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Garden nestled among buildings is hidden treasure

Renovations have recently been completed on the President's Court, a collection of hosta plants and other greenery nestled in the enclosure surrounded by Buildings 3, 10. 11 and 13.

Eighty percent of the concrete walkways surrounding the square garden have just been repaired. A dirt path that went through the garden from one corner to the other has also been replaced with a blue stone walkway.

The garden is home to at least 10 different types of hosta plants, identifiable by their large tropical-looking leaves. They were a gift from Frances Ropes Williams, a 1904 MIT graduate and avid gardener. According to Norman Magnuson, route supervisor in grounds services, she bred different types of the plants she enjoyed and named them in memory of her sister, Constance Williams Hosta.

During its renovation, the garden benefited from a campus program to recycle landscaping materials. Instead of discarding trees, bushes and wood chips produced during construction elsewhere around the campus, the grounds staff moves them to locations such as the President's Court.

Aside from hostas, the garden also has many other types of flora-honey locust, crabapple, andromeda and boxwood trees; bushes such as rhododendrons and yews; and flowers including chrysanthemums and impatiens. One of the trees, according to the legend recounted on a plaque affixed to it, is a descendant of the tree whose apple fell on Isaac Newton's head and inspired him to develop his theory of gravity.

Because of the garden's somewhat obscure location, many in the MIT community are unaware of its existence. "My wife has worked here for more than 12 years. We had a Physical Plant family picnic here and she said, `What is this place?' She never saw it before last year," Mr. Magnuson said.

"I want to let the MIT community experience it and enjoy it," he said of the garden. "Eat lunch, go on break out there or just sit and relax. It's a great escape in the middle of the day."

A version of this article appeared in the October 5, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 7).

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