I haven’t been venturing out of my building much on campus while working, mostly due to the fact that we are at the top of a very long hill, and at 35 weeks pregnant, going down the hill also means I must come back up. No thanks! I took a walk down to the campus coffee shop today though (against my back and ligaments protesting) because I was desperate for a chai tea. 🙂 Across the street from our building is C-MORE hall, (Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education). I’ve been here long enough to remember this building going through a major transformation a couple years back and also remember the looks on some people’s faces when the building was almost done with renovations and the landscapers moved in. This was not your typical campus landscaping operation. There were no trucks full of turf, flatbeds filled with palms and other ubiquitous tropicals- this was different. And people, including me, stopped to have a look. At first it looked sparse, bits of grass poking up in tufts out of the ground, skinny little ti plants dotted around and tiny little bushes. But within a matter of weeks, the entire area was filled, bursting with life, and the birds, butterflies and fresh air could be seen and felt. This is what landscaping with native plants does.
It was beautiful to watch, as everything filled in, and the sweet, subtle smell of the pili grass filled the air. The grass variety used by the landscape architects who did this project don’t seem to have the spiky bits on them and it has remained short, not growing to 2-3 feet like some varieties. The grass is surrounded by mature trees which were difficult for the renovators to work around, but were required to stay as part of the overall green design. Also filling in large areas are green and red ti plants, ‘ohia, naupaka and native ferns.
If I didn’t know better, I would think as I walk through this area that I was in some kind of a nice park, because once off the garden area of C-MORE hall you are back to the standard campus turf grass and concrete. Though I will admit, our campus here is better than many I’ve seen- we do have a ton of trees, all labeled for identification and it’s easy to find shade.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this place is the fact that there’s no visible irrigation. While the rest of campus gets watered and sprayed, you rarely seen people over here doing much of anything. There’s some raking that needs to be done occasionally, but overall, it seems so much lower maintenance than other areas.
When the rock benches are in the shade, they are in use. Lots of students stop to eat lunch, talk and gather in this mini park, and it makes me wonder why aren’t we doing this more? Why not more native plants and less turf? It’s good for people, the planet and our water bills.