Summer Landscape Makeover is Pride of Stockbridge Students

Water garden in Whitmore courtyard
Amber Holst plants Haigis Mall mound with pansies
Paige McFarland mulches freshly planted annuals at Physical Plant

Amid the excitement and buzz of the new semester, many people may not have taken the time to stop and appreciate several landscaping projects completed over the summer by four students from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture through an internship with Physical Plant’s Building and Grounds Services.

Natasha Blayney, Tabbitha Greenough, Amber Holst and Paige McFarland worked with Jen Konieczny, Physical Plant's herbaceous technical specialist, to beautify the grounds and work in greenhouses on campus.

The interns worked in several parts of the campus, including each gateway and Haigis Mall, to add color and fresh flowers to the grounds. Pam Monn, assistant director of Physical Plant for building and grounds, said their work provided “campus benefits by new plantings” and the “beautification of areas.” She goes on to say that the “interns tried new things,” including a zen-inspired water feature garden in the Whitmore Courtyard., which gave them experience in working with aquatic plants.

At each of the gates, the students cleared out old plant materials to make way for new flowers. Brightly colored flowers were planted around the West Gate to keep it in bloom all summer, while the East Gate work incorporated more longer-flowering aromatic plants. At the South Gate, they experienced some problems with removing the old deep-rooted plants, and worked to create a garden that would endure the winter. The foursome also added flowers to the Haigis Mall mound by the flag poles, pansies for early spring, and assorted annuals for mid-summer, both from Five Acre Farm in Northfield.

The interns also raised plants for Commencement. After the ceremonies, the flowers were planted around the Physical Plant, police station, French Hall and the chancellor’s residence. The interns also redid the memorial bed in front of the Knowles Building in the Engineering Quad, and spruced up the child care garden with peek-a-boo, animal and carnivorous-themed beds.

In the greenhouses, the students kept plants at favorable conditions while also working on bio-control and symptom diagnosis for pests and diseases. For their own learning, they grew many plants from seed, such as strawberries, watermelon and cactus.

Another part of the beautification project was the incorporation of lower cost, low-maintenance plants. The students chose to plant native or perennial plants in order to increase the sustainability, but while still meeting the necessity for color and appeal. As another effort to increase the self-reliance of the grounds department, a program was developed to grow its own annuals that will be used as accent plants throughout the campus. “It was an honor to be able to have such a lasting visual impact on the environment in which I learn, and the community of which I am a part,” said Greenough.

Reflecting on the experience, McFarland said the internship “enabled me to develop skills that I, as a sustainable food and farming major, can utilize in any future career path I choose to take… I'm not just walking away with practical skills, I'm walking away with the confidence to effect real change in my surroundings, and the understanding of my community, my world, not as specific obstacles and isolated incidents, but as an intricate, all encompassing system that must work together.”