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Summer Gardens at Stony Brook

Stony Brook’s greenhouse in the R&D park, ready for planting on campus.

Summer is a quiet time on campus. Students have gone home, faculty are on hiatus, dorms and dining halls are closed and rebuilding for the fall semester gets under way. It is also one of the prettiest seasons on campus, with lush greens and hidden gardens in full bloom. A walk on campus on a summer day is an enchanting experience.

What we see on campus today actually began this time last year, according to Alaina Claeson, horticulturist and landscape coordinator on Stony Brook’s Campus Operations and Maintenance team, which also includes Mike DeBlasi, grounds and plumbing manager, and fellow horticulturist Dana Fernandez. In preparation for commencement, January through May is a hectic time for designing, growing, preparing and installing the new gardens and flower pots throughout campus. After that, during the quieter summer months plans and designs are created for the following year. Around October, nearly 10,000 annuals are ordered for the following spring. In March they are planted and grown in the greenhouses in the R&D Park, and then planted on campus around April, or as soon as it gets warm. Then the cycle begins again.

If you’ve noticed similar colors on campus, that’s no accident. The team grows large amounts of the same plants. While red and white are always a part of the design, they try to incorporate other color schemes. For example, this summer’s theme is purple and yellow.

“This is my office,” Claeson says with pride, walking past the Administration fountain toward the Academic Mall. “I’m always outside, and if it’s raining, there’s plenty to do in the greenhouse.”

During this quiet time on campus, she takes the time to really look at the various landscapes and gardens to see what needs to be changed and updated. In fact, she often runs through campus to see the gardens from a different perspective and get new ideas for the year ahead. In fall the team focuses on maintenance, pruning and getting the greenhouse ready for the growing season. Snow removal keeps the team busy in the winter months. She recommends taking walks every two to three months to see various stages of growth and blooming, and how the landscape evolves throughout the seasons. 

A campus walk with Claeson on a sunny June day reveals the well-known Instagrammable spots, along with a few hidden gems and areas with potential for the future.

— Story and photos by Chris Maio

Click on the numbers below to see more of our campus in bloom.

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  • Thanks, Chris!
    I loved learning more about the campus greenery. It is so nice to take a walk and take it all in. I’ll be looking out for Alaina to say hi 🙂

  • Thanks so much for the beautiful landscape! I really enjoy walking around the campus and look at those plants ! May I suggest you to add the names of the plants on the side so that we can learn about these plants while enjoying their beauty? We are an educational institution. Why not grab the chance to “educate” viewers? Thanks for consideration!