Homecoming horticulture gala to transform Ag Arena on Oct. 17 and 18

October 14, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- It's not every day that you can find a beach, a mountain, a farm, a city and a forest all in the shadow of Penn State's Beaver Stadium, but just across the street from the gridiron, each of these landscape features will emerge Oct. 17 and 18, as a part of the 96th annual Horticulture Show, sponsored by the student Horticulture Club.

Squads of horticulture students will morph the 12,000-square-foot Snider Agricultural Arena into distinct regional panoramas with plants, cityscapes, sand dunes and sylvan bounty as their show, "Landscapes Across America," takes shape this weekend. The transformed arena will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The show will feature landscaped displays, educational exhibits and refreshments, as well as vegetable, fruit and plant sales.

All of the show's plants are for sale. Bulk items such as mums, pumpkins, potatoes and apples go on sale immediately, while individual features -- shrubs, trees, ornamental plants and landscape elements -- make up the backbone of the displays. They can be sold and tagged during the show but have to be picked up after the show ends.

"It's a great bargain for consumers," said Martin McGann, associate professor of landscape contracting, noting that local shoppers can find neither the size nor variety of trees for sale at area stores. He added that if buyers went to a commercial nursery, they might find similar stock, but probably not at the prices they will see at the show. "Obviously the public thinks it's a good deal, because we sell all the materials," McGann said.

Drumming up donated plant materials and transporting them to campus are just some of the skills horticulture students learn, according to Jim Sellmer, associate professor of ornamental horticulture. Hort Club members procure plant materials from as far off as Erie, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Pittsburgh and sometimes Ohio or New Jersey, and transport them back to University Park themselves.

"Talking to donors, getting the donations, treating them right and doing it well, that's the whole ballgame," Sellmer said.

Sellmer recalled that as an undergraduate student at Purdue University, he and fellow students set their goal to make the Boilermakers' Mothers' Day show as good as Penn State's Horticulture Show. He said that, even though he had not seen it firsthand at that time, Penn State's show carried a national reputation for quality.

Sellmer explained that the show's student organizers learn about plant selection, plant care, large-scale design, design installation, how to price plants for sale and other "practical stuff."

"I learned how to drive a stick-shift farm truck going up a hill with a load of mulch," he said.


Horticulture Club President James Wyble, a junior in landscape contracting, said the most rewarding thing about the show is "the sense of accomplishment that you feel on Saturday morning because you have taken an ordinary arena and turned it into something beautiful and educational."


Proceeds from the show benefit not only the Horticulture Club, but the entire horticulture department, according to Dan Stearns, the Styer professor of horticultural botany. Club members use the money to fund scholarships and trips, purchase food for meetings, pay dues to professional societies, subsidize conference attendance fees and provide money for trips to student competitions. Stearns said the club also has funded some big projects, including a $10,000 project to re-landscape the front of Tyson Building three years ago.


In past years, the Horticulture Show has transformed the Snider Agricultural Arena into the Land of Oz under the theme "We're Not In Kansas Anymore," provided a glimpse of Route 66 on the "Highway to Hort" and presented a showcase for sustainable landscaping with "Blue and White Goes Green." The Web site for "Landscapes Across America" can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/psuhortshow.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 15, 2009