Lauren Magdaleno

Steven Marx

English 134

Essay 3: A Working Landscape


Learning to Love


                  Located north of Cal Poly’s main campus, where Via Carta completes its course, is the Environmental Horticultural Science Unit. The center is part of the College of Agriculture, with non-traditional agricultural study being its prime focus. Environmental Horticultural Science classes are held at the unit, in which students learn to produce indoor and outdoor plants with the utilization of greenhouses. Outside, a quiet path travels through a garden decorated with collections of flowering plants, both native and non-native to California.[1] Throughout the site, landscaping projects and designs are worked on daily by students who are continually striving to better the plant industry.

                  The Horticultural Unit can be entered two ways. The first entrance heads up a small brick walkway toward the Plant Shop, situated just to the right of the Arboretum. Cal Poly students, parents, alumni, and visitors often stop by to purchase a broad selection of plants produced by Horticulture students. The second entrance passes through the gate of the unit and leads directly to a hall, filled with student-managed greenhouses.

                  The sun sheds its bright rays upon the greenhouses which line the hallway, giving the plants their daily dose of energy. The plants inside the mist house reach for the sunlight after having their morning drink, while the orchids across the way perk up, thrilled to see blue skies once again. A student is seen through the glass walls of the greenhouse snipping a ripe selection of red roses, removing them from their beds to be sold in the plant shop. The roses droop slightly as she carries them toward the shop, as if knowing that their life will soon end.

                  Mist escapes the small pipes in the mist house for the second time, distributing the water from the campus’ irrigation system. Because a lack of irrigation water is a known problem in the state of California, Cal Poly aims to use and replenish water wisely. The system on campus is computer operated, and supplies the Arboretum with enough moisture to keep the plants thriving throughout the year.[2]

                  Further down the hall, two machines are set up to release chemicals into the greenhouses. The first machine is used for pest management. The insecticides protect the plants, but because the Horticultural Unit has become overly dependent on them, problems such as soil depletion have occurred. The machine emits just enough poisonous gases to destroy the insects, not the soil and plants. The second machine, known as the “Boiler,” is used for soil treatment. This machine steam cleans and sterilizes the soil so plants can receive sufficient nutrients[3].

A sign hangs above a door near the exit, reading, “Tropical Foliage Production House.” The door opens into a room filled with tropical plants that can only be grown indoors. Outside, Cal Poly’s specialty rose shows off its school pride with its forest green stem and soft golden petals. Beyond the roses stands another greenhouse storing indoor and outdoor plants. Its retractable roof opens up for plants to breathe the fresh air whenever the weather is nice. Tulips grow in a room called the “Cooler.” Inside the Cooler, temperatures remain low in order to successfully store tulip bulbs until they can bloom in warmer weather.[4]

                  A dirt path begins just outside the greenhouse building, heading toward the five acre garden at the north end of the Horticulture Unit. Near the garden, a neatly trimmed lawn of grass is on display on the right. Small flag poles stick up from the ground creating a miniature golf course, where horticultural students are in the process of a turf green study. Their main purpose is to enhance the golf system by providing golf courses with better turf.[5]    

                  Past the turf lawn, the path disappears into the shade provided by the tall pine trees that welcome visitors into the garden. The arboretum is set up according to the five Mediterranean climates of the world. Signs along the path point to the different gardens, each representing a different climate according to how close those countries, or areas, are to the earth’s equator. The locations from around the globe that name the gardens are: Mediterranean, Australian, New Zealand, Chilean, New Zealand, South African, Palm, and Californian.

                  The main pathway passes through the Californian garden, which is the largest of the group. Various plants and flowers of California welcome guests with their aromatic fragrances. California roses bloom just before the bridge across a small trickling creek, creating an image of early spring that is both relaxing and beautiful. The path stretches ahead decorated with patches of sunlight that managed to sneak its way through the thick leaves of the Coast Redwoods. A project with California native grass is in progress to the right; a study in which the saying, “less water, less mow” informs onlookers about the concern of water preservation in California. Where the California garden comes to an end, the states’ flower, the California poppy, flaunts its golden petals. California sage brush stands tall, as a swift breeze sends the strong scent to tickle the tips of noses.[6]

                  Just above the main path and the Californian garden, the South African, Australian and Palm gardens present their flora. Aloes and palms, in the Palm garden, grow 20 to 30 feet and create a tropical atmosphere as the European and Chinese fan palms shuffle their long lobes in the gentle wind. Aloe Lateritia flourishes beneath the shady palm trees, with its buds the shade of orange mango pulp.

                  A step to the right is the Mediterranean garden, home to the Jerusalem sage. The flowers’ silky yellow petals droop lightly, shying away from the eyes of spectators. Gorgeous Spanish lavender ornaments the garden and Chrysanthemopis, small daisy-like flowers glow with radiance.       

                  The Horticultural Unit is a living example of the work and care contributed by Cal Poly students. The Arboretum takes visitors to a paradise close to home and helps them develop a deeper love for the land around them. As Aldo Leopold once said, “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”











































[1] A Project of The Cal Poly Land Centennial Seminar, Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide (San Luis Obispo, California: Steven Marx, 2002), 157-158.

[2] A Project of The Cal Poly Land Centennial Seminar, Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide (San Luis Obispo, California: Steven Marx, 2002), 55.

Dan Stever, graduate student of Environmental Horticultural Science.

[3] Dan Stever, graduate student of Environmental Horticultural Science.


[4] Dan Stever, graduate student of Environmental Horticultural Science.

Steven Marx, comments on graded essay number 3.



[5] Dan Stever, graduate student of Environmental Horticultural Science.

[6][6] Dan Stever, graduate student of Environmental Horticultural Science.