Facilities Services Grounds Department wins beautification award

UF Facilities Services Grounds Department has been awarded the 2018 Public Spaces Award from the Gainesville City Beautification Board for the courtyard of the Academic Research Building (ARB) of the UF College of Medicine.

“As a very busy and high-profile location on campus, the terraced courtyard at the ARB is a site for hundreds of people to enjoy their lunch or break,” said Tom Wichman, assistant director of Facilities Services. “It’s become a favorite area for faculty members, potential donors and others visiting UF.”

The project was managed by Wichman, Grounds Superintendent Donna Bloomfield and Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Seay.

Wichman said because the courtyard is very shaded, earlier attempts to grow turf grass were unsuccessful and led to many bare areas that were lacking color or covered in weeds.

He and Bloomfield ultimately settled on a design that now includes lots of color, bold textures and new-to-campus plant material. Most of the existing landscape was removed except for the Chinese Elm trees and some larger azaleas, he said. The result has been a vibrant and interesting landscape that displays blooms throughout much of the year.

“The design also includes three varieties of Encore azaleas,” Wichman said. “These azaleas provide multiple bloom seasons throughout the year and have proven to be very successful on the UF campus.”

Another plant being used on campus is the Camellia sasanqua “Shishi Gashira,” a low-growing camellia that flowers in the fall, Wichman said. The UF team also chose to use leopard lilies. The leopard lily (Farfugium japonicum “Gigantea”) had not been widely used previously on campus, but it provides a bold texture with its large green leaves and clusters of small yellow flowers in the fall. Holly ferns were added to provide an attractive tropical looking groundcover as well.

The installation and maintenance of the courtyard landscape has been handled by Seay and his crew. The ARB courtyard is kept mostly weed-free by using organic mulch and the personal touch; a Chinese Elm that was blown over in Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017 had to be replaced.

The courtyard now seems to be full of life as people from all parts of the campus flock there for the beauty and serenity of the space, Wichman said.