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Gardens are in full bloom at Oklahoma State University

OSU ‘First Cowgirl' Ann Hargis takes The Oklahoman's Helen Ford Wallace on a tour of gardens full of flowers — many in orange, the school's colors — plants, herbs and vegetables.
by Helen Ford Wallace Published: August 5, 2013

You don't have to ask Ann Hargis how her gardens grow.

You can look around the Oklahoma State University campus to see that the gardens are alive and well and growing just fine.

OSU is where her husband, Burns Hargis, is president, and she is the “first cowgirl,” as she describes herself. It is also the place where the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture is set up for teaching and research.

Ann Hargis, Steve Dobbs, OSU's manager of grounds and landscape services, and I checked out a few of the gardens on a short, rainy-day tour in Stillwater recently (the heavens decided the gardens needed a summer drink). We didn't even get to the headquarters' garden, the Oklahoma Botanical Garden & Arboretum, saving that for another day.

There are many growing venues for students, alumni and guests to view, and all are filled with beautiful and well-planned areas. They include the Central Garden, the new Price Garden, the Formal Garden and plazas where creative topiaries are featured during the growing months. The gardens are filled with thousands of varieties of flowers, plants and herbs. Some you might recognize; some you might have to ask their botanical names.

In each garden we visited, Ann Hargis had knowledge about the flowers and plants, or a curiosity to learn. She and Dobbs have a similar vision in their desire to beautify the campus. Ann Hargis, OSU first lady for the past five years, has “bloomed where she was planted.” And there are thousands of flowers blooming there with her.

We got to see orange flowers (OSU's favorite color), along with many other colors and varieties. These viewings included Ann Hargis's favorites, orange canna lilies, at her campus home, Wilham House.

We saw large blooming magnolia trees planted by the late Henry Bennett, an early OSU president. “He loved magnolias,” Dobbs said. “He had a master plan for the campus.”

Dobbs also pointed out new plant material, the sweet gum slender silhouette trees, planted around buildings.

“We want the campus to be beautiful and inviting and also educational,” Dobbs said.

Most of the gardens have bar code technology (QR, or Quick Response, codes) so the students, alumni and guests can interact with the displays and get information about plants and how to grow them.

Topiary boot

The topiary cowboy boot display, in the southwest corner of Theta Pond, is made of eight different plants that create the texture of the boot, including the OSU orange “O” made by using bronze-color hens and chicks flowers. It weighs 2,300 pounds and is almost 8 feet tall. Among the plants that are always used are Joseph's coat, miniature sweet flag, basketgrass, dwarf mondo grass, variegated creeping fig and creeping fig, dwarf sweet flag and dichondra. Other flowers are added for color.

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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