By Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
It is pretty easy to see the University of Missouri–St. Louis was originally the site of a golf course with the hilly landscape and big patches of grass. Will that vision of campus be changing with the new Grounds Supervisor Gregory Ward?
The certified arborist joined the UMSL towards the end of July. Ward’s background is in public horticulture— the science and art of cultivating ornamental plants, fruits, vegetables, and creating gardens. He worked and studied public horticulture at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Ward said, “From early on, I’ve had a fascination with the natural world, mainly plants. As I grew older and began exploring career paths, public horticulture piqued my interest, as I enjoy educating and talking plants with non-plants people.”
While at Longwood, Ward was required to work on a year-long capstone project that is displayed for all to see in the garden. The theme was “Behind the Garden Gates,” in 2013. Ward and his partner on the project showed the relationship between collecting plants in-situ and introduction into cultivation. Ward said, “We chose Araucaria araucana or Monkey Puzzle tree as our plant to showcase in a pretend in-situ situation, where it has recently been collected and placed into a Wardian Case; neighbored by the same plant in an ex-situ cultivation in a formal setting.”
Prior to Longwood, Ward worked for a high-end residential gardening firm in Richmond, Virginia. He was part of many large projects like turf and garden renovation, water-garden renovations, and building hardscapes for numerous uses.
Ward is looking forward to working on the campus and starting his own projects. Ward hopes to focus on “setting a plan in motion to boost our campus aesthetics and to enliven our campus green spaces.”
Larry Eisenberg, associate vice chancellor of planning and construction said, “Greg is hardworking and enthusiastic in his approach to campus Grounds, and brings a fresh outlook and new ideas to the department. His passion for landscaping is obvious to all of us that work closely with Greg, and we are confident that he will make great improvements to the campus environment over time.”
Before coming to UMSL, Ward worked as a horticulturist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and helped oversee their 7,500 square foot rooftop therapy garden. He also worked at Forest Park Forever when he came to St. Louis in the winter of 2013. Ward is also a volunteer as a landscape designer with Emmaus Homes– a local organization that assists in housing mentally handicapped adults in over 80 homes in the counties of Franklin, Warren, St. Charles, and St. Louis.
Ronald Taylor works with Ward as a groundskeeper. Taylor said, “We are very lucky to have Greg. He is very easy to work with and he works with us. I think Greg has been a great improvement to the grounds department. He is a working boss and that is hard to find nowadays.”
There are different parts to the Grounds Supervisor position besides planting and maintaining the greenery on campus. Ward explained the different day-to-day things he oversees. He said, “Managing time, people, and tasks is a part of every day. However, a lot of it is fluid as weather events can change a start date on a project or there are equipment setbacks.”
Ward enjoys his position here at campus. His favorite part about working at UMSL is the people. Ward said, “The daily interaction with the many folks who live near, learn from or work on our campus keeps things interesting.”