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Staff profile: Dimitrisz Sopisz

Meet Dimitrisz Sopisz, the Grounds and Gardens Supervisor at Mile End. He came up with the idea of planting a campus orchard and has been involved in a number of sustainability inititiatives across the campus including building hedgehog houses and planting a wildflower lawn.

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Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from Hungary. I studied Horticulture Sciences and have a BSc in Horticulture Engineering. I have over 17 years of experience in garden design, soft and hard landscaping, garden maintenance and consultancy. I recently started a course called Social Therapeutic Horticulture.

I moved to the UK in 2010. Since then, I have worked for a garden maintenance company, a private school in North London (Head Gardener), run my own business and looked after the grounds and gardens of two stately homes (Head Gardener).

How long have you worked at Queen Mary?

I’ve worked at Queen Mary for a year since January 2020 and I supervise five grounds staff.  My team and I are responsible for the maintenance and improvement of all the grounds and gardens at the Mile End Campus. This includes anything from cleaning all external hard landscaping surfaces (litter picking, sweeping, emptying external bins, graffiti removal and pressure washing all external surfaces). My team looks after all the lawn areas, flower beds and borders, shrubberies and the cemetery. This includes anything from lawnmowing, hedge-trimming, planting, weeding and watering. In addition, I prepare short and long-term improvement plans.

Tell us about the projects you’ve completed since joining Queen Mary.

Tree planting at Mile EndSince I joined Queen Mary, the team and I completed several projects including:

  • Replanting the Queen`s Building Courtyard
  • Replanting all the planters in front of Peoples Palace, Queen`s building and Physics Avenue
  • Planting over 1000 Gladiolus bulbs front of Queens building for summer bedding
  • Starting a wildflower meadow project (by converting an existing ornamental lawn)
  • Planting over 8000 Spring flowering bulbs (crocuses, narcissi, hyacinths, anemones, fritillaria and tulips)
  • Planting over 1000 winter bedding plants at various locations on campus (cyclamen, polyanthus, violas and pansies)
  • Starting to build several `bug hotels` across campus to encourage biodiversity
  • Starting the planting of the campus orchard (which includes 60 trees and 170 soft fruit plants)

What’s planned for the future?

  • Creating woodland settings by planting 120 ferns and 100 wild strawberries
  • Setting up regular garden volunteering workshops with the Sustainability department
  • Creating `pop up` vegetable plots across the campus
  • Possibly extending the Orchard and creating a Japanese/Zen style garden

You’ve been instrumental in the planting of a community orchard at Mile End, tell us more about the project and what the plans are? How can staff and students get involved in the future?

Dimi with treeThe Orchard is one of my dreams. I grew up in the countryside where we had a good number of different fruit trees. One day I was walking around the residential side of the campus and had a thought:What if we had an Orchard? I presented my idea to management and was given the go-ahead to get started.

I chose apple and pear trees to start with as certain varieties do well in this environment. The trees are two years old which means they will fruit in two years’ time. The plan is to create an orchard for future generations – a legacy. I want to use the orchard to its full potential: organising workshops about fruit tree pruning, maintenance and harvesting.

Describe your average day/week

Usually, my team and my days and week are planned. In the morning first thing I walk around the Campus to check everything. After that, I talk to my team about any unplanned work. Otherwise, everyone knows what needs to be done. In the afternoon I do my admin which could be anything from researching materials, pricing, or drawing landscaping plans.

What’s the best thing about your job?

 I can create a wonderful environment and can work with some many nice people.

What do you see as your role in helping the University achieve its Strategy 2030?

I would say I can play a big part in the reduction of carbon footprint. Also, creating a welcoming and colourful campus: a place everybody wants to enjoy and visit.

What’s your favourite place on any of our campuses?

I love every part of the campus but if I must choose one it would be where we planted the orchard.

If you could tell a prospective student one thing about Queen Mary, what would it be?

It is a very welcoming and inclusive University.

If you hadn’t been Grounds and Garden Supervisor, what job would you have liked to do?

When I was young, I wanted to study medicine so I would probably have been a surgeon.

Do you have any unusual hobbies, pastimes outside of work?

I love reading, doing environmental and horticultural related courses, long distance running and cycling, and I started playing on violin a couple of years ago.