Despite classes going online and events being canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, IU Landscaping Services staff is continuing to plant flowers and maintain the grounds this spring.
Facility Operations Director Samuel Robertson said he considers the landscaping and beauty of the campus among IU’s top attractions. He said the landscaping team is very self-motivated.
“We see our landscape group as essential,” Robertson said.
It’s unclear when students will be able to return to campus, especially now that summer classes will be online, but Robertson said the department should still keep up the work so it can be ready.
“When the students come back, we want it to be beautiful,” he said.
Grounds Supervisor Trent Chitwood said the landscaping department is taking precautions to follow social distancing protocols. Most of their work is done outside, so it isn’t too difficult to have everyone spread out.
“It’s pretty much business as usual for us,” he said.
Chitwood said a few weeks ago, crews mowed the grass and watered the flowers for the first time this semester. Since there are no students on campus, Robertson said landscaping staff can start correctional projects that normally have to wait until summer, such as repairing trees and flowerbeds.
Horticulture Supervisor Tristan Johnson said the department starts planning in August for all the flowers that will be planted on campus throughout the spring and summer. In early spring, crew members typically plant pansies, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. In the summer, crew members plant begonias and petunias, salvias, annual vincas and colocasiae.
“We try to stick with what’s always worked on campus and try new things here and there,” he said.
Johnson said crew members typically plant the same types of flowers but mix up where they put them on campus so there’s some variety. The department relies on the expertise of crew members who plant and care for the trees and flowers on campus because they know from experience what will look good.
Johnson said the department mixes feathery flowers that will blow in the wind with sturdy trees that won’t move much. When working with colors, they use the traditional IU colors of cream and crimson while also adding pops of new colors that work well with the palette.
“We’d be foolish to stray away from the white and red or cream and crimson,” Johnson said.
Johnson said his favorite part of the spring season is all the colors from the flowers and trees.
The landscaping department takes a lot of pride because IU is often highly ranked for having a beautiful campus, Chitwood said. IU has made the lists of Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and USA Today among others.
“Those rankings reassure us that what we’re doing isn’t going unnoticed,” he said.
Sophomore Thomas Missell said when he was running errands near campus Wednesday, he noticed how beautiful it was.
“Everything was amazing,” he said.
He said his favorite spot on campus is near Dunn Meadow because it is so peaceful.
“It’s such a sad thing that nobody is here to take advantage of it,” Missell said.