Stop and Smell the Roses

by Stephanie McCall '05

Have you ever stopped to smell the 800 species and variations of plants? From the 40 rose bushes surrounding the Rose Garden to the ivy creeping up the walls of Hugh and Hazel Darling Library, the landscape of the APU campus brings to life the university's vibrancy and unique atmosphere.

Randy Berk '86, manager of landscape services; Ryan Childs, grounds keeper; and the landscaping staff beautify APU using the fundamentals of design: color, shape, line, texture, variation, and unity. Berk, who holds a B.A. in Art, has worked on APU’s landscaping since he was an undergraduate, 25 years ago.

Azusa has proven to be the perfect location for his creative outlet. With an adaptable climate, almost any kind of creation is feasible. “Azusa has a versatile climate,” said Berk. “You can go either way and grow anything from Midwestern to tropical plants, since we receive very little frost.”

Berk recognizes the importance of matching plant-choice and design with campus location. Working alongside his crew this summer, Berk planted a Japanese garden with ornamental grasses, serpentine cedar, and small boulders in front of the International Center. To complement the entrance, Childs built a Japanese fountain with water pouring from bamboo into an urn.

Entrances to the university are designed to “stay bright, with dramatic, bold foliage and color,” Berk said. The APU sign at the Citrus Avenue entrance is adorned with annual color, which is changed out periodically, including bright red flowers, burgundy canna’s, and single date palms.

In order to landscape H-court of the Shire Modular (Mods) units, Berk went back in time to the 1970s when the mods were first built and received their name from J. R. R. Tolkein's popular Lord of the Rings trilogy. With the origination of the name in mind, the area was designed with a whimsical feel to look as if it were right out of Tolkein's Shire. Fine foliage and flowers of the Breath of Heaven were used to contrast with the bold, autumn-colored leaves and large flowers of the Oak Leaf Hydrangeas. A number of ornamental grasses were used, as well as rushes and ferns to give the area a more relaxed feel, rather than making it a carefully ordered garden.

The University Park (UP) apartment area has been affectionately called Jurassic Park among the landscaping crew because of its tropical theme. To transform UP into a jungle, Queen Palms were imported from another part of campus, in addition to the existing Guadalupe, California Fan, and King Palms plants. According to Berk, the most interesting specie in UP is the Octopus plant. Their many-armed structure produces large red blossoms.

Berk gathers ideas and inspiration for APU’s landscape at popular Southern California locations such as Huntington Library, the Los Angeles Arboretum, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, and other campuses including Biola, Point Loma, and Westmont.

“Our theme for the department is ‘excellence is a process that begins with the basics,’” he said. “College is a very important place in our lives. As we go through school, memories are being formed and we want students to think highly of APU once they’re gone.”