Keeping UK in bloom: Collins manages campus grounds



By Nini Edwards

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Every flower grown on campus has started its life with one woman.

Bedia Collins works all year to maintain UK’s grounds. Her responsibilities are growing everything in the greenhouse, coordinating where the plants will be planted and managing her crew.

She depends on her crew of 57 people to water and maintain the plants.

Without them she could not get it all done, Collins said. Collins buys all the plants on campus by seed rather than the grown plant — she recently bought 20,000 bulbs.

The campus grounds she maintains includes the Arboretum and the hospital. “You don’t know what you have until spring,” Collins said.

“(When designing) it looks really good in the picture, but when spring comes it can look completely different.”

During the summer, Collins takes care of all this, said Maintenance Superintendent George Riddle. “All the summer annuals that you see in the bed, Bedia designed all of that,” Riddle said. “There is a method to the madness. It is not just going out and putting plants wherever.”

Predicting Mother Nature is a constant battle when choosing plants for campus. Collins said every year plans fail and she tries new plants yearly.

“I try to grow things that are going to take drought well, things that are going to bloom throughout the year,” Collins said. “Every year I try new things and sometimes they do not work out.”

Unpredictable weather plays a role in planning plants’ success. “A complication is knowing when the seasons are going to come,” Riddle said. “Last winter was mild, so when we tried to prepare for (the following spring) the plants were ready to rock in roll. Nature was ready before we were.”

Collins said the main problem she has is students walking or driving over the flowerbeds. Plants often are damaged by human traffic and Collins said she has to watch for hurt flower beds.

“Bedia’s job is making sure everything is planted properly,” Riddle said. “She does have responsibilities like when snow comes she goes into a snowplow truck, but Bedia is different because of her experience and ability with flowers.”