UHDS landscape team wins city beautification award

by Carmen Wilson, University Housing & Dining Services marketing intern

With dirt-covered hands and a friendly demeanor, there is no doubt Brian Kreft enjoys what he does. He and Sylvan Pritchett are the Landscape Coordinators for University Housing and Dining Services Horticultural programs. The two landscapers have worked hard to bring more sustainable and edible landscaping to Oregon State grounds.

Kreft was drawn to his position because of his interest in sustainable landscaping. “Before, there was heavy use of water in our landscaping,” he said. “While we still use similar methods for certain flower types, we have increased plant populations that are drought-tolerant and ultimately more sustainable.”

This year, Kreft and Pritchett have been busy at work on a project that brings an important piece of horticultural research to a high-visibility spot on campus. The International Living Learning Center (ILLC) currently hosts an annual flower and plant trial garden right on-site. The garden is a collaboration between UHDS, OSU's horticulture department, and plant companies who send samples of different plants to be tested in the Northwest environment. 

In the past, the trial gardens were located at the Oak Creek Center for Horticulture, which is off OSU's main campus on 35th Street. By moving the gardens to Western Boulevard near the ILLC, the landscape team aims to place more focus and visbility on the positive aspects of OSU’s land use. Through the summer, they will be recorded for their color, foliage, and water efficiency. If they are a success, the plants are sold for retail. “Differences between plant populations can be so small, you won’t notice until you check the tag,” Kreft said.

In recognition of their efforts in bringing this high-visibility landscaping to the community, this spring the City of Corvallis awarded University Housing & Dining Services a Civic Beautification Award for the ILLC trial gardens. "This is the kind of collaboration and out of the plot thinking that makes OSU so dynamic," the city's award letter states. "We have heard many comments and questions about the attractive new garden and its contribution to the livability of the neighborhood."

Edible landscaping feeds OSU students

Edible plantings are another area of interest for Kreft and Pritchett. Also in partnership with the Department of Horticulture, they've created several gardens around campus. The Callahan Food Forest outside of Callahan Hall, for example, has a garden abundant with good eats. Half of what is planted are 100 percent organic seasonal veggies, which are used in campus dining centers. The other half are fruiting shrubs and trees.

The Human Services Resource Center (HSRC)’s community garden is another project Kreft and Pritchett have their hands in. Growing Food Security, a partnership between the HSRC, Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI), and Center for Community Engagement (CCE), manage the planting and upkeep of various edibles to suit a variety of cultural palettes. All of what is grown goes directly to the HSRC Food Pantry. You can’t get more local than that.

Kreft hopes these beautiful sights encourage OSU students to become more interactive with their environment; to literally stop and smell the roses.

“People are glued to their phones a lot. I hope someone will stop and see a pepper or blueberry and really appreciate food being grown right where they can see it.”

Learn more about the Civic Beautification Program award

Learn more about the Callahan Food Forest