The signs of spring are evident across campus, as flowers have begun to bloom and many other bulbs aren’t far behind. But in a rollercoaster of a winter and early spring that has whipped between record high temperatures one week and frigid wind chills the next, keeping flower beds fresh and lively is a tall order.
But Northeastern’s Facilities Division is up to the challenge.
Chuck Doughty, director of landscape services, said the mild winter put the Facilities staff nearly three weeks ahead of schedule for its spring flower planting — which thus far has included hardy flowers like tulips, daffodils and pansies that can withstand New England’s dramatic swings in temperature.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Doughty said of the recent mild weather, quoting a famous line delivered many times by actor Tony Shalhoub’s character in the TV series “Monk.”
As landscape supervisor Art Caputi put it, “We have to coincide with nature. The weather really dictates what we plant and how we plant it.”
Part of the challenge is contending with the mix of variables that make up Northeastern’s microclimate — from the landscape and the environment to the heat produced by the university’s underground infrastructure.
For as much science is involved in beautifying the campus, there is just as much artistic imagination. On March 22, when record temperatures reached the 90s, Facilities crews planted a colorful mixture of flowers beneath the thundercloud plum trees next to the east entrance to the Curry Student Center that would complement the trees’ reddish foliage.
Decisions like these are made on a daily basis to create flowerbeds that pop with rich colors and offer a unique look every spring, making the campus attractive to the Northeastern community and visitors alike.
“We want to this place to feel warm and homey,” said Doughty, whose staff regularly fields requests from passersby to come remodel their own home gardens.