Flower Show offers chance for students to shine

For the past 40 or so years, the students at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences have showcased their horticultural and landscape design talents at the world’s largest indoor flower show.

This year, the Roxborough students are at it again, competing against other local high schools and colleges in the educational division of the Philadelphia International Flower Show from March 6 to 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

This year’s theme is “Springtime in Paris”.  After much research and discussion, an idea blossomed in Barbara Brown’s landscape design class.

“We decided to show the link between Philadelphia and Paris by showing the link between the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Champs Elysees because the parkway was actually modeled after the Champs Elysees.”

The plan is to have a representation of the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument at the entrance of the parkway and a screen picture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the other. The border of the parkway will be covered in red maple, red oak and sweet gum trees, and colorful azaleas, perennials, pansies and multiple pieris plants.

The school’s display aims to create an illusion of leaving Paris to walk through one of the most recognized roads in Philadelphia.

Tatiyana Colter, Junior at Saul High School who was part of the design team, spent hours agonizing over the overall design, from drawing to scale to learning how to mass trees.

“When I found out they were sending this drawing to the flower show, I kept doing it over and over again,” Colter said. “No, it’s not perfect yet, I’ve got to make it perfect. It’s got to be right for them.”

The project has been a collaboration between three classes at Saul High School: Landscape design, landscape construction and horticulture.

Since late December, students in Lisa Blum’s greenhouse class have been busy pruning, watering and fertilizing plants and shrubs to force them into a flowering stage come March.

But it’s not as easy as it seems. Blum says every different species of plant brings a whole new set of challenges to the greenhouse table.

“Right now, we’re concerned that some of these are growing a little too fast,” Blum said. “So, we turned the heat down in the greenhouse, moved some plant material under other trees to cut the light down and we are cutting back on fertilizer.”

Inside Garth Schuler’s landscape construction class, the students are abuzz spinning screws into pieces of three-inch plywood, climbing ladders and spitting out quick measurements to one another. Schuler says the project is all about teaching students real life skills.

“I’m giving them something they are going to need for the rest of their lives,” Schuler said. “So, square footage, whether they do carpets in their houses or apartments, it’s all about these things that will be with them for the rest of their lives.”

Brown says the project calls for much more than hard work and dedication from Saul’s teachers and students. She credits Longwood Gardens for making it happen, by providing much of the funding for the project as well as housing the trees in one of its greenhouses.

“They are a silent but extremely important partner,” Brown said. “Without them, we couldn’t do it.”

The students will all have the opportunity to help set up the display at the Convention Center prior to the show. They will also have the chance to present their exhibit to the public.

“When they go down to the flower show and talk to the public, the feedback is unbelievable,” Brown said. “It makes them feel like a million bucks.”

NewsWorks will follow up with Saul High School as the students complete the display at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in late February.

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