Click below to listen to the radio version of this story.

Elon University’s campus boasts perfectly manicured lawns, intricately patterned flower beds and aligned brick walkways. The postcard-like campus is made possible by the Physical Plant team, the faces behind the maintenance.

While most of campus is asleep, Physical Plant gardener James Moore is up at 7 a.m. beginning the day’s work. From clearing walkways, to weeding, to planting and more, he loves his job and the opportunities it affords him.

Mackenzie Wilkes | Elon News Network
Horticulturist Susan Tripp and gardener James Moore work together in the landscaping department of Physical Plant.

Moore, who has a degree in horticulture, initially found landscaping to be a viable job because he would work landscaping jobs with his father. He discovered he enjoyed doing the work and being outside. 

“It was kind of more of like, ‘I need a job. I need to go to school,’” Moore said. “And then it turned into more for enjoying being outside and appreciating it.”

Along with the outdoor environment, Moore loves the communal environment of his job. Seeing students, faculty, staff and Martin the mailman is part of his daily routine.

“I like working with the people and our department at Elon, and then everybody’s so friendly,” Moore said. “I’ll see people that work in offices, and I’ll talk to them.”

According to Moore, the work Physical Plant does is a team effort. Susan Tripp, a horticulturist with Physical Plant, works closely with Moore on a day-to-day basis, and just as Moore was describing the community at Elon, Tripp, who had a weed sprayer strapped to her back, shouted “hello” to him.

Tripp said Moore is a “special guy,” and that work could not get done without him, to which he humbly chimed in, saying that what they do is teamwork. 

Sophomore student worker Lily Sandifer-Stech is part of Moore’s team. She works with Moore on various landscaping jobs every Tuesday and Thursday. Sandifer-Stech, who loves being outdoors, finds the work to be both enjoyable and educational.

"He takes the time to point out different flowers, trees or other plants to me and tell me more about them or to just tell me that they're about to bloom."

Lily Sandifer-Stech


“I love working with James because he’s such a genuine and caring person who’s also a lot of fun,” Sandifer-Stech said. “I really enjoy how he takes the time to point out different flowers, trees or other plants to me and tell me more about them or to just tell me that they’re about to bloom.”

Moore has been working at Elon for nearly a decade this May and could not imagine himself working anywhere else. He said the opportunities Elon has to offer are unparalleled.

“I believe that they genuinely appreciate their staff, and there’s so many opportunities for staff at Elon that a commercial landscaping company, they would never dream of doing that stuff,” Moore said.

From commercial landscaping to working retail at a gardening center, Moore said these jobs just don’t compare to being a gardener at Elon. In 2015 he left Elon for four months but came back because of the freedom the job offers.

“This historic area is my office,” Moore said.