UNC landscape technician Kittie Allen remembers when she learned it would be her job to grow a garden on the rooftop of the Fedex Global Education Center.
“I thought ‘you’ve got to be crazy,’” Allen says. “Plants shouldn’t be on roofs, or so I thought.”
Now, the rooftop garden, which helps reduce storm water runoff, one of the goals of the campus master plan, is Allen’s favorite place to work, especially in the morning when she can watch the sun rise behind the Bell Tower. “It’s quiet,” Allen says as she looks over the blooming garden and the campus beyond.
Allen has been part of the grounds service department since 1996. She and her crew seed the grounds, mow lawns, pick weeds, irrigate, plant flowers, trees and bushes, and constantly work to maintain UNC’s beautiful landscape. It’s a full day’s work, and Allen takes pride in it. She notes that the landscaping is the first thing people see when they come to Carolina. “If it looks good, more people will want to come,” Allen says.
The job fits Allen perfectly. She grew up in Florida and helped at her grandfather’s nursery. Later, Allen worked for tree removal and Christmas decorating businesses. She was part of the crew that brought and decorated the nearly 120-foot Christmas trees to the National Enquirer office in Lantana, Fla.
In 1990, Allen’s husband, who grew up in Graham, N.C., was ready to come home so the couple moved to North Carolina. She and her husband live outside Saxapahaw, N.C. Their three children are now grown.
Allen says she started adding perennials to the Carolina landscape in winter 1998, creating bold bursts of colors against the pines, oaks and other trees. She started with snapdragons and pansies in a flower box at McGavran-Greenberg Hall. People fell in love with the color, Allen says. Now, flowers bloom all year long throughout campus.
Allen likes being outside and watching plants grow. “I learn something new every day,” she says. “It’s like going to school.”
Published August 26, 2013.