UW-Platteville’s best kept secret: Ornamental HorticultureBy Alyssa Bloechl • May 10, 2012 • Category: Opinions
Throughout spring and summer, we have the pleasure of observing the variety of flowers, trees and shrubs bloom and grow all over campus. And no, those lilies didn’t just grow, someone planted them. Outside the Markee Pioneer Student Center there is a pond for our enjoyment, and it wouldn’t be there for us to look at if someone hadn’t designed, built and maintained it. Pavement connects our campus with the use of sidewalks as a means of pedestrian transportation.
More of these little additions and eye-pleasers would not be available to University of Wisconsin-Platteville students and faculty without education and training in the science of ornamental horticulture.
Horticulture, specifically, is the preparation of land in order to produce a garden, orchard or nursery in which to grow flowers, fruits, vegetables or decorative plants. The UW-Platteville website explains the study of ornamental horticulture as “a branch of the broad field of horticulture that focuses on the art and science of floriculture (greenhouse management and interior design), landscape design and management, nursery management, turf management and the development of recreational areas for public and private use.”
The UW-Platteville graduating class of 2001 presented the first two graduates of the ornamental horticulture program from the School of Agriculture. Today, there are about 35 students enrolled in this area of study. The program has a 95 percent employment rate after graduation for UW-Platteville ornamental horticulture graduates, according to Mike Compton, director of the School of Agriculture.
“We have students go into landscaping, hardscaping, greenhouse management and turf management,” Compton said. “Jobs are at golf courses, greenhouses, private homes and businesses to maintain landscapes, grow plants and manage turf.”
Senior ornamental horticulture student Danielle Ballweg has plans to either manage an estate or run her own business selling vegetables.
“I like how the classes are hands on because they are preparing me for when I start working,” Ballweg said.
Ballweg was recently offered a prestigious international fellowship exchange to spend 10 months in Great Britain with the Royal Horticulture Society to work and study at gardens across the country. Only one American student is chosen for this opportunity every year, and Ballweg is the first to apply and be accepted from UW-Platteville.
Senior agricultural business major and small business owner David Parr is more focused on the marketing aspect.
“I find that the classes are helpful in how I make management decisions when running my produce business,” Parr said. He began Parrfection Fruit in high school and is currently preparing to expand once he graduates.
“Our students are ready to hire,” said Assistant Professor Donita Bryan. “Employers ask us for names of graduates with this degree.”
UW-Platteville is the only school in the state that offers a specialized ornamentals program. UW-Madison and UW-River Falls both offer broad-spectrum horticulture programs that include floriculture, fruits and vegetables and other crop sciences.
UW-Platteville’s program emphasizes the need for a large amount of practice in problem solving and critical thinking on the job. The classes that are offered are hands on. Ornamental horticulture students maintain the Dottie Johns Pioneer Gardens, building the patio and hardscapes by the football field, propagation of plants and they work extensively in the greenhouses.
“We require students to work with non-profit clients on designing a landscape in class,” Bryan said. “Currently, the program is in collaboration with Moyer’s Inc. using a $60,000 donation in hardscape material to work on a three to four year project to create a children’s garden.”
The Pioneer Greenhouse is comprised of five greenhouses and two quonsets, which are areas that hold the perennials and woody ornamental plants that are not planted. Each house has different lighting and temperature parameters to accommodate for the more than 300 different species of plants that are grown.
Flowers, crops, herbs and almost any other exotic plant adorn the multiple tables and walls of each greenhouse. Students grow tomatoes year round, which MPSC and Glenview offer in their salad bars.
“We are currently growing and harvesting $300-$500 per month in herbs,” lecturer Dawn Lee said. “We sell rosemary, basil and chives at market price and they are all purchased by campus dining services.”
The four student employees at the greenhouse are either enrolled in the horticulture or crop and soils program. Because there is constant turnover in what is planted and composted, student-workers keep busy repotting, propagating (creating new plants with seeds, cuttings or bulbs), watering and harvesting. Students that learn and work in the greenhouses also work directly with the cooks in dining services so they see what happens to the plants after they are harvested.
All of the different aspects to the ornamental horticulture program are diverse and allow students to get hands on experience necessary to obtain future jobs. Students who study ornamental horticulture make it possible to have the kind of campus UW-Platteville students and staff use everyday, but they are also responsible for places like Central Park and the estate at Buckingham Palace. Crabapple trees don’t just grow and sidewalks don’t design themselves; a person with a degree in ornamental horticulture is behind it.