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Blooming Begonias! RMU Wins Landscaping Award

Robert Morris University in Moon Township is being recognized for its beautiful and meticulous landscaping. In its first year submitting for the prize, RMU was awarded one of 23 Green Star Awards by the Professional Grounds Management Society.

Assistant Director of Grounds Nathan Bickerstaff said the panel of judges who oversee the awards look for well-manicured campus grounds, “not only from just looks, as far as the lawn goes, but it's flowers, tree care, sustainable practices.”

Bickerstaff said they plant between 350 to 400 flats of flowers a year and that the university’s groundskeepers and subcontractors have their hands full mulching, pruning, planting, and watering. In addition to countless flower beds, 76 of the campus's 230 acres are maintained. Simply mowing the grounds takes an entire day with a crew of more than a dozen people, said Bickerstaff.

Credit Robert Morris University
A member of the university grounds staff waters a flower bed.

RMU competed for the award against other colleges and universities with student bodies of similar sizes. About 5,000 students attend Robert Morris.

Bickerstaff said he was excited when he found out RMU had won.

“You know, all the work wasn't done in vain,” he said. “Not just for my part but you know there was a few other people involved.  You can't just go out and take your photos the day before and apply, these photos had been in the process for a year, a year-and-a-half.”

Beyond using beauty of the grounds as a marketing tool, Bickerstaff said a campus’ appearance, especially for prospective students, matters.

“You know, if it if it doesn't look good as soon as these students and their parents come on campus that could be a turning factor.”

Bickerstaff said he's partial to begonias because they bloom in RMU's colors, red and white, but that they plant all kinds of flowers. Bickerstaff is already planning for next year; he placed his order for spring and summer flowers a couple weeks ago.

But RMU isn’t going to apply for the award in 2018. Bickerstaff said the next time they submit for the honor he wants to showcase a special project, like the landscaping and plantings around RMU’s new event center, which is slated to open in 2019.

Corporate campuses, golf courses, hotels, hospitals, zoos and even home gardeners also compete against their peers in the annual competition.

Larkin got her start in radio as a newsroom volunteer in 2006. She went on to work for 90.5 as a reporter, Weekend Edition host, and Morning Edition producer. In 2009 she became 90.5's All Things Considered host, and in 2017 she was named Managing Editor. She moderates and facilitates public panels and forums, and has won regional and statewide awards for her reporting, including stories on art, criminal justice, domestic violence, and breaking news. Her work has been featured across Pennsylvania and nationally on NPR.