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University hires arboretum director

Martin Quigley has a “green” green thumb.

That’s green as in growth and green as in sustainability. Quigley, the University of Denver’s newest associate professor of biology and director of DU’s Alter Arboretum, says it’s not enough for landscaping to beautify an institution. It must also serve as that institution’s living testament to sustainability.

His goal will be to bring greater plant diversity, color and vibrancy to DU’s campus while considering the impact of irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers. It’s a big job, but after guiding the arboreta on the campuses of Ohio State University and the University of Central Florida, Quigley says he’s looking forward to it.

“You really have four seasons in Denver, and the landscape can celebrate each of those seasons with color and texture,” Quigley says. “So you want things that bloom in the spring but also plants that bloom in the fall, and you look especially for plants that add color to the campus in the winter. And they all have to thrive in the high plains environment. The right plant for the right time in the right place is the art of landscape architecture and the science of horticulture.”

Quigley’s challenge is to advance the 125-acre campus-wide arboretum and create an environment that is beautiful, educational and designed to thrive. Denver’s climate and soil will play a major role in dictating which plants find a home on campus. A plant or tree that requires intensive care consumes too many resources and doesn’t make for a sustainable plan.

“Landscape architecture is not gardening,” Quigley says. “It’s the integration of so many factors — the environment, the soil and the way people and plants interact with that environment.”

Quigley, 55, brings a broad work background to campus. He’s been involved in planting and cultivating from childhood, traveled the world studying botany and consulted on commercial landscaping for large real estate projects including Colorado’s Castle Pines and Beaver Creek.

“I’m a horticulturist by upbringing, botanist by training and an ecologist on top of that,” he says. “I try to achieve beautiful, functioning landscapes that fit the climate instead of fighting it.”

His interests range from incorporating LEEDS green building standards into landscape planning and ethno-botany, the study of how indigenous peoples incorporate plants into their lives as food, fiber and medicine. He will teach conservation biology and other courses at DU. Quigley looks forward to collaboration with University Architect Mark Rodgers, the grounds personnel and academic colleagues.

“A university campus is one of the few institutional opportunities to plant and design something that is going to be around for a long time,” he says. “Especially with trees. Trees are planted for the very long term, and those who do the planning are making an act of faith: they won’t even see those trees at full maturity. Trees are the commitment we make to future generations.”

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