Tag Archive for Wild WES

WILD Wes Continues Summer Work on Permaculture Site

wild wes

The student group WILD Wes was a 2021 recipient of a Jewett Center for Community Partnerships Student Innovation Fund award. These awards support community engagement projects with grants up to $750 each. For 11 years, WILD Wes has been maintaining the West College Courtyard permaculture site.

For more than a decade, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan University) has worked to transform a .75 acre of sloping, sandy land into a thriving permaculture site.

Located inside the West College Courtyard, the garden boasts a biodiverse natural ecosystem with plants that are beneficial to humans and wildlife. Birds, bees, butterflies (and humans) enjoy the plethora of seasonal produce: blackberries, blueberries, pears, apples, corn, currants, and more. Seasonal flowers, from beebalm to woodland sunflowers, provide insects with nectar-rich meals, and grassy native groundcovers spread to absorb heavy rain and eliminate the need for mowing and fertilizers.

WILD Wes members began working on the courtyard in 2010 and planted their first trees and perennial rain garden two years later. This summer, students laid a paver pathway and encourage passers-by to take a stroll through the site.

The project is supported by the Wesleyan Green Fund, the College of the Environment, Physical Plant, the SAGES-Green Building Subcommittee, the Sustainability Office, and other partners.

View past stories about WILD Wes’s efforts here. Photos of the West College Courtyard in July and August are below:

wild wes

wild wes wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

wild wes

JCCP Awards 13 Student-Led Groups with Innovation Funds

Thirteen student-led groups are the recipients of Jewett Center for Community Partnerships Student Innovation Fund awards.

These awards support community engagement projects with grants up to $750 each.

“The common theme is that they all want to positively impact the greater Middletown community,” said Rhea Drozdenko, JCCP community participation coordinator. “There is no one right way to do community engagement, and the Innovation Fund supports nontraditional ideas. It’s important that our grantees are grounded in the ideas of mutual respect and collective responsibility as they go out into the community.”

All applicants are required to read the Cardinal Community Commitment —the University’s collective approach to civic engagement—before starting their work.

“Students also must become familiar with the community they wish to serve, practice ongoing self-reflection, embrace a spirit of humility with their work, and be an adaptable collaborator and partner,” Drozdenko said.

Flowers from Foss, Wildlife from WestCo

Although human activity on campus is sparse during the summer and during the COVID-19 pandemic, birds, butterflies, bees, and the occasional groundhog are enjoying the plethora of pollen, nectar, berries, and fruits the campus grounds have to offer.

Pictured are summery scenes taken from the Foss Hill and West College areas of campus on July 20: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

west co garden

Thousands of woodland sunflowers line the upper path behind West College. Ten years ago, the University offered the student organization WILD Wes a .75-acre parcel of sloping land behind the West College complex to build a permaculture site. The courtyard is now home to hundreds of species of perennials, native grasses, ground covers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and other wildlife.

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle flower.

A monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a thistle flower in the West College courtyard.

WILD Wes Celebrates 5 Years of West College Courtyard Growth

This summer, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan University) is celebrating the maturity of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees seeded and planted more than five years ago.

This summer, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan University) is celebrating the maturity of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees seeded and planted more than five years ago.

In 2010, the university offered WILD Wes the West College Courtyard, a .75 acre parcel of sloping, sandy land. After two years of prepping the soil for a permaculture site, students planted their first trees, rye, buckwheat and perennial rain garden at the site.

In 2010, the university offered WILD Wes the West College Courtyard, a .75 acre parcel of sloping, sandy land. After two years of prepping the soil for a permaculture site, students planted their first trees, rye, buckwheat, and a perennial rain garden at the site.

Students Explore Sustainable Landscaping on Campus

Heather Whittemore ’17, who is working on campus this summer, enjoys occasional strolls through the WestCo. courtyard. “I like to check out what’s blooming,” she said.

Heather Whittemore ’17 enjoys strolling through the WestCo. courtyard. “I like to check out what’s blooming,” she said.

In 2011, the student organization WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan), created WILD WestCo, a .75 acre sustainable landscaping initiative in the West College Courtyard. WILD Wes developed a landscape design and implementation plan following a permacultural ethic.

Today, the courtyard features more than 40 shrubs, dozens of fruit trees, two rain gardens, a rainwater catchment system, multiple wood chip pathways lined in rye, clover and buckwheat, a seating area, compost area and hundreds of perennials that draw birds, insects and other wildlife.

The landscape requires minimal resources and maintenance.

As a member of WILD Wes, Heather Whittemore ’17 frequents the courtyard daily throughout the summer.

“I’m really into flowers and gardening. Usually I am into more traditional gardening, but WestCo is really cool because it’s designed using permaculture principles that are much more sustainable and ecological than traditional gardening methods and design, which is important to me as an environmental studies major,” she said.

Photos of the courtyard on July 7 are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Wesleyan's summer campus, July 2015. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS '08)

California poppy is native to the United States and is the official state flower of California.

Summer Blooms, Berries, Bees in West College Courtyard

Following the principles of permaculture, the student group WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan) has transformed the West College Courtyard — once an eroded hillside with compacted soil and diseased trees — into complex ecosystems that provide food, attract insects and requires minimal resources and maintenance. The students also are working on a terraced garden near Summerfields. Follow the group’s progress on their blog.

Pictured are summer blooms, berries, bees and other bugs thriving in the garden on July 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

cam_sum_2014-0708123931 (1)

A yellow jacket collects pollen from a yellow cone flower.

cam_sum_2014-0708124110

Since 2010, WILD Wes has worked to replace conventional energy-intensive lawns on campus with scenic, productive and engaging gardens.

