How SLC's Garden Grows
Article by Lauren Freudmann; Left-hand photo by Andrew Lichtenstein ’88; Right-hand photo by Don Hamerman
The Facts Behind the Flowers
“There is a saying around campus that gardening is the slowest of the performing arts,” says Sarah Lawrence’s Director of Operations and Facilities, Micheal Rengers ’78. “A garden is never done; it’s a work in progress that spans years.”
From the spring blooms that grace Commencement and Reunion, to the hardy flora that weather the hot, drowsy days of summer, to the coolest autumn plantings, the Sarah Lawrence landscape is the result of careful planning and follow-up nurturance.
“A beautiful, affordable and maintainable landscape is our primary goal,” says Rengers, noting that the College “inherited” the landscaping ethos of the Lawrence Park West homes adjacent to the campus, and continues to use it as a model to help integrate the 50-acre campus into its local environment.
The College’s budget realities limit the funds available for landscaping—but you’d hardly know it. Sarah Lawrence grows some of its plants from seed—including annuals such as verbena, salvia and sweet potato vines — in its state-of-the-art greenhouse. Constructed behind Lynd, the greenhouse was designed with input from Ani Adishian ’95, who maintains the College’s grounds through her company, FLORA. The green-house is also a winter home for many more interesting plants than are commercially available, including tropicals such as purple leaf elephant ears, cannas and bananas. (The new greenhouse replaced the smaller one attached to McMasters that was razed to make room for the Heimbold Center.)
Growing things need nourishment, and the College rigorously keeps its plants to an environmentally responsible diet. “We limit our watering to the bare minimum needed to maintain the health of our plants,” says Rengers. “We do not use automatic sprinklers. We’re also very careful not to introduce any man-made chemical pesticides on campus. All our fertilizers and bug control agents are 100 percent natural.”
Gardening tips from Ani? She suggests keeping a journal throughout the year, and taking seasonal photos of gardens that show clearly where landscaping might need to be replenished or re-thought.