The Kew Gardens Of The North

The Kew Gardens Of The North

I am writing this column from Ontario, Canada, where I have taken a desk at the Niagara School of Horticulture (www.schoolofhorticulture.com) in Niagara Falls. I wanted to see a different perspective of horticulture education and so I cleverly talked the superintendent, Liz Klose, into inviting me for a sabbatical at the school during the summer of 2007. Established in 1936, the program was originally known as The Training School for Apprentice Gardeners, based on the long-standing gardener apprenticeship offered at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. The name was changed to Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture in 1959.

The three-year program is intense and difficult to get into. Applicants are filtered based on academic criteria, written evaluations and live interviews. After the dust has settled, only 12 to 14 students are selected each year. However, the training these students receive is unique compared to the two- and four-year schools most of us are used to. Not only do they have a rigorous academic schedule, they are also in charge of all aspects of running the 100-acre Niagara Parks Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden is visited by about 1.2 million people annually, so it must always be at its best. The gardens display great diversity in plant materials such as the newest in annuals and perennials, roses, herbs, vegetables, arboretum and hedging materials. The botanical garden is their outdoor classroom, and skills in greenhouse production, nursery management, IPM, design and plant identification are put into practice immediately.

The three-year program runs for 36 consecutive months. During each summer, students translate the procedures taught by the staff and spend eight hours a day, at least five days a week, putting them into practice. They balance that with outdoor classes in plant identification, surveying and tree maintenance. The practical program is much reduced in the fall and winter to provide time for classroom endeavors.

It has been an interesting education on my part to see how the quality of student here compares to those I have dealt with in four-year programs in the United States and Canada. The small number of students essentially guarantees competition for entrance, so the students are as academically prepared to enter the school as any others. However, all the students have already decided that this is the career they want to grow old with, as opposed to many four-year colleges and universities where the first two years are spent trying to figure that out.

Most of my students at Georgia, and in most four-year horticulture programs, don’t enter horticulture in a serious way until their third year. The maturity level is equal or higher here (not to say they don’t enjoy their parties just as much), but since the career choice has been made, they are very serious about their school time.

I am also highly impressed by the way these students are taught to handle responsibility. The staff breaks the students into teams in charge of various aspects of the grounds. Each team has a student leader who must be sure the work is done correctly, and he or she must give a report to staff and students once a week. Teams change as do leaders, but the responsibility does not. One student also acts as the general supervisor over the entire body and must act as boss and manager. Without doubt, this is a great skill for the future, where responsibility is a necessary ingredient for success. We do not do nearly as good a job in most four-year programs.

Basic courses of English, math, history and social studies are not as rigorous as in four-year institutes, as most time is focused on core horticulture and landscaping courses. Due to the practical program, there are fewer classroom hours than normally found in four-year schools. However, students rotate through the greenhouses, the irrigation crews and the IPM crews so they learn a good deal by doing. They also take formal courses in standard offerings like botany, greenhouse management, entomology, pathology, landscape design, turf grass, propagation, plant ID etc. Their time on the grounds plus time in the classroom essentially means being “in class” 40 hours a week.

The internship program is well developed, this year entertaining interns from France, Germany and Ireland. Next year they will certainly have some from the University of Georgia. Students also take a trip overseas to see horticulture elsewhere. This year, the third-year students went to England, Holland and France.

I suppose the proof is the pudding, that is, how do the students do once they leave this place? I doubt many will go on for a Ph.D., nor will many be involved in marketing or advertising. The reputation of the school and its unique program is well known in Canada and there seems to be little difficulty in finding employment at reasonable salaries. As the alumni book on “who’s who” demonstrates, they are owners and presidents of successful businesses, garden personalities and even in charge of field operations of a major league baseball team.

I have met many alumni, and every one feels they had the best education of anyone they know. I would suggest that human resources people take a close look at these students for internships and possible employment. After all, it is industry accredited as the first Canadian college to receive the equivalency of a four-year Bachelor’s Degree status by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).  

