If you ask Bob DuMond to name his favorite part of the CFCC maze gar-den, he’d be hard pressed to answer. This is because he loves everything about the colorful garden retreat nestled on the back part of the Ocala college campus. And it’s easy to see why — Bob and his students have created a lush landscape design with winding paths that twist and turn around striking green shrubs and vibrant blooms.
In many ways, the garden is a culmination of dreams for this 16-year veteran of college teaching and major garden puttering. While teaching a full academic load to college freshman and sophomores, Bob also averages 12 hours a week working on his latest landscape creation. Yet, none of this seems like work to Bob, an ornamental horticultural professor for Central Florida Community College. As a matter of fact, this popular professor considers his job as a gift to follow his foliage-inclined passion.
“I love what I do,” he says, “and get emotional thinking about how this garden came together.”
Bob’s affinity for his work is evident by the finished result — a stunning vista of rainbow-hued flowers and plants so green they pop out from the ground in commanding display. And to think this spot used to be a bland eyesore next to the interstate. Today, it is a vivid example of collaborative vision between a teacher and his students as they transformed this neglected campus space into a bucolic garden showstopper.
Seeds of Knowledge
The CFCC maze garden is a perfect combination of learning and doing. All of the ornamental horticulture classes have been integrated into this project. Bob’s turf class studies the garden’s use of Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Centipede turfs while analyzing the proper ways to aerate and fertilize. The landscape construction class implemented the design concept that was created by the landscape design class. Other classes dealing with propagation, greenhouse management, and landscape maintenance continue to work on the half-acre space while most of the program’s students invest many hours in pruning, weeding, and loving the garden they created.
Judging from the mature landscape, it’s hard to imagine the garden is only two years old. Yet, this is a project that has been many years in the making.
“I had students in my ornamental horticulture class,” he says, “who wanted to design a maze garden.”
After careful design and methodical planning, the dream became a reality. With a student-created plan drawn to scale, everyone got to work tilling the soil, spreading 100 yards of compost, amending the soil, planting the seeds, and labeling the plants.
A zigzag design invites you to weave around through the garden retreat, creating a welcome escape from the rest of the world. At the entrance, classic concrete pavers bookend dusty miller annuals (a plant that looks like cabbage) that hug each side of
Bubbling water sounds come from a round-shaped rock water pond buffeted by a wall of stones that were donated by the college president himself after a home project resulted in some leftover stones. Bob gladly accepted the donation, as he uses almost everything given to him. Big or small, Bob will find a use for it.
Throughout the garden, striking color contrasts against the trees and plants achieve maximum visual impact. Crape myrtles provide much-needed shade as they form a triangular pattern. All the beds are eye-catching, giving each area of the garden its own special nod to the visual senses. And some of the plants are edible, too. Bob picks off a piece of Nasturtium for this writer to taste. Not too bad — peppery and strong.
A Group Effort
Bob is quick to add that the garden would be just a vision without a little help from his friends, a credit to others and Bob for his resourcefulness.
“The greatest thing about the garden,” he says, “is to see what everyone donated and see the students working together.”
Bob adds that the Florida Nursery and Landscape Association donated nearly most of the plant material. Several nurseries also provided a variety of plants and trees. A large irrigation company donated the drip tape for the environmentally friendly irrigation system that drips down into the earth without overhead watering mechanisms. This system, known as micro irrigation, requires less water and helps plants avoid multiple diseases.
“There is a close-knit group of people who know what the garden is all about,” he says, “and believe in what we’re doing.”
The community loves the garden, too. Garden clubs, civic groups, and faculty find themselves wandering through the maze on a regular basis. And high school students from horticulture programs revel in a plant scavenger hunt and tool identification contest.
Always thinking ahead, Bob has plans to create additional meandering serpentine paths to the existing design.
“I love teaching more than ever,” he adds, “It’s a passion that the garden has made come alive even more.”
But it’s not just the garden maze. Other college faculty and students benefit from Bob’s passion, too, as the neighboring auto body and auto tech buildings are draped with gorgeous hanging potted flowers on par with what you’d find at first-class botanical gardens.
Turf, Technology, and Teaching
Not only do Bob’s students learn how to handle a garden tool, but they also learn how to use a digital scanner. A self-professed computer aficionado, Bob heavily integrates technology into his curriculum. He offers several horticulture classes online, giving students computer skills to use in the workforce after they graduate.
Bob can often be found in the computer lab just as often as in his greenhouse, a behavior he encourages his students to follow. So, it’s no surprise when you see a student bending down near a flowerbed with a digital camera. It’s all part of Bob’s classroom experience. Chances are this student’s photo will appear on Bob’s popular website.
“I train students for the workplace,” says Bob, “which gives them a lot of different career opportunities.”
So, what’s his favorite part about the maze garden? When pressed to answer, he admits his soft spot is as much about the people as the plants.
He smiles and answers, “I get the most satisfaction from thinking of all the individuals who gave this garden to us.”
Visiting the CFCC Maze Garden
The garden, located on the northwest end of the Ocala campus directly behind the cosmetology classrooms, is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm. For a garden tour, contact Bob at 854-CFCC, extension 1351. Bob also invites interested gardeners to volunteer working in the garden.