Landscaping Gets Up As Early Approaches | BU today

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The ground teams engage in a good-natured competition

Everyone at BU knows Nickerson Field is the epicenter of the start weekend, perhaps nothing more than Steve Lindberg and Michael Sisti. University field workers have less than two weeks to plant thousands of geraniums, petunias and impatiens around the west campus, transforming the area into a flowery oasis that will wow a president, visiting dignitaries, graduates, parents. and passers-by.

A confident Lindberg predicts his section of campus will outshine the rest. “This is where it happens,” he boasts. “The West is the best. “

Not according to Dan Tucker, a landworker-cum-poet whose area encompasses Marsh Chapel: “You can say the west is the best, but a lot of other areas have put that aside.”

If you can’t tell already, these guys are a bit competitive. Lindberg, Sisti and Tucker are among 20 ground workers in six areas of the Charles River campus who feverishly graze, mow and plant up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in preparation for the annual launch. The start of the 140th BU is Sunday May 19. While they work for the same department, make no mistake: this is the horticultural war.

Ray Bourgeois, Director of Grounds and Masonry at Facilities Management & Planning, explains that preparation for the start-up begins as soon as the snow is gone. When it comes to beautifying the grounds, there is no great mystery behind the process. “We know what to do from year to year,” he says. “It’s a matter of going out and doing it.”

Not easy considering that the task involves spreading nearly 600 cubic meters of mulch around flower beds, trees and shrubs. Bourgeois says he has stopped counting the number of flowers he requested from the University’s wholesale growers, Mahoney’s and Cavicchio Greenhouses.

He says he’s not picky about flower types – he just tells growers to “send me what you have, whatever color” now or by the start. This usually means low-maintenance annuals like petunias, New Guinea impatiens, impatiens, and geraniums, plants that will continue to bloom all summer and still look great when students return in September. From time to time, growers send in samples of new varieties to assess the reactions of soil workers. Sometimes they become so popular, says Bourgeois, that his people “fight for them”.

Gardeners Mike McAleer (left to right), Michael Sisti and Steve Lindberg blow mulch on the flower beds at the College of General Studies.

At 7 a.m., tractor-trailers loaded with flowers and shrubs start rolling to 120 Ashford Street, where field workers unload them at a nearby storage facility, then pick up whatever they want. plant that day. Bourgeois describes the scene half-jokingly. Lindberg is more graphic: he nods while describing the good-natured melee that develops around hot products.

Steve Crain, who works with Greg Limerick in the Central Campus area, explains that sometimes the best flowers never make it to the shed, but just sneak into the waiting workers’ trucks. And if you arrive after 7 am, he says, “you missed the boat”.

Every BU land worker comes to work with years of landscaping experience and, by extension, personal horticultural preferences. Limerick is a big fan of ornamental grasses, due to their variety, heat tolerance, and the fact that they don’t need a lot of water. “BU wants to keep,” he said with a broad smile. Fortunately, Crain shares his affinity for plants, but also appreciates a pretty rose of Sharon or a butterfly bush for sunny locations. Rhododendrons, azaleas, and viburnums all bloom well, he adds, and are great for shady spots around campus.

Tucker likes to take his region “to the next level” by creating new flower beds, adding grass to arid spots and mowing in angular patterns “to add that little extra feature to make it better than the other. side of the street ”. He says that because of the workers’ affinity for a specific flower, some areas around the campus have acquired a nickname, such as “Bay State Rose”.

And Lindberg says he likes the “bigger pots.” Spoken like a man who had just finished planting a few dozen tiny New Guinea impatiens near the West Campus dining hall and had several dozen more before lunch.

Land workers say they don’t start with a specific landscaping design in mind, but choose varieties based on what works best for specific exposures (full sun, partial sun, or shade), wind conditions (33 Agganis Way generates its own weather pattern) and color (no monochrome rows except scarlet and white near key points around the west campus).

Nickerson Field has always been a priority close to Beginning. But rumor has it that the late John Silber (Hon. ’95), president from 1971 to 1996, used to have potted plants rented by Facilities Management & Planning for the big day, hammer them into the ground, and then put them in the ground. dig them up and return them to growers when the weekend is over.

Kevin Carleton (COM’82), who was working in public relations at BU at the time and is currently Special Assistant to President Robert A. Brown, doubts there is any truth to the story. Potted plants appeared around Nickerson Field just for the start, he says, but were later planted on campus. But he finds trading potted flowers on the black market to be a laughing matter.

Whatever the tradition, college grounds workers say they’ve added a bit of variety to the landscape in recent years, and not just near Nickerson Field. The entire Charles River campus is on display for Launch Weekend and continues to be on display while students and parents visit for summer orientation. Workers take their jobs seriously and keep an eye out for who has the most awesome and impressive display of color.

Lindberg is keenly aware of the competition and is not afraid to say that his field and that of Sisti are “the center of the university’s interest”.

Word to the sage, Lindberg, don’t lose sight of these flower beds: Crain says that a coveted plant “disappears” from time to time.

You can find more information about Commencement on the Commencement website.

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