Plantscapes: Bringing Lush Greenery Indoors

While Cal Poly might not have welcomed its usual number of students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus in fall 2020, the student crew of Plantscapes remained safely on site throughout the summer to beautify the university’s interior spaces in anticipation of limited in-person attendance.  
Those who are on campus -- and paying attention -- might have noticed some well-maintained green spaces in their favorite Cal Poly buildings. For instance, visitors to the University Union are greeted by succulent gardens in window boxes and colorful “living walls” cascading down the main staircase. Tropical lush planters add spice to Mustang Station and Vista Grande dining areas. Soft architectural specimen plants grace the Administration Building.  

These “interiorscapes” – and others – are installed and maintained by the student crew of Plantscapes, a Horticulture and Crop Science Department project that employs a small team of dedicated students to create and maintain lush, inviting interior greenspaces on campus.  

Campus accounts include the Cal Poly Corporation administration offices, the Yakitutu Welcome Center and Housing Administration offices, and the Administration Building, as well as campus dining areas.  

The Plantscape crew is dedicated to weekly care and maintenance of every plant installed. 
“It’s a flexible job that can be fitted into almost any busy student’s schedule, but it does require an eye for detail and a high level of responsibility to be sure that each plant -- each interiorscape -- looks its best,” said Cal Poly alumna Robyn Morrison Kronewitter (Ornamental Horticulture, ’89) Horticulture and Crop Science Unit Plantscape coordinator.

At times, the job can be quite labor- and time-intensive. The recently installed first-floor planters in the Vista Grande dining center required more than one-and-a-half tons of road base and decorative rock, plus over 30 plants, including 15-gallon trees, all moved into place by students putting in hours of hard work.

“Plantscapes provides students with a key Learn by Doing experience as they gain the confidence to work independently at a high level of competence,” Morrison Kronewitter said. “The experience bolsters students’ networking and public interaction skills while teaching them the intricacies of plant care in a variety of settings and with a variety of plant species.

Those involved in Plantscapes work closely with the Horticulture Unit to source high-quality plant materials to fill the interior spaces on campus with student-grown plants, including holiday poinsettias that make a colorful splash in the University Union as winter break draws near.  

Plantscapes also networks with the Horticulture Unit to recruit students that would be a good fit for the oftentimes difficult job, which requires a keen knowledge of plant culture and care, the ability to identify and diagnose plant pests and diseases, the confidence to work respectfully with the public, creativity and attention to detail to continually improve the design of the interiorscapes, and the ability to handle responsibility and work independently.

“An interiorscape reminds Cal Poly students, employees and the larger community that living plants are an important – and aesthetically pleasing – part of people’s everyday lives,” Morrison Kronewitter said. “During these unprecedented times, a connection with natural, green spaces is particularly important.”


Read more stories in the 2020 Newsletter.

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