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 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!


UC Reseachers: How low water can our landscapes go?

UC ANR researchers Loren Oki and Karrie Reid

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers Loren Oki and Karrie Reid.

This article, written by Katie F. Hetrick, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden director of marketing and communications, appeared on the front page The Davis Enterprise on October 24, 2014.

According to a California Department of Water Resources study, about 53 percent of our household water use goes toward irrigating our landscapes.

So, when it comes to saving water, cutting back in our outdoor spaces is an obvious first step toward conservation. But just how much water can we cut back without turning our yards into a Western movie set complete with tumbleweeds?

That’s the same question asked by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension researchers Loren Oki and Karrie Reid.

Since 2004, they have been testing a variety of plants at the UC Davis Plant Science field research station on south campus. Behind a locked gate, a short gravel driveway away from Old Davis Road, lies an acre exposed to full sun as well as a half-acre exposed to 50 percent shade, where they test plants’ ability to thrive with different levels of water.

“We study these plants for two years at a time,” explains Reid, UC Cooperative Extension adviser for California’s Central Valley region. “The first year, we water them about once a week to get them established. A healthy root system is the key component of long-term drought-tolerance. Just because you buy a low-water plant, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need water when it’s young.

“The second year it’s trial by fire,” Reid says. “This time we study how multiples of the same plant respond to a variety of water deficit scenarios.”

From May to November — a normal growing season for this area — they supplied the subject plants with varying levels of water: high (once every 13 to 18 days); medium (once every 16 to 23 days); low (once every 26 to 34 days); and very low (once approximately every 58 days, or twice during the growing season).

“We want to be able to provide consumers with a source of beautiful landscape materials that will flourish in a wide variety of California climate zones with little input of water or chemicals,” says Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in landscape horticulture with the UCD department of plant sciences.

“A corollary goal is to provide the nursery industry with a source of new and interesting, economically advantageous and environmentally sound plant revenue.”

Like most businesses that rely on consumer demand, the horticulture industry thrives on a constant influx of new and beautiful plants to tantalize its customers year to year, and, despite growing demand for low-input plants — meaning plants that are drought-tolerant, have few pest problems and do not require fertilizers to keep them looking their best — they have been slow in coming to the mainstream nursery market.

That’s where studies from researchers Oki and Reid help to fill in the blanks.

Their research project started in 2004 with UCD’s Arboretum All-Stars, plants that thrive in their Central Valley location under a low-water watering regimen (generally twice a month), looking good at least three seasons a year, resisting pests and diseases, and attracting beneficial wildlife such as bees, insects and birds.

“We loved the list, but because we wanted to also be able to recommend these plants to the nursery industry for propagation,,” Oki says. “We not only wanted scientific data to back up our low-water claims, we also wanted to be able to provide growers with standard protocols for what it takes to propagate these types of plants successfully.”

Adds Reid, “Our research is not just about our particular planting zone either. When we find a plant that performs, we test it out in up to nine different climate zones throughout the state. That’s where our incredible Master Gardener program comes into play.

“They will take our star performing plants and conduct further assessments in demonstration gardens throughout California, and then we incorporate their feedback and scores into our final reports.”

UCD recently completed a study on kurapia, a newly developed, highly versatile groundcover that was developed and now is widely used in Japan. It is available for the first time to the public at the Arboretum and Public Garden plant sale on Saturday.

“Kurapia is a great option where you need a groundcover that won’t get irrigated. I think it will be great in what they call ‘hell strips,’ ” Reid says. “That’s the area between the sidewalk and the street where it’s notoriously difficult to grow anything. Kurapia will do just fine there! Homeowners may want to consider using it as a lawn replacement, too. We’ve found that it looks good year-round.

“Really the public wants it all,” she continues. “Whether you are a homeowner or a large-scale landscaper, we want beautiful and low-water. So we don’t solely look at water use. We want to also know how irrigation and its frequency correlate to attractiveness, seasonal interest and blooms. We report on that, too.”

The researchers’ full reports can be found on the California Center for Urban Horticulture’s website,

Director Socolofsky receives leadership award from Excelerate Foundation

Photo of J. Alex Sloan, Ernest Lewis, Kathleen Socolofsky, and Edward Dadakis.

Photo of Kathleen Socolofsky, associate vice chancellor and director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden (middle, right) with J. Alexander Sloan, Excelerate Foundation president; Ernest Lewis, Excelerate Foundation secretary; and, Edward Dadakis, Excelerate Foundation treasurer.

Kathleen Socolofsky, assistant vice chancellor and director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, received the first leadership award granted by the Excelerate Foundation, an organization that supports nonprofits that motivate positive social change. The award honors her work creating an innovative and transformative model for university and public gardens worldwide.

“Our goals are similar; the Excelerate Foundation believes that healthier, more educated, and better connected local communities are a means to a better nation and world,” explains J. Alexander Sloan, chairman and president of the Excelerate Foundation.  “We believe the way Kathleen is leading her team, the students and community to ‘co-create’ the campus is a model worth exploring and developing for other campuses and communities worldwide.

This leadership prize comes two years after another grant from the Excelerate Foundation which allowed the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to expand its ability to seek foundation funding and capture the diverse ways it utilizes partnerships with students to transform the campus landscape into an inviting, interactive, sustainable showcase, and outdoor museum for UC Davis.

“When someone does an outstanding job as a leader in an organization we work with, we want to award them individually,” says Ernest Lewis, member of the Excelerate Foundation board. “Kathleen is ahead of the curve. The Smithsonian, university and college gardens nationwide, as well as the museum and public garden world are taking notice of the power of programs like the UC Davis GATEways Project and  Learning by Leading. The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is onto something and we want to help position them to take what they’ve created to the next level.”

In addition to the award, Socolofsky received a check for $5,000, a small portion of which is for use solely at her discretion, the rest is for unrestricted use within the organization. It’s no surprise that Socolofsky plans to use the funds to further the Arboretum and Public Garden’s position as a leader in the outdoor museum arena worldwide.


EXCELERATE FOUNDATION The Excelerate Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that motivate positive social change and community development at the local level. They engage with organizations that address pressing problems and opportunities in health and healthcare services, social entrepreneurship, community development, and environmental education. They seek healthier, more educated and better connected local communities as a means to a better nation and world. For more information visit:

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