clocktower garden

Cooper, 6, and Logan, 9, sons of Mark and Michelle Cochran, play on the walkways by the new garden areas at Clocktower Hill. / Michelle Wilson

While workers have been climbing scaffolding and restoring the exterior of Rome’s most recognized landmark, the majestic city Clock Tower recently received a different kind of facelift, courtesy of local landscape artist John Schulz.

He has transformed an area about 15 feet wide and 170 feet long — that had been home to thick ivy, brush and dead trees — to a space filled with beautiful plants, flowers, benches and walkways.

“We wanted a special place at our most beloved historic symbol to replace what was an unattractive area on the grounds after removal of dying trees and ivy,” said Lisa Smith, executive director of the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Smith knew from previous work with Schulz that she wanted his handiwork for the Clock Tower.

“As with all projects and accomplishments that happen, it is all about the relationship — how responsive the partnership is and how well you work together,” she said. “With that said, John is my first thought for collaboration of garden projects. He is a wonderful soul and easy to conceptualize with to get the end result. He has a history of beautiful garden works throughout our community, so it was a natural fit for us.”

Schulz felt that a garden for a place as special as the Rome Clock Tower should have an equally special theme.

“Well, you know one of my things in landscaping is the fourth dimension,” Schulz said. “There is height, width and depth. Then there is the change brought on by time. So I thought wouldn’t it be cool to have a garden that progressed with time? There would be different plants and flowers for each season.”

The inspiration for the garden finds its roots in — of all things — The Howdy Doody Show, which was a 1950s show about a cowboy puppet named Howdy Doody.

“The moderator and main character was named Buffalo Bob,” Schulz said. “And one of the regular guests was a beautiful lady with pigtails named Princess Summerfallwinterspring. I was taken with that name and I have always remembered it because it has such a flowing sound and because it conveys a wonderful message of the circle of time.”

Smith said the garden honors Anne Culpepper, “who has spent a lifetime of hours sharing the history of Rome and Floyd County with others. Every angle is a place that reflects the majestic clock, and the garden design invites you to meander through the garden and discover the entire grounds of Clock Tower Hill, including Bailey Park.”

When Schulz started working on the project in the fall of last year, the canvas had already been cleaned for him and was reduced to mere pine straw.

“With the collaboration between the Tourism Office, Myrtle Hill / Oak Hill Memorial Association and Joe Smith, the city clerk of Rome who is over the facilities, we were able to take the bare ground and let John magically transform it into a place of timeless beauty,” Smith said.

“I like having a blank canvas in front of me,” Schulz said. “It was cool … and intimidating. Intimidation is good because it makes you apply yourself.”

The first of the garden’s “seasons” is complete, and there will be an official dedication of the Clock Tower garden in May.

For summer, visitors will see hydrangea, begonias, gardenias, daylilies, rose of Sharon, rose creek abelia, calla lilies and tea olives. For fall, there will pansies, dianthus, sasanqua and old-fashioned chrysanthemums. In winter, the garden will sport snow drops, hyacinth, Lenten rose, daffodils, camellia and forsythia. And for spring, colors and textures from azalea, dogwood, Eastern redbud, columbine, spirea and hosta will adorn the garden grounds.

There should be a flower blooming in the garden every day of the year.

Winding pathways lead to four different bedding areas — just like there are four different seasons — with benches for people to sit and relax.

Schulz said he hopes the garden will be a calming space for people and to get them to pause and take in the scenery around them.

“I want people to walk through the garden and stop and say ‘Look at that – what is that?’” Schulz said. “I want to know that they’ve been somewhere different.”