There are many ways to approach horticulture education. The Niagara School of Horticulture is surely different, and that is good. As for me, I am doing a little teaching, a little writing and a little mentoring. I have done lots of the first two but never thought of myself as a mentoring kind of fellow. I must say I rather enjoy it; maybe I can get a job as Head Mentor somewhere when I retire. Maybe here.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “The Kew Gardens Of The North

  1. hello my name is Sinan.I am livinig in Turkey.I am fnished to universtiy.my depertmend agriculture.ý want to meet and to work with you.I wish your is good work..

  2. hello my name is Sinan.I am livinig in Turkey.I am fnished to universtiy.my depertmend agriculture.ý want to meet and to work with you.I wish your is good work..

More From Variety Trials...

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAST 2018

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Bailey Nurseries, and More

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAS…

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More
Dummen-Christmas-Decorating

April 17, 2018

Dümmen Orange’s New Gamechanger, Plants for All S…

Greenhouse Grower's California Spring Trials Team headed north on Day 3, with stops at Dümmen Orange in picturesque San Luis Obispo and Floricultura in fertile Salinas.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Winner Weighs in on Plant Breeding…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says breeders' persistence in making small and large breeding improvements is a testament to their passion and dedication to excellence.

Read More

April 17, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: Stand-Out New Plants fro…

Check out these new plant introductions from the California Spring Trials 2018 trail featuring breeding from Dümmen Orange , Westhoff, Beekenkamp, and Plug Connection.

Read More

April 16, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plant Intros from Gr…

New plants from Suntory Flowers, Terra Nova Nurseries, Prudac, Florist, PlantHaven, Anthura, Kapiteyn, Kientzler, 2 Plant International, and more on day two of California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Artemisia-Plant-Display-at-Terra-Nova

April 16, 2018

CAST 2018 Provides Fresh Inspiration for Infusing Marke…

The  second day of California Spring Trials took the Greenhouse Grower Team to GroLink in Oxnard, CA, and then up the coast to Windmill Nursery in Buellton. Here are some of the marketing, display, trend, and people highlights we saw at those locations, as well as some beautiful scenery from our evening in Pismo Beach.

Read More
Danny-Takao-Allan-Armitage-Andrew-Scheldorf

April 16, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Conversation…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, is realizing the power of networking and building relationships in the floriculture industry.

Read More

April 16, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Top Plant Picks From Day One of CAST 2…

The Greenhouse Grower Variety Team at California Spring Trials (CAST) 2018 visited Green Fuse Botanicals, Floranova and Vegetalis, and Ball Horticultural Co. on the first day. Here are Dr. Allan Armitage’s top plant picks of the day.

Read More

April 15, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: Musings of a Spring Tria…

Andrew Scheldorf, winner of the Dr. Allan Armitage Scholarship for California Spring Trials and a student at North Dakota State University, shares his thoughts after visiting Green Fuse Botanicals, Floranova, Vegetalis, and Ball Horticulture.

Read More

April 15, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plants From Green Fu…

Breeders at Green Fuse Botanicals, Floranova, Vegetalis, and Ball Horticulture featured new plant varieties at the 2018 California Spring Trials with vibrant color and unique patterns that are easy for growers to produce and ship, as well as small-space friendly vegetables for patio and container growing.

Read More

April 15, 2018

CAST 2018: Reach Young Consumers With Tattoos, Foliage,…

Here are some new and novel marketing and marketing ideas for reaching consumers and improving sales, from California Spring Trials 2018 at Ball Horticultural Co., Green Fuse Botanicals, and Floranova.

Read More

April 6, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About California Spring Tri…

California Spring Trials 2018 kicks off in less than a week, and our team at Greenhouse Grower is making final preparations before we depart. Find out what’s in store during this busy but fun adventure!

Read More

April 3, 2018

2018 California Spring Trials Central/Northern Preview:…

Check out this California Spring Trials 2018 Central/Northern Region preview of new varieties from Cultivaris, Hem Genetics, Hilverdakooij, Kientzler, Terra Nova Nurseries, and Westhoff.

Read More