Sprucing up the grounds

PABLO FERNANDEZ -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

It's the equivalent of one person caring for 22 acres of groomed grounds, 90 trees and hundreds of metres of hedges every single day.

That's the task assigned to the 18 grounds staff members responsible for making Spruce Meadows a lush, colourful oasis among prairie, foothills and wetlands.

Starting at 6:30 a.m. through to 2 or 3 a.m., staff at the world-class venue look after 400 acres of manicured turf, 1,600 trees, more than 3 km of hedges and plant more than 20,000 annual plants each year, said Spruce Meadows grounds manager D'Arcy Finlay.

"During the summer ... we are flat out, eight to ten hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

"The grass doesn't stop growing just because it's Sunday.

"We need to keep the grounds at the level that's expected here at Spruce Meadows -- we don't set the bar low here."

Spruce Meadows has repeatedly been voted the top show jumping venue in the world.

A major factor in that success is the condition of the competition arenas and the manicured grounds that surround them, said Finlay.

Every day, staff mow, irrigate, prune, weed and feed shrubs, hedges, trees, lawn, annuals and perennials, he said.

While the watering and maintaining of the greenery at the venue is done early in the morning before crowds arrive, the arena turf is often maintained after spectators have gone home for the day, said Finlay.

"There's a lot of work that goes on after hours to make sure the turf is ready to go," he said.

"My yard and my lawn don't look nearly as good as this."

It's an ethos passed down from the Southern family that drives his crew to maintain what are some of the best-kept and most manicured grounds in the province, said Finlay.

"To strive for excellence ... it has to be in the person, they have to want to give 110%," he said.

"I take pride, the team takes pride, in what we do."


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