Making a Mountain out of a Rock Pile: Landscape Services and Science Clubs Landscape Corner of American Way and North Campus Blvd.

November 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm

It started out as a few large boulders that had been excavated from various locations across campus when land was cleared for buildings and parking lots. But as more and more construction projects were completed across campus, more boulders were uncovered and added to the pile. As the pile kept growing and growing, USC Upstate’s Landscape Services Department wondered what to do with the unsightly pile of rocks.

“We were able to repurpose some of the rocks for other areas of campus, such as the rock wall along Gramling Drive by the edge of the soccer fields, or the rocks that are placed in the Susan Jacobs Arboretum in their naturalized setting,” said Bruce Suddeth, director of Landscape Services.  But the bulk of the rocks remained in a pile on the corner of North Campus Boulevard and American Way, near the Louis P. Howell Athletic Complex and the Smith Farmhouse.

“We got tired of moving them around,” said Suddeth, of the rocks weighing an average of 400 to 600 pounds each. So he put together a plan that changed the large unattractive rock pile into a landscaped focal point at a prominently visible corner.

A back hoe and track hoe were brought in to rearrange the rocks into various configurations. Large amounts of fill dirt and top soil were added to the pile over the course of several months. A winding pathway to the summit was created. Irrigation lines were next and the first round of tree plantings went in.

“We thought maybe it was going to be a volcano waterfall putt-putt golfing green,” joked Darrell Burns, a member of Landscape Services crew, of the 15 foot high hill.

Burns, together with Suddeth, biology professor Ben Montgomery, and eight Science and Chemistry Club students, convened on the hill Nov. 11 to install the second phase of plantings which included the smaller shrubs and flowers.  The students were Ashley Bechtel, Rebekah Vance, Samantha Barnard, Jackie Montoya, Andrew Radich, Chris McElwee, Caleb Phillips and Donathan Dendy. Photos of the students working are here.

The master plan includes 326 trees, shrubs, and perennials according to Suddeth. The first round of installation included various types of Cypress, Junipers and Arborvitae.  Spirea, Roses, Lavendar, Maiden Grass, Cone Flower, Daylilly, Phlox, Verbena and others rounded out the shrub and flower materials list.

Planted at the summit, a Skylands Spruce will grow to a height of 40 feet with a spread of 20 feet.

“We are grateful for the support of the Science and Chemistry Clubs who volunteered to finish this project,” said Suddeth. “The university has made a commitment to yearly tree planting that has earned us Tree Campus USA designation from The Arbor Day Foundation for three years in a row. This new inventory of trees will further demonstrate our commitment to conservation, sustainability and preservation.”

For more information contact Bruce Suddeth at (864) 503-5500 bsuddeth@uscupstate.edu or Ben Montgomery at (864) 503-5764 bmontgomery@uscupstate.edu.  Suggestions for a name for the new hill are also welcomed by email to either Suddeth or Montgomery.