Loyola University: Tending a Wooded Haven in the City is a Landscaping Partnership
Keeping the stunning Loyola University campus landscaping neat, safe, and impressive isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
But it sort of is.
“It’s in the middle of the city, but when you’re on campus it feels like a country setting,” says Marvin Balsoma, the Level Green Landscaping branch manager who works with Loyola, a private, Jesuit university in Baltimore, Md. “Then you drive out of there and think, ‘Wow, you really are in the city.’
“It’s a really unique setting,” he says, “with the mix of architecture and history of the buildings. It's great to add nice landscaping for everyone to look at.”
Level Green has been working with Loyola University for a year, taking care of some key areas on campus as well as filling in as needed, supplementing the university’s own facilities staff.
Here’s a look at what it takes to make this stunning campus shine.
Life on the West Side
Level Green crews take care of the campus’ West Side dorms, keeping the lawn mowed and healthy, shrubs trimmed, tree branches pruned as needed and planting beds filled with fresh mulch.
Balsoma keeps an eye on the area’s plants to make sure they’re healthy and thriving and don’t need replacing.
There’s plenty to keep track of: yews, junipers, spectacular burning bush that bursts into amazing bright red fall color.
Manhattan euonymus offers dense, lush, dark green foliage. Knock-out roses add impressive pops of color. Nandina boasts a real color show, its glossy leaves starting out pink, then green, then turning red or purple in the fall.
Crews keep an eye on dependable ground covers liriope and ivy to make sure they don’t grow out of control.
Keeping The Quad Green
The Quad is the center of student life at Loyola. Students relax on the sprawling lawn, settle in with their laptops to study, toss frisbees around, and catch up with friends.
Prior to the start of final exams, thousands of Loyola students, faculty, and staff flock to The Quad each April to celebrate the end of the year at Loyolapalooza, a spring festival that features music, carnival rides, and food.
Special stuff happens here at The Quad. When the university celebrated the inauguration of its 25th president in October, a community concert happened here.
It has to look picture-perfect all the time. Fertilizer and weed control keep the turf healthy, green, and wow-worthy, and The Quad gets more treatments than the rest of campus. .
“The Quad is the main focal point on campus,” he says. “They want it as thick and lush as possible.”
That means targeted visits for fertilizing and weed control throughout the year.
Crews visit twice in the spring — first in March or April to apply fertilizer, pre-emergent crabgrass killer, and post-emergent broadleaf weed killer to target weeds like dandelion and clover.
A second visit in May or June repeats the process. Crews visit a third time in July or August to spot spray only for any broadleaf weeds that have popped up. Spot spray is better for the environment, but still targets weeds.
Then, a final round of fertilizer goes down in October or November to help the Loyola turf store nutrients for the winter and emerge strong and healthy in the spring — just in time for Loyolapalooza.
Level Green crews install annual flowers at several key spots on campus, Balsoma says, including at a 9-11 memorial in the Quad, at the campus fitness and aquatic center, and at several stand-alone beds throughout campus.
Bringing bright pops of color: everything from New Guinea impatiens and dragon wing begonia to lantana, hibiscus, petunias and violas.
Flower beds have to stay free of weeds, and are topped with rich brown mulch.
“We add fresh mulch in the fall before students return,” Balsoma says, “so everything looks sharp and crisp.”
Trees, Trees, Trees
A highlight of this wooded campus is the stunning collection of trees, making fall strolls here spectacular.
Balsoma and Level Green crews keep an eye on tree health, trimming as needed, making sure wayward branches don’t hang over sidewalks or parking lots and elevating canopies as needed.
Lots of trees means lots of leaves. Level Green crews do extra leaf removal cleanups as needed, Balsoma says.
“We try to turn it around quickly for them.”
Sprucing Up for Special Events
When the university celebrated the inauguration of its 25th president last fall, the landscaping had to be at its best.
“It was a pretty big deal for them,” Balsoma says. “There were a lot of high-profile visitors, including lots of politicians and presidents of other universities.”
A huge celebration always calls for flowers, and Loyola asked Level Green to plant lots of extra annuals to bring the wow.
“We cleaned the place up really well and had it looking really sharp,” Balsoma says. “We got lots of compliments on how it looked.”
Balsoma knew two weeks ahead for most of the work, but had only three day’s notice for lots of extra flowers.
He wanted to wait as long as possible to do the cleanup right before the event so more leaves wouldn’t fall.
“They were kind of nervous about it,” he says, “but I kept assuring them we’d get it done.”
Working Around the Bustle of College Life
Level Green crews have to be nimble, working amid a steady stream of students.
“The biggest challenge is class changes when campus is filled with students hurrying to their next classes,” Balsoma says. “The guys are mowing, then they need to stop until all the students have moved on to their next class. It slows us down a little bit.
“Sometimes exams are going on in certain buildings and they ask us to come back later so we’re not interrupting testing,” he says.
The campus chapel is sometimes the beautiful location for weddings. Balsoma keeps up with the university calendar so he knows to avoid sending Level Green crews during busy times.
Staying on Top of the Game
“Universities have a lot of competition,” Balsoma says. “You need to always be on top of your game. New students are visiting, parents are walking through. You never know when there might be visitors.”
Balsoma makes sure visitors see green and healthy turf, impressive mulched flower beds, and trimmed and tidy shrubs and trees.
A Top Concern: Flexibility
Level Green’s agreement with Loyola is that crews are on call to help with landscaping as needed, in addition to their specific defined tasks.
“If their crews are short-handed, we step in to help,” Balsoma says.
Balsoma reaches out regularly to the university facilities manager and calls him if he sees anything that needs extra attention: Grass that won’t grow in one spot. Roses with diseases. Struggling plants. If he sees students have cut corners, stressing the turf, he might suggest installing stepping stones in high-traffic areas.
“The best thing I can do is keep an open line of communication, and get over there within a day to meet any needs,” Balsoma says. “We’re able to
get out there at a moment’s notice when there’s a problem and come up with a solution. They might suddenly need three guys for a day or three guys for five days. We make sure we can meet their needs.”
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“It’s a really unique setting with the mix of architecture and history of the buildings. It's great to add nice landscaping for everyone to look at.”Marvin Balsoma
Level Green Landscaping