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Behind-the-scenes decorators place flowers

Photo by Lauren Clouser
This group of plants blooming outside of Academic Hall is just one of many maintained on campus by the company The Plant Lady.

Written By Lauren Clouser, Copy Editor

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Although the university has considerably less green space than some campuses, it makes the most of what it does have. Flowers line the sidewalks, trees shade Village Park and shrubberies line the walls outside of Academic Hall. All of these plants are regularly cared for through the effort of both the university and an outside company. 

The university’s greenery is taken care of by an outside company called The Plant Lady. The company is composed of about 20 employees and specializes in holiday decorating and interior and exterior landscaping. The Plant Lady has been taking care of Point Park’s plants since December 2014.

Christopher Hill, the Vice President of Operations at Point Park’s Physical Plant, said in an interview in his office on Thursday that the university hired The Plant Lady because the company was the most economic.

“We had a bid process where a former company, Plantscape, was here, and we decided to go out to bid,” Hill said. “We usually do that every three to five years, just to make sure the market’s corrected, so we’re not getting overcharged…so we went and firms came and they saw the specs that we had, what we wanted, and bid, and they [The Plant Lady] came in and were the low bid.”

The Plant Lady also maintains PPG Place, which Hill said was a recommendation toward their company. In addition to PPG Place, The Plant Lady also cares for the plants of several other prominent locations. According to Patrick McElwee, the general manager of The Plant Lady, the company has done work for places such as Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, Fifth Avenue Place and numerous other areas in Pittsburgh.

“Most of our other clients are law firms, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, suburban office parks, any kind of public business place that has plants in it,” McElwee said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Employees from The Plant Lady are on campus daily to check up on the plants and to do a number of different tasks.

“For the interior plants, we have somebody that comes around once a week to check on all of those,” McElwee said. “So he comes around every week to care for them. You know, waters, prunes, dusts, fertilizes, rotates them so they don’t grow towards the light, makes sure there’s no pest issues with the plants, everything like that.”

The exterior plants generally don’t require as much attention, unless it’s warmer outside.

“Outside during the warmer months, we’re there every day to water,” McElwee said. “So spring, fall, there is some irrigation in the beds and that handles most of it, but when it’s really hot out we typically come down and check on everything daily, you know, get litter out of the beds, deadhead the flowers if they need it [remove the dead flowers], trim the longer vines and do some pruning and water any dry spots the irrigation can’t reach.” 

The design of the plants is coordinated between The Plant Lady and Physical Plant, and much consideration goes into the design.

“We work for Physical Plant and so we try to run things by them, but typically they tell us that we’re the expert, and they’re pretty easy-going about what we put in,” McElwee said.

According to McElwee, they need to consider the amount of sunlight in an area, how much water the plant requires, and the size of a plant.

“You have to think about the heights,” McElwee said. “Whether you need something tall and bushy, or short so we don’t block the view.”

McElwee said that the company also tries to create a color scheme, and cited Village Park as an example. This year there are many pink, orange and yellow plants featured.

“It looks a little more cohesive if there’s a color scheme or pattern to it. We try to blend tropical plants with flowers…it makes it more interesting,” McElwee said.

Hill stated that he is very satisfied with The Plant Lady’s work.

“They’ve added a lot of color and pop to a lot of the inside greenery, especially in Academic,” Hill said. 

Bree Fesh, a junior psychology major, also appreciates the plants around campus.

“I think it’s pretty,” Fesh said. “It’s nice because it’s something that you rarely see in the city. I’m sure if you walk around, pretty much like the only place I really know that has some nice shrubbery and greenery is probably over in the Cultural District, so I would say it’s like a nice little pop of color for sure.” 

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