All of us who are passionate about plants discovered our passion at different times in our lives and under widely variable circumstances. Some of us discovered it early as kids. Others found it later in life after they had walked a few different roads before discovering their passion.
“I have dreamed about working with plants and landscape design for the last 15 years and finally just decided to go back to school to learn about them,” said Jamie Lucas, a second-year horticulture student in Spokane Community College’s horticulture program.
Jarred Reitan, also a second-year student found his way into the program after life took a sharp turn, and he had to find a new career. His love of plants brought him to SCC.
“Working around plants is a great stress reducer and a good place to start over.” Reitan wants to do market gardening on his land near Cheney when he graduates. Lucas will do landscape design.
Lucas and Reitan are part of the greenhouse management class that is raising poinsettias for the annual Poinsettia Open House Thursday and Friday at the SCC Greenery.
“We are growing 25 to 30 different varieties this year including some that are new to the market,” said Lucas. “My favorite is Orange Spice.” Orange Spice is a smaller scale plant with dark green foliage and orangey red bracts. “This is the first time we’ve had it here at SCC.”
Reitan and Lucas walked me through the greenhouses to introduce me to some of the plants that will be for sale next week. Besides Orange Spice, the varieties include Marble Star, a medium-sized, variegated plant splashed with red and pink. Reitan who grew this one said each plant’s color combination is different which made it interesting to grow. Gold Rush has deep creamy white, almost yellow blooms. Marble Star has bright red and pink coloration. There are even several pixie-sized plants with deeply curled foliage and flowers, perfect for centerpieces and tucking into holiday decorations.
SCC’s greenhouse management courses teach students to propagate, grow and market plants as if they were running their own nursery, a job skill that will be handy later. This quarter’s crop is poinsettias for the holiday season. Through the rest of the school year they will grow annuals and vegetable starts for the spring plant sales and the annual Garden Expo in May. The students are responsible for caring for their plants; doing research on plant growth rates, insect and disease management and fertilization scheduling. They also learn how to market their plants.
When Lucas and Reitan were asked what made SCC a good school to go to they both said the instructors cared about the success of their students.
“They stick with you until you understand,” said Reitan.
Besides purchasing plants at the sale, shoppers can also vote on a favorite plant. This information goes back to the plant breeders who developed the varieties the students are trialing.
Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 35 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at pat@ inlandnwgardening.com.
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