Surroundings that soothe

Next time you drive, walk or bike onto the Stanford campus, consider the physical beauty that greets you. The benefits of working in a park-like setting are not lost on BeWell. We spoke with Grounds Manager, Ted Tucholski, to learn more about the natural beauty available to us all at Stanford. 

How do you think the Stanford grounds contribute to the culture of wellness?

Grounds Services performs an important role in contributing to the wellness of all who study, work and visit the campus. Maintenance of the outdoor environment enables everyone to play, exercise and rest in beautiful and comfortable places. We maintain turf areas for recreation; trails for hiking; areas for studying, holding performances, or for resting (perhaps under the shade of a large oak tree). Connecting with nature is important, and often an experience that aids in relieving stress. We provide the opportunity — and plants — for people to literally “stop and smell the roses.”

How big an undertaking is this? 

We have 60 employees in the field maintaining over 1,000 acres of land, including over a million square feet of shrubs. We collaborate with the University Architect and Planning Office, Stanford Utilities, students, staff and others to make the program a success.

What about Grounds Services would be most surprising to our readers?

Our team is a diverse group of individuals from at least 10 different nations — including Nepal, Mexico, Ireland, Peru, Nicaragua and … New Jersey. [laughter]

We maintain computer databases which include a tree inventory of 31,704 trees, a plant inventory consisting of 700 different plant types, and an irrigation inventory of all controllers and their hydrozones that are irrigated. We use an ET (evapotranspiration)-based centralized irrigation system and on-site weather station to conserve water and labor. The system controls the frequency and duration of watering needed to sufficiently sustain specific plant material and conserves 20-25% more water than traditional systems (and can easily be programmed to make further reductions).

Our team monitors the health of 865 transplanted trees. We have the largest Eucalyptus kruseana (Bookleaf mallee) in the world, at a height of 12 feet, located at the corner of Campus Drive and Bonair Siding.

You must know every inch of this campus. What is your favorite part of the grounds?

This is a tough question. It’s like asking a mother who her favorite child is, although my mom would have quickly picked my youngest brother, Steve. [laughter]  

I walk through sites with critical eyes seeing what needs attention, but I appreciate the beauty all over the campus grounds. There are many places I consider special, but if I have to choose one, it would be Memorial Court during twilight. I consider this place the center of campus, surrounded by the historic architecture and gardens of the Main Quad. The space has arcades on three sides, framing Rodin’s Burghers of Calais sculptures, with Rosa floral carpet ‘Red’ (Red Carpet Rose) in the center. It has an incredible view of the Oval, Palm Drive and the expanse of the arboretum in one direction and Memorial Church in the other. I enjoy watching the busloads of tourists walk through the space admiring and photographing what our teams maintain. 

It there a best time of year to appreciate it?

The campus can be enjoyed year-round, but some areas of seasonal interest include the Arizona Garden or the Oregon Courtyard, with its flowering cherry trees in spring. The Tommy Church Garden in the Main Quad, when the Chionanthus trees are blooming during summer, is also a favorite, as is Bowdoin Avenue when the Pistache trees are in full fall color.  

What is your best spring gardening tip?

I have more than one. Evaluate your landscape and watering practices and make a conscientious decision to conserve water. Cultivate the soil and mulch planting beds. Lastly, leave frost-damaged plants alone until the chance of another frost has passed.

To learn more about special sites, significant trees, nature walks and other interesting horticultural features of the campus, visit: Points of Interest.

Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna

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