Plants take over UAA landscaping office in SU

From the hall, Room 110 in the Student Union looks like a janitor’s closet, but the view through the building’s tinted windows shows an elevator room and shelves of potted plants.

Director of Facilities, Planning and Construction, Mike Smith said he didn’t know which department was using it.

The plants share room 110 with electrical boxes and maintenance supplies, and when Smith looked up the floor plan for the Student Union, the plan labeled Room 110 as 100 U5, and the elevator room as 100 U6.

To find out who uses the room, Smith took the plan to Tim Nelson of facilities.

“We show those as non-assigned,” Nelson said. “Those are considered utility rooms and I’m not sure what all they’ve got in there, whether electrical boxes and stuff. Maintenance uses that as well.”

Nelson is working on a physical audit of the UAA campus, to make sure building floor plans are up to date and find out how rooms are being used. The audit is part of a federal requirement for universities to determine their efficiency in using their campus’ buildings.

“In the beginning, every room is required for use by the building,” Smith said.

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Nelson said buildings originally use rooms such as Room 110 for utility rooms or mechanical shops.

“I seem to have noticed plants in there quite a bit, so I’m guessing maybe horticulture, Pat Leary’s group,” Nelson said.

The plants in Room 110 share the space with maintenance supplies and are under the charge of Pat Leary, UAA’s landscaping horticulture supervisor.

Leary said plants such as the over-bloomed orchid on the room’s north wall and other dry plants are taken to the room to recover fromneglect, disease and bug infestation.

“Twenty-four years ago when I applied for this job, this is where the landscaping office was. But the transformer wasn’t here, there wasn’t any office. Later that fall we inherited one of those job shacks,” Leary said, pointing to the space once taken up by desks, where the transformer now sits.

The landscaping office is still in a portable building, but the greenhouse is across campus, behind the Engineering building.

Student Union Room 110, office turned plant hospital and maintenance supply store room, houses tropical plants the landscaping department is trying to rejuvenate from their use in other buildings. Some tropical plants the department has started from seed, nut and acorn collected from trips Outside.

“We always bring seeds back and start them, just for humor,” Leary said, pointing out several like oak saplings collected from acorns in Louisiana.

“This here is a candle tree. When I was in Hawaii about three years ago, I picked up a nut on the beach from the Waimea River. I thought we’d try it and it grew really nice, but in the winter it kind of waned, so it’s being rejuvenated,” Leary said.

Landscaping cares for more than 600 plants in 14 of the campus buildings, checking and watering them at least once a week. Room 110 houses only tropical plants, because the greenhouse, for the flowering plants, is too cold.

“A couple of them are temperate, but [we use] tropical because the buildings are maintained at the perfect temperature, high 68 to 70 degrees, not too much light. And that’s what it is in the tropics,” Leary said. “Some of these are lower story plants in the jungles. They can’t take the real bright light.”

During the week of Oct. 10 landscaping put new plants on the railing in the Student Union, including peace lilies, ficus trees and Chinese evergreen.

The landscaping department cares for all the plants in common areas of the campus with the exception of provost offices and two chives grown for the chancellor.

“We take care of the chancellor’s plants, and she likes to have herbs in her windowsill. She loves herbs,” Leary said.

The landscaping department also cares for the plants donated to UAA, many of which are housed in the UAA/APU Consortium Library.

“[Donors] have plants in their house and they’re just getting too big,” Leary said.

BP donated the large ficus trees in the Student Union Cafeteria, and a woman gave UAA a large blooming Christmas Cactus, which grows upstairs in the Student Union alcove.

“This is another donated plant, it’s really old. This lady had it for thirty, forty years,” Leary said. “It’s a Christmas cactus, and you can see it’s starting to get ready to bloom, but this again is in the bright light. It’s a really cool plant.”

Leary said many student workers on-campus look out for the plants, calling if something looks wrong, such as when the watering schedule was reassigned, and plants in the SSB were left out.