Landscaping Update at Curry Koi Pond
The area around the koi pond at the Curry Student Center is a popular spot. You will always find students sitting in the Adirondack chairs listening to the gurgling water and watching the bright koi fish. All this foot traffic however, takes a toll on the grass. This summer, a few areas of stone patio will be installed to combat the problem.
“We find ourselves having to replace the grass over there four times a year, which is unsustainable,” said Steve Schneider, Director of horticulture and grounds.
Although much of the grass will remain, it’s not a good fit for the entirety of the space. However, Schneider also doesn’t want anything that looks too artificial or unnatural. “The stone that we want to use comes from Goshen, Massachusetts called Goshen stone. It’s a flat field stone material that is local to western Massachusetts.”
Schneider is also planning on adding more herbaceous plants to the area to make the space more diverse and botanically interesting. “Even with well-established trees present, the area lacks textural variety and depth. We’d like to add some variety in between the three basic layers of trees, pond and sod.”
Installing a few areas of stone patio seems like a relatively simple project, but it’s complicated by the trees that are growing in the area. “It’s a challenge. We’ve got large root zones that we want to be careful of,” Schneider said. “The birches can generally handle more disturbance than the old oak. Oaks in general do not adapt well to any disturbance, so excavation near that tree will have to be more of a surgical procedure.”
Over the years, the koi pond area has been subject to a lot of excavation allowing them to adapt to disturbance over time and remain relatively resilient. “Healthy trees will tend to compensate for frequent disturbance so, if you’re digging in there every couple of years, the roots start to compensate for that. If this site was never disturbed and we were to go in and do this kind of work, we would definitely be stressing out that oak and those birches, but because they’re so used to this urban campus environment, there is a degree of flexibility.”
Despite the resiliency of the trees, any disturbance still causes damage, and the Northeastern Landscape Team is going to great lengths to make sure the roots are disturbed as little as possible.
“Hardscape installation projects typically have associated construction standards that work well on paper but not always in the field; particularly with setting patio stones, there are certain depth to base ratios that are widely accepted in the industry. This approach does not often take into account the heath of adjacent plant life. As we continue to go through the design process, it will be necessary to necessary to evaluate these standards against the heath of the trees in the space. Perhaps we can live with the fact that these very natural stones will move and shift over time, needing occasional adjustments, in exchange for less tree root disturbance. Every couple of years, if we have to lift one of them up to reset them because the base isn’t as stable as the standard calls for for, that’s okay with me. it’s a small price to pay for extending the life of a mature oak another 20 – 40 years.”
This project is expected to take place in August and the goal is to have it complete by fall move-in.
Written by Adam Doucette – 6/24/2022