Landscape Artist Keeps UT Dallas Campus Decorated With Color

Jay Jascott

“Constant color is what we shoot for. When one flower starts to fade out, another will start blooming,” says UT Dallas landscape supervisor Jay Jascott.

Even the most casual visitor to UT Dallas couldn’t miss the bursts of fall color recently added around the major thoroughfares on campus.

That’s the handiwork of landscape supervisor Jay Jascott and his crew who keep UT Dallas blooming with nearly constant color. During spring and fall, the crew adds nearly 25,000 seasonal flowers along the mall, at the entrance roads and in main flower beds across campus.

Their palette emphasizes UT Dallas’ official orange and green colors, anchored by lots of native grasses and evergreen foliage.

In fall, pansies bring out the orange highlights. Spring brings a wider array of color options, from the firecracker yellow-orange of marigolds and cosmos to the deep orange-red of snapdragons, zinnias and canna lilies.

Through a well-planned combination of perennials plus seasonal color, Jascott and his crew manage to have something blooming at all times.

“Constant color is what we shoot for,” Jascott said. “When one flower starts to fade out, another will start blooming.”

Chris Walker

Chris Walker, head of the flower crew, brings out a tray for planting. All of the flowers on campus are grown in a UT Dallas greenhouse.

Most of the flowers are grown on-site, in the campus greenhouse near Floyd Road and Synergy Parkway. The greenhouse can house more than 15,000 plants in 4-inch pots. Some flowers are grown from seed or cuttings; others are nurtured from plant plugs.

After the seasonal plantings, the flower crew starts growing another couple hundred flats of perennials and extra color for areas that may need to be spruced up.

Landscaping in the hot, dry Texas summers can be a challenge, but the landscaping crew knows from experience what kind of flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses will thrive here. Among the flowering plants that do well on campus are Stella d’ Oro daylily, bearded iris, red Turk’s cap and red yucca.

A variety of landscaping designs are evident on campus, from the more stately rows of magnolias at the front entrance to a more casual look elsewhere. The grounds department strives for a look that is “maintained and manicured but not unnatural,” Jascott said.

“Things can be loose and natural, yet eye-pleasing,” he said. “I like for things to look more natural, but you will see some shrubs on campus pruned very aggressively.”

If you look closely, you’ll notice the diversity of texture, color and styles. Native grasses—green fountain, Mexican lovegrass and copper-colored red rooster—sprout up outside the Residence Halls along Rutford Drive. Median beds are filled with dwarf yaupon holly shrubs and loropetalum, a maroon-leafed shrub.

UT Dallas Ground Crew

Landscape staffers Jose Calvillo, Karen Hart and Alfredo Aguilar plant flowers near the UT Dallas police building.

Several areas showcase water-conserving landscaping that needs only occasional weeding. Behind the Lovejack sculpture, the vegetation is very low-maintenance. A landscaped bed at the Callier Center contains native plants and grasses: salvia leucantha, Mexican bush sage, green fountain grass, butterfly weed and Mexican buckeye. And outside the Facilities Management building on the northeast end of campus, a xeriscape-style design features red muhly grass and yucca plants on a gravel bed.

The landscaping crew includes three foremen, an irrigation crew, large mower operation, detail crew, flower crew and greenhouse production team. Chris Walker leads the flower crew and designs the flower beds, then researches what’s available with Craig Lewis, who heads the greenhouse production. Lewis then grows the needed plants.

With three arborists on staff—Jascott, Sam Eicke and Frank Rodriguez—it’s no wonder the campus is filled with a variety of live oak, red oak, chinquapin oak, magnolia, bald cypress and bur oaks, just to name a few. All of these trees require constant thinning, pruning maintenance and fertilization.

"President's Walk" on campus

One of Jascott’s favorite spots on campus is the “President’s Walk,” the heavily canopied walkway between Green Hall and the Administration Building.

One of Jascott’s favorite spots on campus is the “President’s Walk,” the heavily canopied walkway between Green Hall and the Administration Building that leads to more open spaces with tall trees and lush grassy areas at the pedestrian bridge.

“I used to be a turf guy, but trees have become my latest passion. Trees, I feel, are the most important thing. Everyone sees them first,” Jascott said. “It’s the interaction with them. Trees have their own attitudes. Some defoliate faster; they all do different things. I like making sure everything is healthy. I like nature—period. I’m blessed to have a job that gets me outside.”

Though Jascott started out studying landscape architecture, he didn’t think sitting behind a desk was what he wanted to do. He has spent 17 years in the green industry and is a certified arborist, Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)-licensed pesticide applicator and TDA-licensed irrigator. He hopes to pursue a master’s degree in horticulture. He still enjoys the design element of landscaping, and finds the end result especially gratifying.

“I like it when the design grows to what you hoped it would be, and it makes people happy,” Jascott said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].