How Much Greener Does It Get?

December 6, 2016

By Crystal Medrano

Step outside Dominican and what do you see? The sky getting greyer, wind getting colder, leaves falling and everything turning brown. In other words, summer is dead. But look inside the campus greenhouse and everything is as bright and alive as ever.

The door is unlocked, you walk inside and the 80 degree weather instantly surrounds you. It smells like a bright summer day after it has rained. The smell of wet earth fills your nostrils and suddenly you’re mesmerized by the colors of an everlasting summer.

A lot of people don’t know we have a campus greenhouse and if they do, they don’t know much about it. The campus greenhouse is located on the east side of the MAC building, formerly known as the old science building, and can be accessed through the McGreal Center.

As soon as you step through the see-through door, there are four long tables vertically in front of you filled with all sorts of plants from cactus to spider plants to flowers. Across the back is a long table horizontal to the others and is filled with vibrant purple spider flowers. There are watering hoses, small brown sprinklers hung above the plants and dried up sunflowers painted gold, hanging from pieces of string on a metal abandoned rack

There is no real caretaker of the greenhouse now, but one Dominican Sister has made significant contributions to the beauty we see in greenhouse today – Sister Jeanne Crapo.

“Dominican Sister Jeanne Crapo used to care for it and the Trinity Corps would volunteer to help in the greenhouse and the secret garden,” Sister Janet Welsh said.  

Sister Jeanne cared for the greenhouse for a very long time weeding and thinning it out, keeping it in top-notch shape. She also used her work as a fundraiser according to Judy Paulus, disability support services coordinator.

“Whenever she cleaned it and thinned it out, she salvaged the plants by having a plant sale and selling them for a couple bucks,” Paulus said.

Before Sister Jeanne, gardening clubs volunteered to take care of the greenhouse, but that ended “about 20 years ago,” according to Dean of Students Trudi Goggin.

After Sister Jeanne retired to the Sinsinawa Mound in Wisconsin, another group stepped up to help in the garden.

“The Trinity Corps is a group of cognitively delayed adults who volunteer to do jobs around campus and would help out in the garden, the grotto and the campus greenhouse,” Paulus said. “They started out working in the secret garden (by the Lewis Hall accessibility ramp) but since Sr. Jeanne Crapo has been gone they have taken after the greenhouse as well.”

The Trinity Corps has taken after her tradition of cleaning out the greenhouse but instead of selling the plants, they raffle them off in the Lewis Alcove during Disability Awareness month.  

“It’s like reusing and recycling these plants,” Paulus said.“ How much greener can it get?”

Even today these plants and flowers can be found throughout campus from the secret garden to the grotto to desks in offices.