Select Page

Monmouth Vocational students a bloomin’ success at Flower Show (Patch)

March 20, 2024

This window display created by students at the Career Center of the Monmouth County Vocation School District won first place at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

This window display created by students at the Career Center of the Monmouth County Vocation School District won first place at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

A “South Street Spiritual” window display was the theme of an award-winning design created by students in the Floriculture Program at the Monmouth County Vocational School District for the famed Philadelphia Flower Show.

High school students from around the county who participate in the MCVSD Career Center in Freehold Township share their time with their home school, and can spend their afternoons in programs in many areas of interest – culinary arts, automotive, and others.

And, in this case, the students’ interest is horticulture.

Jill Wetzel and Kristina Guttadora are both teachers of Horticulture in the district, and worked with the students on the project. They said the first-place award was in the Store Windows Design Class, and was won in competition with such entrants as a Pennsylvania garden club and private school there. The district was the only school in New Jersey to compete.

The Philadelphia Flower Show, which ran from March 1 to 10, is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event, so the students were in a rarefied atmosphere.

And for the 40-plus students who created the design, being there sparked their creativity, their teachers said.

“The kids were inspired – and they have a passion for this career,” said Guttadora.

She said the South Street Spiritual theme incorporated both an iconic Philadelphia locale along with the spirit of nature.

There was a blooming Mother Nature mannequin in the display, for example, and the medicinal and healing powers of various plants were presented, often along with products derived from the plants.

And with a nod to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, there was even a “Philadelphia mint” display.

The materials had to hold up over a 10-day period, and the scene often used items found right on school grounds, such as birch tree limbs, Guttadora said.

And the judges were impressed: “Pristine plants and plant materials, skillfully arranged to create a unified and soothing exceptional design” and “Classy exhibit with herbs and their products – loved the mannequin,” were among the comments.

In all, the team won two first-prize blue ribbons for the store window category; the Best of Blue Award, a recognition from the Herb Society of America-Philadelphia Unit; the purple ribbon for best maintained exhibit; and a Class Commendation ribbon from the Philadelphia Flower Show, the district said.

A focus on careers

The district’s team for the show included Career Center students enrolled in the floriculture program, which is focused on both floral design and greenhouse management.

Students who enroll in the Horticulture programs are automatically granted membership in the National FFA Organization chapter. As members, the students attend meetings and are exposed to many aspects of the agriculture field, which is the third largest industry in New Jersey.

Wetzel said that the career focus of the district is an important one, and one parents should know about as an option for their children while in high school.

Not only do students learn about the specifics of an area such as horticulture, but they learn about customer service and time management and how to work in a fast-paced environment – all important skills for any career path, said Guttadora.

Wetzel said a student of hers, for example, already works three days a week at Barlow’s Garden Center in Wall to learn the trade. Another student in the program has gone on to be in charge of Rutgers Gardens at Rutgers University. Another runs a hydroponics program for seniors, she said.

And the floriculture students will next be competing in the New Jersey FFA Horticulture Exposition at Mercer County Community College on March 15 and 16.

Lots of prep work

Entering the Philadelphia competition required many skills – not all related to horticulture:

  • The team wrote a 50-word intent of what their entry would depict. The judges used the intent to see how well it matched what was presented at the show, and for MCVSD’s entry, not a single detail was missed, the district said.
  • Students first brainstormed their ideas to determine what type of store their window display would represent before settling on a spiritual and healing theme.
  • All Horticulture students helped with each aspect of the design, from creating a logo and researching medicinal plants to growing plants, harvesting bark from a fallen birch tree, and learning to identify each type of flower used in the display.
Floriculture students at the Monmouth County Vocational School District in front of their first-place award winning display from the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Floriculture students from Monmouth County Vocational School District
pose in front of their first-place award winning display at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Once the planning phase was completed, then it was time to practice: On top of a stage built as the base of the project, the students created the display to scale. They learned to create the mannequin’s dress and headpiece, practiced the mechanics behind floral displays like foam wrapping and cellophane, and made a full-scale replica of what would be constructed at the flower show.

“The Philadelphia Flower Show is always a labor of love with all hands on deck. Over the past few months, we have watched our administration, secretaries, custodians, support staff, and staff members in marketing, education, and automotive work out the logistics to make this all come together,” said Wetzel.

“Our building trades and services teachers and students helped with everything from constructing to-scale platforms and frames to drilling holes in logs. And our colleagues and students in other classes cheered on the floral class as we worked.”

“Their incredible teamwork makes the dream work. We are so grateful for our Career and Technical Education community,” said Guttadora.

The Career Center offers shared-time programs for students in grades 9 to 12 from approximately 30 Monmouth County high schools, providing students with vocational instruction in 10 different career pathways. Those interested in applying to the Career Center program must work with their home school district and can check for more information.

Read this article as it originally appeared in the Patch on March 14, 2024.

Featured News

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.