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University trims landscaping costs by growing its own plants


Landscape Architect Ric Williams grows new plants such as Mexican Feather Grass in the university nursery. (Photo: Erin Merdinger)

  • August 19, 2009

University community members can look forward to seeing more flowers and greenery around the campus in the upcoming months. In an effort to cut costs, Landscape Architect Ric Williams, assistant director for Facilities Management, and his grounds staff will begin using university-grown plant material in campus landscaping.

Williams got the idea to grow his own plants after attending a flower tradeshow in early spring where he learned about a company that sells “plugs”, which are small seedlings that start in trays and later can be transplanted into larger containers or the ground. Plug trays range in size and can include 72 to 200 plants in a single tray. Williams determined that growing plants from plugs on campus would save the university a lot of money.

“A green shrub or one gallon plant you buy at a nursery would cost $6.95," Williams said. "At wholesale it would cost $4.95, and the plugs cost $0.69.”

Williams' team placed the first order of plugs in May. After growing for about three months in the nursery, grounds staff will begin using them in landscaping in late August. Students from across the campus have been hired to tend to the new plants, which include Mexican Feather Grass and Kniphofia, more commonly known as Red Hot Poker. Williams picked plants like the Red Hot Poker for their deer resistance, love of heat and low water consumption.

Landscaping plans also include removing overgrown ivy and shrubs that line the outside of West Loop and East Loop roads and replacing them with the new CSUEB-grown plants.

“(The landscaping) is important because that’s all some people see when they drive by the campus,” Williams said.

The university will continue purchasing some plants from local nurseries but Williams said, he plans to buy most plants in plugs.

The plugs are grown locally in Watsonville and Gilroy, which decreases transportation costs and supports local businesses, Williams added.

Another way Williams is cutting costs is by purchasing plants that nurseries need to get rid of and can sell at a low price. Additionally, Williams' team will plan ahead by noting which plants need replacing in the future and start growing plants this year to be used in the upcoming year.
“In the end we’re looking for plants with low maintenance, low water consumption and higher curb appeal,” Williams said. “We want people to walk by and say, `That looks great.'”

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