The Flowering Peach Trees

The Growing History of UD’s Peach Trees

by Sybil Novinski

 

The first Art Building was completed in 1960, the first academic building built after the initial six structures erected for the opening of the University in September 1956.  A gift of Beatrice Haggerty, it was designed by the famous “father of Southwest architecture” O’Neil Ford.

The design incorporated a professionally planned garden which included three “peppermint trees”,  flowering peach trees so-called because of the shades of rose to white blooming on each tree.  The trees matured and the chair of the Art Department, Lyle Novinski, noticed there were small saplings springing up in the ground cover around them.  He transplanted the saplings to a place in the surrounding forest to grow to an adequate size. When ready, with the help of freshmen Art majors, the saplings were planted along the wall they had built near what is now the east end of the J. M. Haggar University Center.

What began as a onetime rescue of tiny trees began a practice where Professor Novinski would dig up the small sprouts from the previous year’s small peaches.  It was a short crucial rescue window because the saplings had to germinate before the first mowing—once mowed off they would be gone.  His habit became to take the little sprouts home, often dug out with a cafeteria spoon, place them in single pots in his garden.  After a year of growth—to about twenty-four inches high, they would be transferred to large buckets to grow into small trees. Regularly, in the winter, students, organized now through the Student Government Landscape Committee, and Novinski planted them around campus in places with good sun, some protection, and perhaps, some irrigation.

The unpredictable different shades present on one tree remains a mystery.  Often questions are asked about grafting.  That is not the case; the trees have their own way of determining the shades and amount of mix on a single tree. The Peppermint Peach Trees live about 20 years.  The first trees planted are long gone but others have been inserted and enliven the campus each spring. Professor Novinski hopes the replacement process continues—there are, in fact, about 20 mature trees in his garden ready to be planted.

For many years he gave a lecture about the Rome Program to prospective students and their parents. Often such Visit Days happen during the brownest part of the year so he included campus pictures of the flowering peaches. As alumni brought their children to learn about UD he would offer a tree to alumni parents.  There are UD Peppermint trees spread about the nation now.

Beatrice Haggerty and Novinski became close friends over the many years of her great patronage. Each spring he carried an armful of blossoms to her home. On her 90th birthday three of the peach trees were planted in her home garden.

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