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Picnic Day 2011

Sophie visits Davis for her first Picnic Day

Over the years we’ve ‘done’ Picnic Day in different ways. When our kids were young we watched the parade downtown then followed it to campus, heading to the baby-chick-holding lab before wandering about without a plan or any pressure. We watched the rodeo once, years ago, which I remember as good fun but just learned this year was a total disappointment to my daughters. Apparently the program said ‘Horse Show’ and after going “all the way out to the far side of campus” (which made them laugh now to think how far it wasn’t) all we got to see was a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls riding around barrels.

Paul Zinn helps direct the Band-uh

Plant in a Bottle: Wheat

When our older daughter was in the California Aggie Marching Band-uh the Battle of the Bands at Lake Spafford became a big part of the day. In between the parade and the Battle we would stop here and there for a free tomato plant or a look through a microscope. We’ve done many things just once, a good idea at Picnic Day where there is so much to see you need to choose something different each year. Is it OK to admit I’ve never been to the Doxie Derby? Some year I’ll have to make it there. I’ve even played the part of visiting parent with our son, the most recent UCD student in the family, showing us parts of campus we didn’t know existed because they aren’t visible from perimeter roads and were built after our time.

This year the area in front of and inside the Plant and Environmental Sciences building was full of great plant related activities. Make your own seed art, exotic fruit tasting, opportunities to Ask The Weed Doctor a question or Shell Your Own Popcorn, a free tomato plant giveaway, and lots more kept scores of people moving from activity to activity. The Plant in a Bottle was getting lots of attention, with its huge ball of roots visible in a plexiglass growing container, although the free popcorn being given out right next to it may have been the real attraction.

I had read about the Hunt Hall Courtyard Garden Design-Build Competition and so we headed over there before going home for a midday break.  Sponsored by the Landscape Architecture Program, the competition provides the opportunity for several winning designs to be built and viewed for a full year. Students can see what the designs they have been working on really look like and get hands-on experience making those designs come to life. Much of the materials used are found, recycled or donated as the department provides reimbursement for only up to $100.

Two of the winning designer-builders

This year a group of 4 students collaborated on one of the winning designs, building a large inhabitable space including benches, lighting, and a small bridge, incorporating plantings in several areas. The use of rebar that added structure as well as color, combined with strong directional lines from wooden slats used for enclosing the structure, created a sense of stability and protection while exploring the idea of morphology of space.

Hay Rack Seating...and more

The other winning designs also used found items and displayed imaginative approaches to the process of landscape design. A bench, cantilevered off a tree stump, paired with a hay rack seat featuring natural materials as padding, made a particularly inventive grouping, set off by 2 agave plants.

I ended Picnic Day watching the moon rise over Lake Spafford and listening to the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh and several other inferior bands battle it out. My son-in-law and I took my granddaughter, Sophie, back to campus for a little more music so her first Picnic Day could end on a happy note. It was Hazy Shade of Winter.

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