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Austin Outdoor Digs In Deep: UF’s Fifield Hall Gets A Landscaping Makeover

Austin Outdoor's landscaping project at the University of Florida's Fifield Hall was composed of more than 26 different plant types and took approximately 12 hours to layout and install.

Shovels, wheel barrels and dirt-stained knees along with more than 300 plants, donated by Austin Outdoor, 20 trees and eight palettes of sod could be found at the University of Florida’s Fifield Hall recently.

Among such items were approximately 20 UF students from the Landscape Nursery Management Program, Golf and Sportsturf Management Program, and Environmental Horticulture Club. Along with the assistance of the Austin Outdoor employees, students were digging in to re-landscape Fifield Hall, which is the Environmental Horticulture Department at the university.

The idea for the project was formed when Austin Outdoor's Director of Horticulture Gerry Hillier visited the university for employee recruitment. While at the college, he viewed the 17-year-old landscape and felt it needed to be updated. He then spoke with Lisa Hall, academic program coordinator of environmental horticulture at UF, about the possibility of taking on such a project involving the students. From there, the project took root and began to grow.

"Lisa and I spoke and felt that the benefits of re-landscaping Fifield Hall would prove to be two-fold," said Hillier. "We would be able to bring what the students learned in the classroom to the outdoors and also add to the appearance of the building."

The plant material chosen allowed the landscape to have a theme native to the region and included plants such as the East Palatka Holly, Mary Nelly Holly, Forest Pansy Red Bud and Florida Coontie, among many others. Austin Outdoor donated all of the plant material.

When Hillier first spoke to her about the project, Hall said, "I thought it was a great opportunity for the students in our department to be exposed to a real-life professional experience. I also thought it was a generous gesture on Austin Outdoor's part."

For the next few months, Hillier and Hall worked with UF Graduate Student Erin Alvarez to redesign the landscape. Alvarez, who received a Master of Science in Environmental Horticulture in December, designed the landscape to not only make the building more aesthetically appealing but to also use the landscape as a teaching tool for plant identification.

"We encouraged student involvement during every stage of the project, including the landscape design stage," said Hillier. "We wanted the students to be aware of all that goes into a new landscape."

"The students were able to apply the concepts that they have learned in class and use them during an actual installation," said Hall. "They were exposed from the start and made aware of the many steps we took from start to finish.

I feel they were given a great opportunity to see the many unknown facets of landscape installation that they do not learn in the classroom."

"They [the students] finished the project with a lot of self pride and a feeling that they have done something positive," Hall said.

Austin Outdoor, established in 1995, is a horticultural organization dedicated to creating, building and maintaining sustainable landscapes.

Source: Austin Outdoor

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October 15, 2019, 4:59 am PDT

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