December 11 storm recap

Photo of tree down on Surge II building.

Despite the high winds and long-lasting storms, our campus fared the latest weather event well until about 7 pm last night (December 11, 2014) when a large stone pine came down on Surge II located west of the Silo.

“We’ve been running our street sweepers round-the-clock from Monday through Thursday making sure our storm drains remained clear, and working our tree crew non-stop to lighten branch loads so our trees could better withstand the deluge of water we knew we’d get,” says Cary Avery, associate director of grounds and landscape services. “This tree’s root system failed.”

“What happens in consistent rain systems like what we’ve been experiencing is that the ground gets so wet it can’t hold the roots any longer. The trees don’t break so much as pull out of the ground,” explains Avery. “That’s what happened to the stone pine here.”

Luckily this storm did take care of most of the lingering leaves, which will help as our campus expects to receive more much needed rain next week.

Thanks go out to all of our grounds and landscape services teams as well as our utilities and building maintenance teams for all the behind-the-scenes work they do to make sure our campus is ready for whatever Mother Nature sends our way.

Links to other media coverage of the storm:

UC Davis Dateline
CBS Sacramento
Good Day Sacramento
KCRA Channel 3

PHOTO GALLERY of images from December 2014 storms

Students develop design concepts for amphitheater in Arboretum

Image of student-designed amphitheater concept.

Whenever possible Arboretum and Public Garden staff collaborate with a wide range of professors across campus to incorporate our outdoor spaces into student learning.  Some of the projects use our campus grounds for creating and displaying their artistic works (READ MORE), others are timed so students can participate in campus design and construction projects (SEE MORE), and many classes take advantage of the diversity of flora in our landscapes to learn about plant taxonomy, horticulture, and plant sciences. We also enjoy having the opportunity to involve students in concepts for yet-to-be-designed spaces like an amphitheater planned for the Arboretum’s west end.

A large construction project currently underway in the campus’s health sciences district (READ MORE) includes a new veterinary medicine student services center, additional parking, an events lawn, and native plant meadow that also serves as a stormwater retention basin. An amphitheater is planned just below the native plant meadow, and, as of right now, only the preliminary grading is in place.

Students enrolled in Lecturers Haven Kiers and Keith Wilson’s Landscape Architecture 160, a design and build studio class, were asked to design the amphitheater based on several technical parameters and planned site functions. Below is a photo gallery of the concepts they created. Should we move forward with creating this amenity, their ideas will become part of our design process.

Thank you to Haven and Keith for offering their students this unique learning opportunity and to all the students for their incredible ideas and amazing creativity!


December 2014: weather event clean-up

Photo of stormwater clean-up.

No one is complaining about the rain, let’s make that clear! But, when you get as much as we have lately, without much of a break in between, it can wreak havoc on a campus the size of ours with the number of trees that we have. Luckily our Arboretum and Public Garden teams work year-round maintaining our trees and landscapes in preparation for weather events like these.

“So far the campus has only lost about 10 large branches and two trees; a cedar in the Arboretum and a valley oak out near the campus’s water hydraulic facility,” says Cary Avery, associate director of the Arboretum and Public Garden’s grounds and landscape services unit. “As of noon today [12/05/14], we have picked up a total of 688 yards of green litter; that’s about three times our normal workload for this time of year.”

They don’t stop at green waste clean-up either. Grounds and Landscape Services also manages flooding in areas where our stormwater system is not able to manage the load. No wonder they were recently awarded a four-out-four star accreditation by the Professional Grounds Management Society. LEARN MORE.

Thank you to everyone on our campus who brave the elements to keep our campus clean and safe for our community of students faculty, staff, and visitors.


Volunteer positions now open!


Would you like to spend more time outdoors? Would you like to learn new skills? Are you looking for a way to fulfill a New Year’s resolution to give back to the community? Consider volunteering with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden! It’s a rewarding place to spend your time with lots of fun, food, and camaraderie! We are seeking new volunteers to join our gardening and education outreach volunteer teams. Trainings will be offered this winter and include a combination of expert instruction and hands-on projects.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be a $20 training materials fee due at your team’s first scheduled training date.

Photo of gardening volunteers together with Arboretum and Public Garden staff.

Gardening volunteers work with Arboretum and Public Garden staff to beautify and maintain our campus landscapes, demonstration gardens, and plant collections.

