Spring flowers are in full bloom at Fanshawe College's greenhouse

This past weekend Fanshawe College's horticulture technician program had a rounding success selling hydrangeas from the Spriet Family Greenhouse on campus for the Easter holiday. The hydrangeas are one of the most popular seasonal flowers sold from the Horticulture Technicians Program along with their annual poinsettias they sell in the winter.

The program began in 2002, after the school noticed a large interest from students in the Landscape Design about wanting to focus largely on maintaining and building landscape and with large amounts of plan life involved.

Sue Millar, current co-ordinator and a professor of the horticulture technician program, was a past student in the Landscape Design program and explained what the program focuses on building and maintaining landscape while taking care of the plants in it.

Millar explained that the first year is very theoretical, learning things such as botany and soils, having the students learn all about the plants they will work with and how to maintain them. After that, she said the students begin really working in the practical area of the course.

“[The students] will actually have construction projects, either here on campus or out at our Cuddy Gardens campus in Strathroy, so they might be building a retaining wall here on campus for example. They're real projects, not just pretend, they are actually building real things. Same with maintenance. The students maintain all the gardens here on campus and maintain the Cuddy Gardens as well,” Millar said.

The Spriet Family Greenhouse and Cuddy Gardens has allowed the students to further expand their experience taking care of flowers and other plant life. The program has used this opportunity to sell seasonal flowers as a part of their education since almost the beginning of the program.

Millar said that poinsettias were the first flowers they sold seasonally and years later, the program started focusing on spring flowers.

“We decided to try a spring crop, which were hydrangeas. In that first year we didn't have many because we weren't sure how it was going to go over, within a week we were sold out. So, we knew there was potential there for success.”

In the meantime, Millar said that the program has developed a relationship with a number of corporate clients, such as Western Fair, who contract flowers from the program to display in their gardens or spaces.

The greenhouse especially has helped students learn how to interact with the plants and customers.

“With the greenhouse, they [the students] are the ones here every week in their practical class. That's when they are learning about how to water and how to look after the plants. They learn how to sell plants so when customers do come in to buy things they get that retail experience selling plants,” Millar said.

Millar said that though their two main focuses are the sales of their poinsettias and hydrangeas, after these seasonal flowers, they try to keep in stock a larger arrangement of plants, herbs and fruit that can be bought by the public and it is evident by the wide variety that litter the greenhouse that they have a lot to offer.

Other major times for flower sales are later in the summer around the May 24 week for Mother's Day, where they will try to stock up on interesting flowers for gifts. In the beginning of June, Millar said that they also open up the Strathroy Cuddy Garden campus to the public allowing them to tour the gardens and buy more perennial type plants as well as trees and shrubs.

The greenhouse is open everyday of the week, Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon or from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone is welcomed to come in and peruse the plants with mostly students and faculty being the greenhouse's most evident customers.

Right now, the greenhouse has small cacti and succulents for sale ranging from about four to five dollars, while herbs and vegetables, even ones that you may not be able to find anywhere else easily, will be more available in the coming summer
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