Nurturing and Inspiring Spaces: Gardens promote wellness and inspire students to do what they love

This story is featured in the Fall 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s Mariana Qubein Arboretum and Botanical Gardens provide students the calming environment needed to reflect and excel.


Pause for a moment. Inhale and exhale. Release any tension you have and notice your surroundings.

What do you see? Hear? Smell?

HPU’s campus is full of spaces designed for moments of reflection, and if you ask, students can tell you their favorite one.

The Mariana H. Qubein Arboretum and Botanical Gardens add beauty to the campus and preserve the natural surroundings while providing unique educational opportunities.

One of them is the Markham Medicinal Landscape Garden outside the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy. The plants in this garden have medicinal qualities filled with the potential to treat and cure disease. Faculty, and soon students, will be working to unlock the healing power of these plants through research.

But the therapeutic bene ts of plants extend beyond medicine.

“Gardens provide a place of reflection and introspection, a sense of community and a place to gather,” says First Lady Mariana Qubein. “We must recognize the beauty of nature but also how it affects our health and educates our minds. It’s our responsibility to preserve this gift God has given us and enhance it.”

Melissa Marion, HPU’s director of employee wellness, believes that connections with nature improve overall well-being.

“Many of us don’t spend enough time in nature, but we need to,” she told an audience at the annual Arbor Day Celebration. “We need to spend more time within our natural environments to help improve our well-being. The environment we’ve created in our gardens at HPU offers many opportunities where we can connect with nature with all of our senses.”

HPU’s students realize the special gift of nature around them and find their own ways to let it inspire them. Here’s how the gardens have brought some of them fulfillment and joy.

 

A Creative Outlet

Each time she walks through the gardens, Jennifer West finds something new. The junior English literature major from Randleman, North Carolina, loves trees especially and visits the gardens to find inspiration for her poetry and as an outlet on stressful days.

She recently wrote a poem about the life cycle of a tree, which was selected to commemorate Arbor Day. From sapling to growth to the birth of a new tree, West connects the tree’s stages to the seasons of her own life.

“The gardens inspired the creation of my poem by the splendor and beauty that is all around us,” she says. “The seasons the tree endures reflects my experience in life. Seasons come and go, but our attitude creates who we are and what legacy we leave behind.”

 

A Breakthrough Discovery

Research on an ornamental plant found on HPU’s campus upended what was known about the species and inspired Jonathan Ware to step out of his comfort zone and build confidence.

The 2018 graduate from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and his classmates worked with biology professors Dr. Cindy Vigueira and Dr. Patrick Vigueira to create an evolutionary tree for Liatris, a group of perennial plants known as gayfeathers or blazing stars that attract butterflies and other insects.

Ware spent time in HPU’s gardens cutting leaves from the plants and placing them on ice. Back in the lab, he extracted DNA from these tissue samples and examined genetic sequences of each one. This work led to the discovery of more genetic diversity than was previously known.

“My work in the botanical gardens grew my love of nature and appreciation for the biodiversity on our beautiful campus,” he says. “It’s also inspired me to surround myself with beautiful plants at home.”

 

A Volunteer’s Heart

Volunteering in the gardens isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes Greg Allen is helping Jon Roethling, HPU’s curator of the gardens, pull weeds and clean up leaves. Other times, it’s magical, like the day the senior art major from Honeoye Falls, New York, went to a local high school to plant a purple plum tree.

The students’ faces lit up as dirt was shoveled around the tree. Allen knows that by sharing his love for gardening, something he learned from his grandfather, he’s creating beautiful spaces for others to enjoy.

At the same time, he finds inspiration for his art and uses the skills he’s developed in his major to design plant arrangements for HPU’s campus.

“I think of the gardens on campus as an incredible investment in the future of the HPU community,” he says. “I love the fact that everyone benefits from the work I do, and it’s going to be really special to come back in the future to see its growth myself.”

 

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