GARDENING VOLUNTEERS work in teams on Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday, or Friday mornings to help maintain and beautify Arboretum and Public Garden landscapes. Each team focuses on a different area; volunteers work in collaboration with horticultural staff.
Training dates:
Thursdays, Jan. 29-Mar. 5



Photo of education outreach volunteer with UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden staff and interns.

From right, academic coordinator Elaine Fingerett and education outreach volunteer Christy Dewees demonstrate the Native California technique for making cordage from cattails.

EDUCATION OUTREACH VOLUNTEERS work with Arboretum and Public Garden staff and student interns on weekend days (mostly Saturday afternoons) to present educational programs for campus visitors of all ages.
Training dates:
Saturday afternoons, start date in late January.


Applications are due Friday, January 16.

The application forms and more information are also available on the Arboretum website at If you have questions, please contact Roxanne Loe at (530) 752-4880 or

PLEASE NOTE: Our offices will be closed from December 20-January 5. We will respond to our inquiries as soon as possible. Thank you for your interest!

4-out-of-4 star accreditation awarded to UC Davis landscape management operations

4 star accreditation group photo of UC Davis Grounds and Landscape Services

Article written by Dave Jones, UC Davis Dateline

Every institution of higher education knows the importance of accreditation, like UC Davis’ recent 10-year renewal from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Now we have another accreditation to be proud of — for landscape management and operations on the Davis campus. The best-in-the-nation accreditation is from the Professional Grounds Management Society, which evaluated UC Davis Grounds and Landscape Services’ principles and practices for “attractive, healthy, sustainable and high quality” grounds.

The accreditation program is new this year: Only three campuses made the cut in the first round, with UC Davis the only one in California and the only one to get the top rating of four stars.

“I could not be more proud of our team,” said Cary Avery, an associate director in Campus Planning and Community Resources. He leads Grounds and Landscape Services and has his own accreditation from the Professional Grounds Management Society, as a certified grounds manager.

“The group of employees that we have working to maintain the health and safety of our campus environment is a top-notch group of people,” Avery said. “They care about each other, this place and the environment.”

The accreditation team had good things to say about Avery: “After talking and listening to Cary’s direct reports and representatives from the work force, it is clear that his leadership style and focus on relationship building are key factors to a harmonious, caring and dedicated workplace environment. “

Which brings us to the work itself: “Many people think that we are just a ‘mow-and-blow’ operation,” Avery said. “They’d be wrong. We have a hand in everything that happens outside.”

Here is a partial list, beyond the mowing and the blowing and raking:

  • Tree care.
  • Cleanup after storms.
  • Irrigation.
  • Sports turf maintenance (including the application of chalk lines).
  • Assist students in their use of landscape installations for school projects, and help faculty members with tree care demonstrations for students.
  • Manage everyday trash and recyclable collection, as well as event cleanup and zero-waste operations.

And, because they’re out and about all day, groundskeepers also give directions to lost visitors, Avery said.

“We have even been contacted by the Raptor Center to rescue an injured bird from a tree top! If this team can help, they will be there. They are incredible people.”

From Green Star to 4 stars

In 2006, the campus earned the highest rating of Grand Star in the Professional Grounds Management Society’s Green Star Awards program, which, according to Avery, was more about aesthetics. “The Grand Star wasn’t about our management practices, how we treat our customers or employees,” he said. “There’s no team that visits to make sure you are doing what you say you are doing.”

The new accreditation program, including site visits, focuses on environmental stewardship, economic performance and social responsibility.

“Collectively, the landscape management team projected a wealth of knowledge on contemporary grounds management strategies as well as a good familiarity with emerging management ideologies and innovations,” the accreditation team wrote. “Cary’s knowledge and effective use of sound grounds management strategies is evident from observing the results of site appropriate work processes and procedures and the delivery of an appreciable grounds product.”

Year-to-year water savings: 20 percent

UC Davis’ sustainability score reflected water savings of about 80 million gallons since Jan. 1, a reduction of more than 20 percent from the year before. Amid the state’s three-year drought, Gov. Jerry Brown has asked all institutions of higher learning to reduce water use by at least that much by the year 2020.

“We’ve done it already, and we hope to do even better next year,” Avery said.

He said the campus has 10 years of experience with “smart” control irrigation, and this allowed for an immediate cut of 20 percent or more in turf watering except on fields that are used for athletics or that have heavy use.

Continued analysis will allow for irrigation cuts of up to 50 percent in certain areas, depending on tree irrigation needs.

“New technologies now also allow our team to further refine irrigation settings with more site-specific information, including plant and soil type, and sun exposure,” Avery said.

