Each spring, the UWM campus returns to life after a long winter like the black-and-white opening of “The Wizard of Oz” famously turns to color.
Lawns are reseeded. Mulch is laid down. Some 15,000 annuals are planted. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Dennis Greenwood – who has held the job of grounds manager–grounds & landscaping for 30 years – helps direct from his Sabin Hall office, a decorative stone’s throw from the Grounds Building, where thousands of annuals are delivered for planting, well, annually.
A wet and coolish spring delayed their delivery and planting a bit, but by last week the campus was abloom in flowerbeds, along with large pots in Spaights Plaza and in front of buildings.
Names are like poetry to flower lovers: New Guinea impatiens, coleus, wax begonia, marigolds, snapdragons, scaevola, ageratum, torenia.
Greenwood’s crew of seven full-time employees is supplemented from May through August by 15 student workers.
The campus’s park-like setting with its more than 1,000 trees and shrubs still owes much to the vision of Associate Professor Emeritus of Botany Donald Gehrz, who died in 1993.
Colleagues memorialized him as “…responsible for the landscape design and planting plans for the campus.” Gehrz was appointed landscape consultant for UWM in 1964 and continued, along with teaching, until his retirement in 1979. He continued to serve on the Campus Beautification Subcommittee.
A memorial resolution continued: “Professor Gehrz believed that the nature of the campus suggested an informal design with an emphasis on native plant species. He was also concerned that the campus include a diverse assemblage of trees and shrubs that would be valuable for visual impact as well as for instruction.”
“We don’t do a lot of treatment on the trees,” Greenwood said. Still, vigilance continues for leafhoppers on locust and Asian longhorn beetles on oaks. Thankfully, no emerald ash borers have invaded campus.
Although there have been periodic updates, the last comprehensive survey of trees was done in 1990. Greenwood knows many by heart:
Ash (more than 100); maples; oaks; white flowering redbud; sweetgum; tulip trees (the south side of Mitchell Hall – blossoms now gone with the wind); dawn redwoods; white cedars; white pines; Ponderosa pines; spruces; Douglas firs; even an osage orange; two yellow birches that didn’t look too healthy.
Spring cleanup for Greenwood and his crew is not limited to horticulture. They also clean building entrances and relocate people to new offices.