Creative landscaping helps campus shine
July 7, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Self-watering flowerpots filled with annuals provide instant color in front of buildings. Potted banana palms accent walkways, and old shrubs have been ripped out and replaced with royal purple smoke bushes, knock out roses and sweet gum trees, among other species.
Creative landscaping is bringing a new dimension to Slippery Rock University's appearance, which is a critical first-impression barometer for prospective students and families.
SRU grounds staff, with help from student laborers, are building new landscape beds, replacing mulch, weeding, trimming and planting, planting, planting. Annuals and perennials are going in, including cream balls, marigolds, evergreen shrubs and catnip flowering perennials. The grass quadrangles, campus entrances and well-traveled crosswalks have never looked more "storybook."
"Our guests comment regularly on the evaluations how pretty campus is, especially after the addition of the newly potted plants and building signage," said Michael May, director of undergraduate admissions and recruitment. "It's a good feeling to be proud of a campus. The attention to detail really does make a difference."
Also new are building and wayfaring signs to make it easier for visitors to traverse the campus. The landscaping and signs help convey SRU's welcome tradition.
"I try to look at campus from the perspective of students to provide them a place they are proud of and can feel at home at when they are here," said Dallas Cott, assistant director for campus services facilities and planning, who manages landscaping.
"When they first step on this campus, I want them to say, 'I want to go here,' " he said
One of the major ornamental projects undertaken was the front of Swope Music Hall. SRU crews removed outdated scrubs and planted small evergreens, royal purple shrubs and hearty plants requiring little water or maintenance.
"Swope Music Hall had new landscape installed last week. The previous shrubs were outdated, overgrown and could no longer be trimmed properly," Cott said.
Flowerpots with petunias and impatiens and banana palms have been placed outside Old Main, North, Rhodes, Advanced Technology and Science and the Rock Apartments, Cott said.
"These are self-watering pots so there is an element of sustainability," Cott said. "Annual flowers are placed in these to provide instant color. They can be switched to mums in the fall to continue the color into winter."
Crews replaced small sections of grass with stone mulch called eastern sunrise.
"We are using stone mulch around the new campus signage and landscape bed renovations," Cott said. "This mulch lasts for years, reducing the annual labor and material expense of regular mulch, and it provides an aged and classic look that blends in with a lot of the buildings across campus. We have completed many of the new signage areas with this stone as well as a few neglected beds at ATSH and at Swope. The stone around the base of the signs adds a layer of protection for them so they are not hit with string trimmers or bumped into by mowers."
Facilities is working on ATSH, updating neglected and overgrown beds and turning them into more attractive beds with stone mulch, larger natural stone and a few perennials mixed in.
"We will also be working around Eisenberg, Spotts and Old Main to update landscape beds in the near future," Cott said.
One of the more unusual flowerpot plants being used is the banana palm, which, despite its name, is a perennial herb not a tree.
"They were selected to complement Slippery Rock in Bloom's tropical theme in town," Cott said. "It's nice to have a tie-in with the Borough to keep things looking consistent as your drive through town and onto our campus."
Ed Grossman, campus ground supervisor, Brian Ringler, a laborer who does much of the planting, and Cott pick the plants and flowers.
In keeping with its commitment to sustainability, SRU plants species that require less water and maintenance and also buys plants from local growers in Hermitage.