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Learning irrigation from the top down

Taylor Lewis
Nursery Manager, Taylor Lewis, at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery standing next to the irrigation system that student interns built.

Taylor Lewis, nursery manager, had a vision for how to create a unique tree irrigation system that would suit the conditions at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery, then worked with his student staff and interns to create it.

“The typical nursery places their tree irrigation system on the ground, we couldn’t do that,” explains Lewis. “We have too many smart bunnies hopping around. They can find water by chewing on those low-lying tubes … plus it just looked messy and unorganized.

“I decided we needed to raise the bar, or in our case, tube,” laughs Lewis.

Lewis and his interns got to work suspending the tree irrigation system so the trees are now watered from the top down. What may seem like an obvious solution is, in Lewis’ experience, rarely (if ever) seen in the nursery industry, and a solution that students don’t learn in class.

“We learn about practical irrigation in school,” says Christina Elms, nursery student intern. “It is a whole other thing to see how it works in the real world. Every nursery environment is different. When it comes to solving problems you’ve got to think creatively.”

Since this new system was created last summer, Lewis and his team have not had to make a single repair. That’s great for the trees and shrubs growing here. That’s also good news for the public interested in purchasing larger, attractive, low-water plants to replace their lawns.

“The Arboretum Teaching Nursery has always been known for a great variety of small and medium size drought-tolerant plants,” says Lewis. “Now our customers will start seeing more trees and large shrubs available too.”

Here is a sampling of the larger-size plants customers will find at Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s upcoming 2016 spring plant sales:

  • California red bud, Cercis occidentalis
  • Pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana
  • Marina strawberry tree, Arbutus ‘Marina’
  • Chilean lily of the valley tree, Crinodendron patagua
  • Desert willow, Chilopsis linearis
  • Texas mountain laurel, Calia secundiflora

Posted March 7, 2016 | Jamie Marzouk, Communications Intern