Most colleges do not have an oasis in the middle of campus, but at Orange Coast College, students can find gurgling fountains, trees that give glorious shade, and flowers releasing sweet fragrance into the air. There is grass to sit in, benches to read a book on and tables to eat lunch at.
Walking into the Horticulture Garden, which is adjacent to the Chemistry building, is like stepping back into time and gives everyone who does so a chance to step away from it all.
Even a brief time spent there will make a difference.
It is dappled with shade, and everywhere you look there is something beautiful for your eyes to see. Succulents of all kinds, flowers in all colors, birds, butterflies, and bees.
Lori Pullman, assistant professor of horticulture, has been working in the Horticultural department for six years and holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture.
“We forget that putting our hands in the soil is a primal connection. We are so inundated with technology, that it’s nice to go someplace that is quiet,” Pullman said.
Students are invited to fully submerge themselves here and are encouraged to take off their shoes and walk in the grass.
They are allowed to touch the plants. It is the opposite of a classroom where they are confined to the row you sit in.
Everyone is welcome to come and be here, with no restrictions placed upon them.
“Almost everyone has a memory of a grandmother or great-grandmother who gardened. There is something about the quiet, and the fresh air through the trees. We provide a different type of support for student success,” Pullman said.
The garden gives back in other ways too.
Each semester, students grow their own vegetables and donate some of what they have grown to Pirates’ Cove, OCC’s on-campus food pantry. Any excess is given to a local food bank.
Because of the amount of rains this semester, planting started later than usual so the harvest is much smaller this year, Pullman said.
Students have grown between 250 and 300 pounds of produce in previous semesters, so Pullman hopes to expand this program in the future.
Horticultural students also grow poinsettias. Last year, students grew — and sold — 12,000 poinsettias before the holidays.
“I didn’t think that people still liked poinsettias, but I guess they do,” Pullman said.
The Horticulture department offers a variety of classes, such as landscaping, knowing your soil, therapeutic gardening for healing and urban container gardening.
Pullman wants students to come and enjoy this magnificent space.
“This is a place where you can come and decompress, even if it is for 20 minutes, get in the right headspace, and go back to class. Your anxiety will drop.”