In any business, it can be easy to get so focused on product that you lose sight of the user. We proactively seek to avoid this, which led us last week to the gorgeous grounds of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
Setting a High Bar
If you picture a classic university campus, stately tree-lined walkways and beautifully landscaped common areas surely come to mind. So when you enter the gates of Furman University, recognized nationally for its layout and beauty, you get all this and more.
It’s as if Ivy League universities built a southern retreat.
Furman University is home to over 2,000 cultivated trees of more than 30 varieties on the 750-acre campus. Furman has qualified as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. As our guide for the day noted, “We’re running out of places to put trees!”
Sheree Wright is the campus horticulturalist. She is a Master Rosarian, a special designation conferred by the American Rose Society based on extensive expertise on roses, their many varieties, and how to grow them. Her wealth of knowledge on roses and a whole spectrum of other flowers is matched by her enthusiasm for making things bloom and thrive.
It is Sheree who finds and selects the varieties that you see all around the property. For example, in keeping with the purple and white colors of the Furman Paladin sports teams, Sheree chose purple ornamental peppers (capsicum annuum) to front the large stone and brick signs that face the nearby roadways.
She pairs blooms like Zinnia, Lantana or fine-flowered Euphorbia with foliage like Radiance Caladium. This job is a passion project for her, evidenced often as she tidies up the beds as we move around the bustling campus.
There is much to manage: The formal rose garden, the Asian garden, fountain borders and much, much more.
A large transplant project is underway to replace aging oaks with new ones along the “Furman Mall” green space that links several parts of the property. The expense is substantial, and these trees simply must establish and thrive as quickly as possible. Even one tree loss would be very costly.
(They have even transplanted an authentic Japanese temple originally built in Nagoya, Japan, but that’s a story for another time.)
What You See
So today we celebrate you — the gardener, the grower, the grounds crew, the landscaper, the caretaker. More than anything, we want to see through your eyes. That is the motivation for our campus tour and others like it.
Such a tour is a reminder of all that our customers are managing besides just selecting soil amendments and growth enhancements. We like to learn where we fit in, what the information gaps are, and how we can make your job easier.
First, there are demands on your time. You have a lot to do, a limited budget, and both success and failure are out there for the whole world to see.
Second, you have many variables to juggle. Plant selection here has to take into account the shade — the oaks here are mature with huge spreads. Many areas don’t receive much sun, but when they do, it can be intense.
Plant selection also has to take into account the soil. You may deal with soils that drain too fast or soils that are compacted. Even as we toured, we met the Superintendent of Grounds investigating a part of campus where the clay is especially saturated and seems to defy draining. It is making life difficult on the trees planted there.
Third, plant life always presents you with a moving target. Weather conditions change and there are problems where quick and accurate diagnosis is vital. If you see spotted blooms, you need to know what you’re dealing with. Is it a bug, a bacteria or a fungus?
And you have to plan. In the case of Furman University, Sheree begins planning in October for the things she wants to accomplish in the spring and the plants she needs to acquire to make it happen.
Our Place in Your Ecosystem
In the end, we find that people like Sheree Wright are inspirational in their passion and expertise. For them — and you — we seek to be a reliable information source, an innovation partner and a tireless advocate.
Listening. Observing. Learning. Assisting.
So now the question is, what can we do for you?