WILD Wes Plants New Terraced Garden at Summerfields

cam_sum_2014-0626003145 (1)

The student organization WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan) has replaced a trampled path near Summerfields with stairs and planted terraces that follow the principles of permaculture.

cam_sum_2014-0626003417

WILD Wes is dedicated to incorporating aspects of sustainable landscaping for the campus.

WILD Wes’s West College Courtyard Blooms to Life

The 2/3 acre West College Courtyard is in full bloom this summer thanks to the efforts of Wesleyan’s WILD Wes organization (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design). Last summer, the organization planted hundreds of perennials, fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and ground cover; and this year campus sees their efforts bloom to fruition. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

The 2/3 acre West College Courtyard is in full bloom this summer thanks to the efforts of Wesleyan’s WILD Wes organization (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design). Last summer, the organization planted hundreds of perennials, fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and ground cover; and this year, campus sees their efforts bloom to fruition. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Behind Wesleyan’s historic College Row is a picture of New England college charm. But in the green expanses of lawn, where most see tradition and classic beauty, a group of Wesleyan students saw an environmental affront.

Blue bachelor buttons in bloom.

Blue bachelor buttons in bloom.

For the past three years, a student group known as WILD Wes (Working for Intelligent Landscape Design), has attempted an alternative approach to landscaping. With Wesleyan’s support, WILD Wes has embarked on a bold experiment: ditch the lawn near the West College Courtyard and replace it with a sustainable landscape, based on the principles of permaculture.

Permaculture design is meant to mimic natural patterns, such that the systems thrive permanently on their own, with low human maintenance. Wesleyan Head of Grounds Dave Hall believes the site has the potential to reach this level. “I’m hoping that it becomes labor-neutral,” he says. “There’s the possibility of some handwork, but no machinery.”

The courtyard is a challenging site. Years of erosion have swept away the topsoil, leaving the ground rocky and compact. Several large beech trees had to be removed due to an epidemic of beech bark disease, essentially leaving the area devoid of any plant life other than the ailing lawn.

For two years, students worked tirelessly on clearing, grooming, composting, mulching, trenching, and planting perennials, fruit trees, herbs and ground cover on the 2/3 acre sloping plot of land near the university’s student resident halls. But this summer, the unsightly dirt-heap has bloomed to life and the campus community is seeing the project bloom to fruition.

This month, red poppies, blue bachelor buttons, swamp milkweed, almost-ripe blueberry bushes and clover dot the landscape. On a woodchip path, courtyard visitors can stroll past the meadow/wildflower garden, a “forest mimic” area, fruit trees, and even into a rain garden — a haven for butterflies and bees. The site also has a “social space,” where the current WILD Wes members aspire to build a stage or performance area.

Nothing in the garden goes to waste. In 2012, WILD Wes students constructed their own “compost throne” out of repurposed wooden pallets. They also haul invasive weeds and other spent greens to the university’s composting site off campus, where material is broken down in several earth bins.

For Wesleyan 2011 alumnus Miles Bukiet, co-founder of WILD Wes, “It’s a victory for permaculture and it’s a victory for Wesleyan. What this project represents is a coming of age of the permaculture movement.”

Blooming WestCo Courtyard.

Blooming WestCo Courtyard.

The concepts of permaculture originated when farmers at the turn of the 20th century espoused the value of “permanent agriculture” to save the land from the industrial forest-field-plow-desert pattern that produced quick results but left land barren. The movement picked up in the 1970s, and acquired a cultural dimension with alternative commune-style living, “eco-villages,” and private residents experimenting in their own backyards. Now, permaculture has entered the mainstream, and WILD Wes has a hand in this new stage of the movement.

Their determination was on display in December 2011, when WILD Wes held its first annual Design Charrette, a symposium that brought together professional permaculture designers, faculty and staff from Wesleyan, and students from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to brainstorm ideas for sustainable landscaping on campus. The next semester, spring 2011, Bukiet and WILD Wes co-founder Sam Silver ’11 taught a student forum, the Sustainable Landscape Design Studio, in which they developed practical plans for WestCo. They also won a $50,000 grant from the Green Fund, Wesleyan’s student-run resource for environmental initiatives on campus.

Now that the West College Courtyard is blooming and self-sustaining, WILD Wes is moving on to a new project – overhauling a sloping hill near the Summerfields Dining Hall. The organization, currently led by Tennessee Mowrey ’14, Rina Kremer ’15, Nathaniel Elmer ’14 and Roxanne Capron ’14, is working on the project this summer.  They’ll replace a trampled path with stairs and planted terraces that following the principles of permaculture. The diverse terrace gardens will prevent soil erosion and attract helpful insects while yielding herbs, berries and vegetables.

Bill Nelligan, director of sustainability, has confidence in WILD Wes’ projects. “It’s a great sustainable model. We’ll continue to creating landscapes across campus that are not only self-sufficient and native but will provide an edible landscape as well.”

Below are photos of the courtyard on June 20. To view last summer’s courtyard photos see this link. To watch a video on WILD Wes see this link. (Yael Chanoff ’11 contributed to this story)

The West College courtyard, created by WILDWes, June 2013.

The West College courtyard, created by WILDWes, June 2013.

The West College courtyard, created by WILDWes, June 2013.

WILD Wes Hosts Earth Day Gathering

Wesleyan students and staff participated in an Earth Day Celebration April 22 at the West College Courtyard and planted an American Chestnut seed. The student organization WILD Wes spearheaded the event. Photos are below:

(Photos by Nam Anh Ta ’12)