Russell Crandall
December 6, 2001

Xeriscape: Final Internship Report

The time I allocated for my internship for the second half of the semester was used mainly in four ways: Time spent with the Trees and Landscape Committee taking notes and sending out minutes, talking with other Whitman Students about Xeriscape, searching the web and looking for books that classified plants in a specific way, and thinking about the design of a possible new xeriscape park.

My involvement with the Trees and Landscape Committee was sort of a surprise to me. It didnít have much to do with xeriscape, but Bob asked me to do it, and I was interested, so I went with it. I got to see what the processes are that go on behind the scenes regarding decisions made about the Whitman grounds. I met Larry Malott and Gary Brown, two members of the Whitman Grounds Crew, men who Iíve come to admire for their soft spoken knowledge and intimacy with nature. I learned about the different trees on campus and the basic procedures that are involved with committee politics. It was through this committee that I caught wind of the idea that President Cronin was thinking about possibly building a new xeriscape garden. I eventually used that idea for my poster presentation and kept it in mind for the rest of the semester.

Conversations would often come up in my house when I was working on the project and my friends would ask me questions about what I was doing. I decided to use these opportunities to try to teach my friends about xeriscape. I would attempt to convince them that it is a ridiculous waste of water for so many homes across the American West to be watering their super green lawns two and three times a day. Especially because most of these people water in the middle of the day while the sun is beating down and causing most of the water to evaporate before it even gets to the soil, and the water acts as a magnifying glass in some cases, actually burning the grass and drying it even further! The answer to this excessive waste is xeriscape. Simply furnish your yard with native plants that will prosper in your respective environments. There is no need to plant grass in California that is native to Illinois. But the problem lies more in the social realm than in the scientific. People want to be seen playing catch with their kids on their big, green front lawn. The green lawn has somehow been idolized and has become a sort of status symbol. The way water use is exploited all across America is going to come to a halt very soon, and then people will be forced to accept xeriscape, because these will be the only plants that will be able to grow without supplemental water.

When I heard that Whitman might build a new xeriscape park, I thought it would be a good idea to attempt to design the garden myself. I found this great website, The site is run by Colorado Springs Utilities and is called Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. I based my poster presentation off information that I found at this site. The site is great because it categorizes plants in about 5 different ways, one of which was how much water each plant required. I wanted to design a garden that would be extremely low maintenance, so I chose all my plants from the low and none water requirement lists. I am still surely not a botanist, nor do I know much about plants in general, but I tried to choose shrubs, grasses, flowers, and trees that I thought could survive here in Walla Walla. I also decided to use a lot of rock in the garden. I thought it would be neat to find some big, interesting looking boulders to place around the garden.

If I were to do this internship again, I would probably try to get some more direction from my advisors. I basically did my own thing and used the time to forward my own understanding of xeriscape rather than make an actual contribution to the community or to an organization. Overall, I do not regret doing what I did though. I had fun learning and hopefully will put in my 2 cents if the construction of this new garden ever comes about.