hear of that consideration of photo opportunities. That's usually not a criteria in design."

Perry was impressed at the number of students who work on the grounds crew and their training.

"They don't weed-whack or prune until they've been trained," he said. "It's wonderful and very unusual."

It's more than he expected when he left Vermont for the trip.

"I've been inspired to see a campus that puts so much emphasis on a quality landscape," he said. "There is a real desire to help with inspiration in learning."

BYU grounds director Roy Peterman said that is intentional.

"We have a distinct purpose — to create an atmosphere of inspiration and learning. We use some basic principles, and the first is that order creates peace and peace creates inspiration."

Peterman said his team didn't do anything different to prepare for the judges' visit but hoped that feedback from the judges might aid further improvements.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com