Can you imagine board game-themed gardens? It's true, Chutes and Ladders and Monopoly found new formations in creative horticulture. Game pieces were traded in for flowers. Statues and stone walkways replaced dice and "Go To Jail" cards. These nature-inspired board games were all created by students, for students and ... their moms.
This past weekend the University of Illinois honored moms. Moms of engineers, moms of all different years, moms drinking wines and beers — there were lots of moms. One of the most popular events is the annual flower show.
"For mom's day weekend it's so important to have some things the students can show off what they're learning," said junior Nate Fasel. "All the moms and grandparents were smiling and giving us compliments and good feedback on our gardens."
The horticulture major got involved with the flower garden this year for the first time.
"It wasn't required or anything. I just wanted to get involved with the Horticulture Club, and do it for fun."
Fasel and two other girls teamed up to create a Hi Ho! Cherry-O themed garden. Using crabapples, cherries and a variety of flowers, they set up a scene resembling the classic game. In two days they spent more than 25 hours working on it. There wasn't a final grade or project assessment. They did it because of their love for horticulture.
"The most rewarding part was to just see all of the people enjoy it," he said. "It made them happy to see all our gardens."
Fasel explained that the students had well over a month to decide their layouts and specific games after the flower show theme was chosen. Then, five days before deadline, the teams found their garden plots and picked their flowers.
"It was competitive. All the available flowers were in the bleachers and we all ran up and grabbed the ones we needed," he said.
The plants and materials were funded by the University Horticulture Club. The members bought the stuff from local nurseries. Then they offered everything featured in the gardens for sale, with all proceeds going back to the club.
"We usually make a profit from it, but it's for a good cause. We sell everything at a wholesale price, it's a good deal."
There were 10-15 other gardens in the show. Fasel's favorite was the Chutes and Ladders garden. The senior who created it spent more than 40 hours perfecting it.
"He really went out with a bang. He put a lot of cool water features in it," said Fasel.
He mentioned that the key to a great garden is a good mix of landscapes and plant material.
"You need a balance of a nice walkway, with benches, fountains, statues and contrasting colors next to each other," he said. "You need a good healthy mix and when it all comes together, it makes a good garden."
Creating a real-life garden for the public was a great experience for Fasel and other hort club students.
"In class they can only teach you so much," he said. "To actually put them in a garden and install it is a whole different experience than putting it on paper. It's more of an appreciation for horticulture and showing how landscaping can brighten your day."