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Garden of Eaton Connects Botany with Math and God

As she does her Bible devotions every morning, Shawn Fulford, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, looks out to her garden from her living room, affectionately called a “sun room.” The garden, filled with blooming daffodils, tulips, and roses, brings Fulford a sense of tranquility.

Fulford designed her garden in 2007 after she recovered from an illness. Throughout her period of sickness, Fulford received help and support from members of the Andover community. She was motivated to create the garden as a sign of gratitude to these people.

“I had a year that I was sick and people were so kind to me at this school. They brought dinners, and rides to the hospital, and we had a tiny, tiny garden. Somebody said, ‘the person who lives here is going to live because this garden is life,’” Fulford said in an interview with The Phillipian. “After that I decided I wanted to make the garden beautiful as a thank you to the community for all the help they gave me, because people helped me when I did not even know their names,” she continued.

The garden was dubbed the “Garden of Eaton” by the students of Eaton Cottage, and its variety of colorful plants goes 360 degrees around the dorm.

Inspired by her passion for mathematics, Fulford modeled her garden to a Cartesian plane with a stone wall that serves as the x-axis. The flowers that bloom from April through October are each organized to form even, odd, inverse, and logarithmic functions, although they have lost their form over many years.

“I like the way [the flowers] look – the reciprocal functions – I think that looks pretty. The inverse function was perfectly symmetrical. It was perfect. Now it has lost its shape a little,” said Fulford.

Alexandra Loumidis ’18, a resident of Eaton Cottage, is pleased by the presence of the garden. She especially appreciates how the flowers allow for many high-quality pictures and noted that the garden is a defining feature of the dorm.

In an email to The Phillipian, Loumidis wrote, “Each day as I run in and out of the dorm, I can smell the tulips lining the entrance and the daffodils along the side wall of the garden. The tulips are quite colorful and make for an artsy Snapchat story in a pinch (no filter needed.) I have seen the daffodils grow in number from the very beginning of Spring Term. I have also witnessed them persist through the cold and even [through] the snow.” 

The design of the garden changes each year with the help of Howie Kalter ’07, Teaching Fellow in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, during the 2014-2015 school year.

For the upcoming summer, Fulford aspires to plant a trigonometric function.

“The right side of the garden is still wild. [Kalter] thinks it is going to be too hard to [plant a trigonometric function]. He just wants a basic line, but I am going to see if we can try to do a sine function,” said Fulford.

Fulford believes that the garden represents life with all its growing plants. She hopes the garden adds to the beauty of campus, and that people can sit and enjoy the vibrant flowers.

“I think it is important that the garden is seen as a gift to the community from me. I love [keeping up the garden], but it is a gift for people to come by and enjoy the beauty and to realize that it is life,” said Fulford. “I feel like it is a gift from God.”

May 4, 2016