Matthew Dallos:
Libe Slope Wild Garden

Native Plantings

  • Ongoing
  • Libe Slope (near McGraw Hall)
  • Instagram

Libe Slope Wild Garden

Walk the path through the wild garden. Grasses stand head high on both sides. Through chaotic plant stems you see fragments of the Johnson Museum, the clock tower, McGraw, Cayuga Lake. There’s a medley of wildflowers and grasses planted informally yet deliberately. The plants evoke the feeling of wild spaces typically found on the leftover, forgotten fringes of our built environment. You’re abruptly immersed in the interactions between seasons, wind, rain and snow and frost and sunlight, soil, insects, and birds; on your walk to class, to a meeting, to the library, you are immersed in the unpredictable and precarious.

This isn’t a garden as horticultural decoration. It’s a garden as land art. The wild garden is meant to affect the way people imagine what their world might be. The wild garden is wildness designed, which speaks to the tangled issues of ecologies, boundaries, and cultures in the Anthropocene.

Libe Slope Wild Garden reaches its apogee of yearly growth in August: lush grasses, swaying wildflowers. Into September and October, seed pods dry, leaving dabs of brown and gray among the greens that linger. Fall and winter, the dormant plants stand, asserting the wild form of the meadow even after all green has turned tawny. The dominant colors are now straw, rust, and charcoal. In this way, the garden is more about decay and senescence and the variability of seasonal form through time than it is about the spectacle of pretty flowers. In March, everything is cut to the ground to nourish summer growth. Spring sees the meadow waking up. Sprouts push through the remnants of last year’s growth. The meadow inserts the processes of growth, change, and decay into the daily lives of everyone who passes near Libe Slope. The meadow is an intervention of hope, a call to see potential in the uncertain and unexpected.

Matt Dallos (United States)

Matt Dallos is a PhD candidate in history and designs plant-focused landscape projects and installations. His academic work investigates how the history of planting design, cities, post-industrial sites, and spontaneous vegetation might be brought together to offer insights into American environmental thought.

Project Collaborators

This project wouldn’t have been possible without help from: the volunteers who helped plant the 2,400 plants that compose the project; the Johnson Museum; the Cornell Grounds Department.

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