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Enter the dragon: Landscape design studio’s latest is a hit at the Arb Gala

By the time garden enthusiasts arrived at main party area of the 2013 Gala in the Garden at JC Raulston Arboretum April 28, they had already been treated to plenty of visual delights in keeping with the gala’s theme, “An Asian Reflection.” But the best was yet to come. After meandering along paths from the Asian Valley to the Japanese Garden and the lantern-adorned Lath House, gala-goers came upon a visual treat – a giant Asian dragon, the centerpiece of the event.

Created by students in CALS Horticultural Science Department instructors Will Hooker and Anne Spafford’s small-scale landscape design studio, the bamboo dragon was the studio’s spring sculpture project, constructed especially for the gala, as commissioned by the JCRA. The design – complete with 9-foot head, three body loops flowing in and out of the ground and an 8-foot tail – was an idea submitted by student Justin Durango.

To create the dragon, the class harvested more than 100 bamboo culms that were 20 feet long and ranged from 2 to 3 inches in diameter, from a grove in Durham, Hooker said. “After cleaning the culms, the class divided up into teams and proceeded to build the various component parts, with the construction taking place in front of Kilgore Hall.”

tthe dragon's 8-foot-high tail
A view from the dragon’s 8-foot high tail

In total, he said, the Asian dragon took 15 days to build and install, “with the class and 26 other volunteers putting in close to 1,200 hours of labor to complete the task.  All involved were totally exhausted but very pleased with the results.”

Hooker credits the contributions of the following  builders from the class: Justin Durango, Alex Cooley, Herb Ritter, Caitlin Davis, Brandon Ramos, Patrick McLaurin, Junyan Zhou and Kurtis Durrant.

Other volunteers include Leena McDonald, Mercy Rognstad, Jaclyn Mills, Kate VanVorst, Katie McKnight, Kevin Kearney, Dorian Perez, Chris Tharp, Christian Britt, Ryan Galloway, Michael Edwards, Ben Jones, Katherine Hoke, Allen Clineff, Lauren Sammis, Tony Mayer, Carrie Hutchens, Allison Durham, Alana Stanley, Don Edwards, Vann Fussell, Phoebe Andrews, Amanda Wilkins, Jessica Adams, Tom Brown and Will Ericson.

Still on display at the arboretum, the Asian dragon is a must-see! – Terri Leith