Beautifying City Streetscapes

Planter boxes brimming with green foliage and blooming flowers adorn downtown Morro Bay, California, creating an elegant touch to the classic beach town in a beautification effort done through a partnership including Cal Poly’s Horticulture and Crop Science Department and Morro Bay in Bloom.

Proven Winners, a leading plant wholesale company, donated the plants to Cal Poly, and a handful of students grew them in the university’s Horticulture Unit and then transplanted them to 18 planter boxes that were placed strategically near businesses throughout the city.

This was a unique experience in light of COVID-19 because as horticulturalists, we work with a living product. There is no taking days off."

— Jared Smith

Jared Smith (Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences, ’20) helped with the project, both growing them in the greenhouse and overseeing the use of biological pest control for the plants. “In doing so, I was able to gain invaluable experience that will help me with my future endeavors,” he said, adding that he plans to obtain a pest control advisors license and work in nursery operations.

“This was a unique experience in light of COVID-19 because as horticulturalists, we work with a living product. There is no taking days off,” said Smith. “The experience of working with and giving back to the community that I live and study in was particularly enriching; a summer well spent.”

Wendy Robinson, manager of Cal Poly’s greenhouses, connected with the nonprofit Morro Bay in Bloom as a way to involve students in the beautification effort. Cal Poly lecturer Susan Snyder spearheaded the design concepts, while Robinson oversaw the plant production with student employees.

“Cal Poly’s partnership with Morro Bay in Bloom provided students with a hands-on horticulture project that they were able to execute from start to finish,” Robinson said. “Students grew the plants from 2-inch rooted plugs and were tasked with creating an aesthetic plan for integrating them throughout the city.”

The volunteer-based Morro Bay in Bloom is dedicated to beautifying the city by landscaping public spaces and integrating floral design and urban forestry with environmental stewardship.

“The new collaboration among Cal Poly, Morro Bay in Bloom, and Proven Winners is a solid success for all three partners,” said Laurel Barton, a Morro Bay in Bloom volunteer. “Cal Poly horticulture students are exposed to a hands-on learning experience guided by customer expectations; Proven Winners gets a new location and microclimate to test its plants and gather public feedback; and Morro Bay in Bloom gets to test drive new varieties of plants grown by a new generation of dedicated students.”

Walter Heath, who cofounded Morro Bay in Bloom in 2013, said the city has been recognized three times for its beautification efforts by America in Bloom, a national program that promotes beautification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of natural enhancements. Heath said he envisions the partnership with Cal Poly will pave the way for another beautification award — earning recognition for the both the city and the students who labored to make the project a reality.

To watch a video about the collaboration, visit


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