When deciding what kind of flowers to plant on campus, Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations Bob Sheeley says he looks at multiple criteria including the seasons, the amount of labor and the “hardiness” of the plant.
“We like to have an expression of the different seasons,” he says. “So, as one group of plants die off in the spring, we want something that’ll last through the summer, and then we have to worry about the fall.”
Plants are also picked based on the overall care they will require once on campus. But, the most important factor when deciding which plants to choose, according to Sheeley, is how much watering is needed.
“When we do watering, it involves not just the water, which is secondary, quite frankly, to the labor involved in doing that,” he says.
According to Sheeley, a contractor is responsible for about 60 flower beds on campus, but Facilities Operations only has eight groundskeepers tasked with taking care of more than 100 other flower beds on campus—a job which can become especially demanding during the summer.
“They [the groundskeepers] can start cutting grass on a Monday,” Sheeley says, “and during June and the latter part of August and early September, they could start back on Friday doing the same areas because the grass grows quicker during that time.”
Taking the labor into consideration, plants are also picked based on financial needs.
Sheeley says one of the ways Facilities Operations saves money has been by planting flowers such as tulips and daisies—perennials which bloom each year.
“Those kinds of things that we don’t have to do every year,” he says. “They just multiply.”
tulips and daisies have been planted on campus for the past three years in anticipation of them being cost-effective.
“In forecasting, we knew that there were gonna be crunches coming,” he says, “and so we said, ‘well, what can we do now that will benefit us two, three, four years from now as far as cost?’ So we did that. We had some foresight.”
The process is constantly changing with the market and what is available during the current season.
Sheeley says that Facilities Operations sometimes selects plants based on their resilience or because they are new to the market.
“We’re not close-minded; we’re always open-minded in what we do as far as plantings on campus,” he says.
Aside from the practical aspects that go into selecting plants for campus, Sheeley says they also have cosmetic benefits—planting flowers that are “indicative” of the changing seasons, for example. They provide variety for the campus, something which Sheeley says is “always good.”
Employee satisfaction is also a concern that Sheeley tries to address by using the facilities available. He says creating an aesthetically pleasing place to work is good for overall productivity of the employees on campus. “You come to work and it’s dreary outside, nothing gets planted, grass is growing and leaves are all over the place. You have a different attitude when you came in you have nice flowers, the weed beds are taken care of, the area’s clean,” he says. “We think that’s pretty serious. So, we try to attend to it the best we can with the facilities and money that we have.