With fall finally here and homecoming coming and going, it was impossible not to notice the flowery charm of Slippery Rock University and the surrounding Slippery Rock community. The artistry of the flowers all around campus are thanks to the SRU grounds staff. According to the overseeing manager of SRU grounds staff Dallas Cott, the flower team on campus was toured as part of Slippery Rock in Bloom, which is run through the borough of Slippery Rock.
Due to this team’s efforts toward beauty at The Rock, America in Bloom awarded the borough first place in the 3,000 – 5,000 population category for the 2018 national competition. Cott said America in Bloom is not only a way for the town to judge themselves against other, similarly-sized towns across the country, but it also can help towns secure grant money for improvement projects.
Flower fanatic Brian Ringler has been part of the SRU landscaping team since 2013. Ringler has had a passion for planting flowers and an appreciation for nature for quite a while and the opportunity to enhance the beauty of our campus is an added bonus for him.
“[I enjoy] the natural beauty, with their colors and smells, and watching the butterflies, birds and the bees use these flowers for their needs,” Ringler said. “I love to enhance the beauty of our campus, whether it’s an area that needs something extra added to it or creating something new from scratch.”
Ringler also stated that he always wants people who visit the campus to leave with a good impression, whether those visitors are alumni or prospective students. Additionally, Cott also has a dedication to keeping up the standards of landscaping here at SRU, and these standards have a base in statistics. Studies have shown that within 15 minutes of a prospective student stepping onto a university campus, a decision is made as to whether or not to enroll and attend.
“Everything that I and my teams do is to enhance campus to make this place like home for our students and to make a welcoming and warm place for our guests, faculty and staff,” Cott said. “First impressions are what I’ve stressed to my staff since 2011.”
With this in mind, Ringler said he likes to choose flowers with a big impact.
“My favorite flower is the hibiscus, with its eight-inch blooms,” Ringler said. “I call it the student flower because it’s a late bloomer that’s in full bloom when our students return.”
Ringler is in charge of upper campus such as the area from Morrow Field House to Old Main, while Dillyn Taylor, another full-time SRU employee, leads teams on lower campus through the Quad, around the residence halls and the athletic complexes. Both teams are supported by a number of student workers and temporary employees, and off-campus, the borough has a group of key volunteers that lead planting around the community, Cott said.
“We could not get all this work done without the help of our students and locals,” Ringler said. “We’ve had over 100 volunteers to help plant our 10,000 tulips.”
Even with six or more employees doing this landscape work, however, Cott said the team cannot keep up with the entire campus to the standards that I want due to the size of the campus,” Cott said. “I am constantly looking for ways to improve our landscape across campus.”
Cott noted the 100 new landscape pots dotting campus with color and said that they were a big push to add instant beauty while still remaining maintenance-friendly. When mulch or stone is added to different areas on campus, Cott said more than just the landscaping crew gets involved, so keeping everything maintenance-friendly is a good way to keep everything running smoothly.
So, be sure to take a few seconds to stop and smell the flowers and appreciate the beauty of this campus and the Slippery Rock community thanks to the Slippery Rock in Bloom and the SRU landscaping team.