With responsibility for 30 annual gardens, hanging baskets and large flower containers, containing more than 12,000 annuals, Landscape Gardener Darcy Loy and her staff have one of the busiest units on campus.
Loy, a 25-year employee who graduated from DuPage Horticulture School, said it all begins with the garden design. In December, she chooses a color scheme for the gardens and then figures the count for the plant materials. Some she seeds at the end of January in one of her three greenhouses while others are plug materials (small plants with an established root system) she purchases for delivery in March, with transplanting completed by the middle of April. “Everything goes in the ground in a two-week time frame before Memorial Day weekend,” said Loy. “From year to year, we hope that Mother Nature cooperates.”
Assisting Loy are the 18-member Grounds staff along with one or two student staff members in the greenhouse and five full-time summer staff members. In the past, campus visitors would see grounds persons setting up or taking down hoses and sprinklers from hydrants, which Loy said wasn’t very practical or attractive. This past year, they installed automatic irrigation on all the quad beds and at the College Avenue and School Street area bed.
The quad has always been Loy’s showcase, but her expertise also extends to the University Residence, Ewing Cultural Center, Milner Plaza, DeGarmo upper and lower plazas, Main Street, Bone Student Center, Redbird Arena and Hovey Hall. This season, she and her staff have added a new concrete stamped area with a berm at College Avenue and University Street. All of their hard work has paid off to the tune of three grand awards and three honor awards from the Professional Grounds Management Society and six Town of Normal Beautification Awards.
Loy continues to do floral design work for the University Residence, campus departments and winter and spring Commencement ceremonies. She oversees contractors who are hired to plant on campus and works with the irrigation contractor as well as keeps weather statistics, which have been recorded at Illinois State since the late 1800s. Loy will work with the new assistant tree surgeon and is the contact person for the Fell Arboretum Donor tree program.
“The best part of my job is fielding questions and hearing compliments from parents, students, visitors or campus personnel,” Loy said, who responds to countless requests for plant, shrub and tree names as well as presents programs and seminars on landscape, garden and floral design. “Everyone is interested and complimentary about what we are planting. One motivating factor for a student’s college choice is campus appearance, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction that my small role plays a part in that choice of Illinois State. The people in our department take great pride in what they do, and I think it shows. It’s true that time flies when you are having fun.”