“Landscapes where this technology has been implemented only receive water application when the soil and plant material reach a certain allowable depletion level.”

Also, the grounds crew has shut off all fountains and fixes irrigation leaks and overspray problems as quickly as possible after learning of them. To report leaks or overspray, call Facilities Management, (530) 752-1655.

Unique features

In its executive summary, the evaluation team observed: “The University of California, Davis, has a very attractive campus with a visual appearance that can quickly and effectively generate interpretive discussions.

“There are a variety of landscaped areas and features that do not typically appear with as much regularity in the traditional campus setting” — the diversity of drought-tolerant and adaptive plantings (including those in several landscape conversions), the ground cover materials, bio swales and rain gardens, living walls and fences, and naturalized areas strategically interwoven throughout the campus.

“Clearly the integration of these types of sustainability elements with older or existing landscaped areas is a great challenge, and required strategies from a different maintenance and management paradigm,” the review team stated. “The University of California, Davis, campus displays a keen responsiveness to this reality.”

The accreditation report concluded: “The Grounds and Landscape Services unit (of the Arboretum and Public Garden) is playing a vital role in the university’s aspiration to provide an extraordinary experience as a visitor-centered destination, particularly at a time when the campus is in the midst of a historic and severe drought.”

Arboretum and Public Garden

Cary Avery isn’t just applauding his own team for UC Davis’ accreditation in landscape management and operations.

“Grounds and Landscape Services is part of a larger team that helped make this possible,” he said, referring to the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, an initiative that draws on the people and expertise of Grounds and Landscape Services, the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, and the Arboretum.

“Working together we’ve been able to get much more accomplished than ever before,” Avery said.

The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden initiative, begun in 2011, recognizes opportunities all across the campus to engage the campus community and visitors alike in environmental education, as modeled for years by the arboretum — in programming and facilities like the GATEway gardens along the arboretum waterway. (GATE stands for Gardens, Arts and The Environment.)

The accreditation report also acknowledged the public garden team, led by Assistant Vice Chancellor Kathleen Socolofsky in partnership with Bob Segar, assistant vice chancellor in charge of Campus Planning and Community Resources.

The public garden team, the accreditation report states, “has the responsibility for taking the campus to a higher level of excellence in the stewardship of the campus landscape and with making UC Davis a world-class, visitor-centered destination.”

Here’s some of what the team has accomplished:

• Water-wise landscape projects — Including the La Rue Road median, Mrak Hall Circle, Arboretum Drive and the Oak Grove Meadow. By removing turf and/or putting in low-water plants, the team has cut water use significantly, reduced the amount of labor needed for maintenance, improved stormwater quality and enhanced aesthetics.

• Visitor-entry improvements — The Arboretum GATEway Garden (formerly called the California Native Plant GATEway Garden) sits behind the Davis Commons shopping center at the east end of the arboretum, and another improvement project is underway in the Health Sciences District on the west end.

• Student learning — All three units of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden are using the “Learning by Leading” program framework, whereby students lead real projects.

In awarding accreditation to Grounds and Landscaping Services, the review team noted how the achievement was “very likely unattainable if pursued as an independent endeavor.”

“Satisfying many of the best practices requires the nurturing of good interdepartmental relationships and the explicit support from informed senior administrators,” the reviewers said in their report. “The leadership at UC Davis is to be commended for providing the Grounds and Landscape Services unit (of the Arboretum and Public Garden) the resources necessary to excel and to be an effective contributor to the university’s vision for a sustainable future.”

Here today, gone tomorrow: student projects feature fleeting, natural phenomena in the Arboretum

Photo of LDA1 student-created installation in the Arboreutm

“Sites and Sounds of the Universe,” created by Landscape Architecture 1 students Cameron Erskine and Emily Lin.

In Fall 2014, students in Lecturer Elizabeth Boults Landscape Architecture 1 created site-specific installations throughout the UC Davis Arboretum.

According to the assignment parameters, the purpose of these creative installations was to “…highlight existing site features and define new spatial experiences and relationships” as well as celebrate ephemeral phenomena like sunlight, shadow patterns, water currents, plant textures and colors, wildlife habitat, and more.

To complete these projects, students were only allowed to use materials found on or nearby the site they chose. The installations were expected to be temporary and disintegrate naturally.

Although these installations are no longer available for viewing in person, we hope you enjoy perusing this gallery for a brief look into the creativity of our students and their work showcasing our landscapes.

A huge thank you goes out to Professor Boults and her students for helping us see the natural world around us in a new way!


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