Martin Quigley, Director of Gardens and Grounds at the sprawling UCSC Arboretum is a man with a mission. Well, perhaps quite a few missions. He wants the Arboretum’s collections to be sustainable and well-groomed. “It’s been cleaned up and injected with hidden gems,” he points out, on a vigorous hike through the aromatic acreage, currently in full opulent bloom. “There were many people in charge in the past,” he notes, “each in a different area—siloed—there was no overarching theme.” “The original plantation was 90 species of eucalyptus, a showcase for Mediterranean climates. But,” Quigley recites his personal mantra, “it’s a garden!”
Given his horticultural roots, the grounds director is determined to recapture a sense of intention, rather than the “let it be natural” mentality he believes to have unleashed rampant botanical laissez-faire. “No more invasive species,” he insists, as we sweep through the eye-popping collections of banksia, grevillea and protea loaded with extraterrestrial blooms. “It was just a collection,” he notes, “but it’s gotta be intentional.” Opening things up and cleaning things out have indeed offered vistas, nooks, terraced cacti and succulents, plus dramatic secret regions of shade where art installations afford sanctuaries for meditative thought. He is not afraid to prune and delimb dying eucalypti, “You need to anticipate replacement,” he warns, “Don’t wait for death!” Quigley is also keen on the controversial but necessary plans for expanded parking. “It’s going to be a game-changer,” he promises. Added parking will allow fuller access to collections, trails, and facilities for an expanding membership eager to explore an Arboretum more beautiful than ever. Admitting that his project, as many other institutional showpieces, is “understaffed and underfunded,” Quigley has a one-word response to the question “What do you need?” “Money!” he says. Tending his ground “every day,” Quigley has plans. “We’re going to re-open some of the views to the Monterey Bay,” he says. He’s also incorporating artworks, such as the bronze sculptures Raven and Wolves, by Sharon Loper, and a swirl of woven eucalyptus branches entitled Spirit Nest, by Jayson Fann. In barely three years at the helm, horticultural planner Quigley—trained in literature, with a Ph.D. in plant ecology—is just getting started. Enjoy the astonishing progress he’s making, just up the hill at the UCSC Arboretum.
FOREST (for a thousand years) is a mesmerizing and deceptively serene 28-minute sound installation creating a magical space linked to the UCSC Arboretum through June 30. Originally commissioned by dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany, the undulating soundscape is created by more than 30 digitally-programmed speakers placed within a small forest. Tuned for the acoustics of each forest in which it is installed, the piece is at once site-specific and timeless. Renowned for their soundscape installations, Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller collected and curated the sounds for this work on their island home off the coast of British Columbia. The results are uncanny. Seated within the circle of speakers—which are placed and hung from trees adjoining the Arboretum—the listener experiences a flood of primal sounds, forest groanings, night birds, animal cries, floods, storms, crickets, birds, and on to marching armies, artillery, bombs, airplanes, wagons, stampeding horses, and finally an exquisite choral crown of sound, a Nunc dimittis composed by Arvo Part and performed by an Estonian chamber choir. A rich, surprising, and ultimately moving meditation on the interweaving of human life with the richness of the planet itself. In less than a half hour you will experience a forest in its ancient and future uses and guises. Do not miss this remarkable experience. arboretum.ucsc.edu. Noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Included in Arboretum visit $5.