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CSULB “Green” Letters Stand Test Of Time, Hit 20-Year Anniversary

Published: November 15, 2010

It’s been two decades since the CSULB-spelled topiary first appeared just off Seventh Street on the upper part of campus. It’s weathered earthquakes, extreme heat, a few cold spells and a couple rounds of vandalism, but there the letters still stand, a testament to those who have worked meticulously to maintain them over the years.

“It has been 20 years,” remembers Sarah Reisenauer, who began at CSULB as a groundskeeper in 1987 and recently completed the Building Service Engineer Apprentice program. “I can’t believe it.”

Reisenauer has a particular interest in the letter-shaped shrubs since it was her idea to take the then-overgrown plants and mold them into something a bit more distinguishable. Her department gave her the leeway to be creative in the endeavor; thus the green C-S-U-L-B was born.

“It was my concept,” said Reisenauer. “That was my pet project when I started here. It used to be just shrubs, but they were way too high and I was constantly having to trim them. Because that’s a focal point on campus to me, I wanted it to look nice. I asked my supervisor if we could at least cut it down a little bit to grow them up the brick wall. But when I cut the one area there were five plants evenly spaced and I was like ‘We can do something fun with this.’”

Like any good horticulturist, Reisenauer nurtured the plants, using wire to help train each to grow in the desired shapes, noting that “it took six to 10 months to start forming and a couple of years to really fill in. Once it started taking shape it was fun.

“I was going to class and learning about this stuff and figured we could train it,” she added. “It grows pretty fast and my supervisor at the time said ‘Go for it’. I liked the idea because we didn’t have anything like that on campus and I had seen similar things at a lot of schools I have been to.” So, for the next 13 years, Reisenauer was the main caregiver to the letter-sculpted green shrubs of art.

CSULB Green Letters Marking 20 Years
Photo by Victoria Sanchez
Sarah Reisenauer sits above the letters she tended to for many years.

Despite some harsh weather conditions from time to time, the biggest culprits have been vandals, who have struck the design a couple of times.

“What they did was cut it right at the letter line and I didn’t see it right away until it actually started dying,” said Reisenauer. “I was like, ‘What’s up with that?’ Almost all of them were cut and they were clean cuts, like someone took a pair of pruning shears. It wasn’t just snapped. So, it was cut deliberately. It really broke my heart to see it vandalized those couple of times.”

Reisenauer maintained the five “letters” with TLC, but has since switched jobs on campus and is no longer responsible for that area.

“I’m hearing that they might take them down, but I hope not,” she said. “I think it’s part of campus now, but it is a little work. That was my baby. To maintain it properly, it does take time. I’d really hate to see it go, but it’s out of my control. Still, my friends sometimes tell me they still see my letters there when they drive by, so that’s kind of cool.”