W.B. Saul students assemble moss-covered ‘Tee Time’ exhibit for 2013 Flower Show

Few high school secretaries warn visitors not to get “lost in the cow barn.” But it’s practical advice at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Roxborough, where barns are classrooms and teenagers carry clippers through hallways that smell like hay.

This week, junior and senior horticultural students are in crunch mode. They have just a few days left to assemble “Tee Time,” an ode to St. Andrew’s golf links that they will display at the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show.

When assembled, “Tee Time” will fill a 14-foot by 22-foot space. Shrubs, grasses and evergreens will highlight a fairway on an undulating course backed by moss-covered walls. Students, who will man the exhibit throughout the show, must also be prepared to give a history of golf as an educational component.

Tight timing 

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Barbara Brown, Saul’s landscape design teacher, is in charge of the project. Saul has participated in the Flower Show for over 40 years, but this year’s set-up poses a particular challenge.

“We have less time,” said Brown. Because of an added preview day on Friday, March 1, exhibitors have one day instead of two for preparations at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

But her students don’t seem concerned. Khandace Hampton, 16, says her teacher will make sure everything is put together in time. “She knows exactly what she’s doing and how to do it.”

Brown is one of three teachers involved in guiding students through the project. Garth Schuler teaches landscape construction, and Lisa Blum has the greenhouse classes.

The educational element

Brown, a 19-year-veteran at Saul, said that the recent arrival of Schuler made her job much easier.

“His construction ability and vision are terrific.”

Last month, Garth Schuler took his students to compete against 10 other Pennsylvania high schools at the Farm Show, an annual event hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg. This year’s theme was “Edible Landscapes.” Saul students honored their environments by considering urban spaces; they featured seedlings and mature plants in rain barrels. They placed fifth, an accomplishment that impressed Schuler, who estimates that his budget was less than a third of what other schools had.

Schuler said that in the midst of the Flower Show’s impressive aesthetics, he wants “to impress upon students an awareness of natural resources.” While many exhibitors throw away plants, flowers, and the wood palettes that transport materials to and from the convention center, the Department of Energy serves as an excellent example to the students by recycling their display. “Every year, they take their entire exhibit of native plants and give them to us so that we can replant them,” said Schuler.

Longwood Gardens pulls funding 

Such generosity will be more important in the future. Longwood Gardens, the high school’s largest sponsor for the Philadelphia Flower Show for several years, is pulling their funding.

“We were told that they’ve ‘shifted their focus,'” said Barbara Brown.

Brown said that she greatly appreciates Longwood’s generosity toward the students, but agreed with Schuler that the announcement was a sad one. Schuler hopes that an Occupational Advisory Board will help the staff “establish a network” of interested business partners who could serve as mentors to the students and benefactors for the program.

As for this year’s Flower Show, Khandace Hampton can’t wait to see “people looking in amazement” at “Tee Time.” Hampton saw such responses when she visited Saul’s exhibit last year, and she is proud to be a part of something that shares the stage with the Major Exhibitors.

The 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show runs from March 2-10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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