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Students Grow Along with Their Ivies

Esther Mobley ’11 still has hers. So does Mary Gowins ’11.

More than a year after they arrived at Smith as first-year students and redeemed a Botanic Garden certificate for a free ivy plant, Mobley and Gowins continue to cultivate their Smith plants and display them in their rooms.

“The ivy I received last year is still going strong,” reports Gowins. “The plant has gotten considerably taller since last year so I repotted the poor plant.”

There’s no telling how many of their fellow Smithies have held on to and cared for their ivy plants. The tradition was started by the Friends of the Botanic Garden some 15 years ago, says Sheri Lyn Peabody, administrative coordinator in the Botanic Garden. Each first-year student receives a certificate for a plant in her orientation packet upon arriving at Smith, along with a card that reads:

“An ivy plant awaits you at Lyman Conservatory with greetings from the Friends of the Botanic Garden of Smith College. Please bring this card with you. Come in the front entrance of the Lyman Plant House and follow the ivy signs.”

“One reason the Friends [of the Botanic Garden] started this was that they didn’t want any student graduating without ever having been to the Lyman Conservatory,” said Madelaine Zadik, manager of education and outreach at the Botanic Garden. Therefore, students claiming their ivy plants are guided through a maze of signs into the deep recesses of the conservatory’s greenhouses, where their ivies await, said Zadik. An ivy care sheet accompanies the plants with tips on how to grow it properly.

Esther Mobley ’11 carefully tends her ivy.


“I thought this was a great tradition,” recalls Mobley when she first completed the greenhouse maze to pick up her plant. “My Mom is an alum, and I guess they didn’t have this tradition when she went to Smith, but she thought it was really cool.”

“The plant is a reminder that you were here, and as the plant grows, you have also grown,” waxes Gowins. Like Mobley, she proudly displays her plant in a prominent place in her room—on a windowsill in direct sunlight, as her care sheet instructs—and dutifully waters it twice a week.

“I keep mine on the top of my desk,” says Mobley. “I’m really proud of my ivy plant.”

For those first-years who still haven’t claimed their ivy, it’s not too late. Just bring your coupon to the Lyman Conservatory by October 1, between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and pick out the plant that will be with you for the next four years and beyond.


9/18/08   Eric Sean Weld
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