Students, faculty design garden display for Int’l Philadelphia Flower Show
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
With a sign reading “You Are Brilliant” hovering high above the display, the greenery fills the vicinity of the presentation with hints of red, purple and yellow peaking through. In all, over four dozen types of plants were used in the gardens, landscape design professor Chad Nelson said.
Two weeks may remain of the winter season, but that does not stop students and faculty from reminding garden enthusiasts, spectators and Newark locals what the upcoming warm months have to offer.
Since last Monday, two dozen students and four professors from three different departments have been working 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, putting finishing touches on a garden display to be shown at the International Philadelphia Flower Show. From March 2 to March 10, the exhibition room of the Pennsylvania Convention Center will be transformed into a floral sanctuary with the British-inspired theme dubbed “Brilliant.”
“We wanted to take the idea of people being able to use their own personalities to develop their own landscapes,” Nelson said. “We then came up with the concept of, ‘You’re brilliant.’”
Instead of focusing solely on British gardens, the university’s display features three personalized gardens inspired by and crafted for clients based on their individual needs, Nelson said. In a team comprised of students whose majors range from fine arts to landscape design, Nelson said the students used their different skills to interview clients, design gardens and implement the display at the show.
Though the garden installations began last week, junior Taylor Fehmel said the planning for the project began last spring. Fehmel, who took part in the Philadelphia Flower Show during her freshman year, spent the winter months “force growing” plants in the university’s greenhouse, a process she described as overwhelming.
“I didn’t realize this, but there are so many different factors of force growing,” Fehmel said. “It depends on the day length, the hours––there are so many different factors that nothing is ever guaranteed to blossom.”
Fehmel is one of the students enrolled in Design Process Practicum, a landscape design course which requires enrolled students to participate in the flower show. When the university had a display at the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show, only landscape design and horticulture students participated, according to landscape design professor Julie Bruck. This year, however, participants included students from First Year Experience classes as well as landscape design, leadership and art students.
Senior fine arts major Kristin Tinari was primarily responsible for adding small, artistic details throughout the garden. Many of the materials, such as a dream catcher, were secondhand, she said. In addition to focusing on the details of the garden, Tinari built a table entirely out of thrifted glass.
Through this project, Tinari said she has learned valuable lessons applicable in the workforce. Because students from several majors, all with different areas of expertise were involved in the project, cooperation was necessary, she said.
“We had to learn how to execute a plan and collaborate with individuals,” Tinari said.
Much of this collaborative effort took place outside of the classroom, Bruck said. After conceptualizing the gardens, she said students spent weekends growing plants, staining wood and assembling the presentation in a warehouse.
Though time consuming, Bruck said this hands on learning experience is something her students will find useful in their careers, regardless of major.
“What my students need is this translation of what we do in class as a project and real world building,” she said. “I find students are really surprised with the end result.”
Each student could choose their own roles in the project, Bruck said, with some often crossing over into an area outside of their field of study. In addition, participants were able to incorporate concepts learned in class, such as sustainability, into the design process.
One of the landscapes, titled “Josh,” was entirely eco-friendly, featuring native plants and a pond, Nelson said. After interviewing the client, the students designed this garden to cater to his personality and needs, he said. Bruck said many of the plants in the garden are native and can be found at White Clay Creek State Park.
Senior Zekun Li, a landscape design student, spent up to ten hours some days working on the project. As an international student, he said learning flower names was arduous, but considering what he got out of the project, it was worth it, he said
After college, Zekun said he will pursue his master’s degree in landscape design in hopes of getting into city planning. He said he pursued this field because of his connection with nature.
“I always liked being outside with nature and plants,” he said. “That’s why I chose this major.”
Flower show officials will judge the show in two categories––horticulture and design, Nelson said. He said the judges look at the various sized displays to see how well the plants were grown and how innovative the design was.
Regardless of the results, Nelson said the flower show is an essential event for flower enthusiasts.
“As a gardener, it’s the highlight of the year because at a time when it’s bleak, you can come here,” Nelson said. “It’s a real inspiration.”