Advanced design class plans sustainable, healing and rooftop gardens
Students in Design Problems, a second-year advanced design class in the Landscape Horticulture program at Dakota County Technical College, have been exceedingly busy augmenting their professional skill sets through service-learning and civic engagement projects.
Matt Brooks, an instructor in the program, reported that his students have dug deep to design plans for three important projects. “We worked with Shannon Park Elementary School in Rosemount on a sustainable garden project,” he said. “We also worked on a healing garden for North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale and collaborated with Aloha Landscaping in Mendota Heights on a green rooftop garden for the Riverplace Shopping Center in Minneapolis.”
Brooks went on to say that his students are benefiting greatly from the opportunity to test what they’ve learned in actual industry environments. The design process involves the use of top-tier software programs like AutoCad and SketchUp. Sophisticated coloring techniques are also employed.
“My advanced design students have stepped up and really shown what they can do,” Brooks said. “Finding success on projects like Shannon Park, North Memorial and Riverplace has given them the confidence to transition from the classroom and labs and become professional landscape designers.”
Shannon Park Elementary School Sustainable Garden
Working with Principal Michael Guthrie and PTA members, the students came up with two sustainable garden plans for the entry courtyard at Shannon Park. The civic engagement project entailed extensive research into sustainable garden practices. Choosing low-maintenance, low-water plant species native to Minnesota, the students also looked for flora that would attract wildlife and display strong seasonal color.
Principal Guthrie met on several occasions with the students and was more than pleased when he received an excellent plan. “I could not believe how professional the plans turned out,” he said. “I told the DCTC students my first reaction was to cry as I looked at the Memorial Garden portion of the plans and thought of my dear colleagues that have left us. I was so impressed with Matt Brooks and his students.”
Sustainable gardens maximize resources and give back to the environment while creating valuable habitats for songbirds, butterflies and other beneficial creatures from the natural neighborhood. The Shannon Park Elementary School sustainable garden is scheduled for planting in fall 2009.
North Memorial Hospital Healing Garden
Championed by Cary Anderson, a former North Memorial patient who worked with the students, the healing garden project is designed to offer convalescents a therapeutic setting to enhance and facilitate the healing process. During her stay at the hospital, Anderson noticed that patients had no outside green space where they could relax and enjoy nature.
“Studies have shown that hospital patients with access to outdoor environments with flowers, shrubs and trees experience substantially increased recovery rates,” Brooks said.
Competing at a professional level against other designers, the students put forward two design plans after conducting meticulous research, including interviews, on-site visits and experiential outings that simulated the perspective of patients in wheelchairs.
After presenting to the North Memorial Foundation board, the students were elated when one of their plans was accepted. The project is now in the fundraising stage.
Riverplace Green Rooftop Garden
Collaborating with Aloha Landscaping, the students helped design a green rooftop garden for the Riverplace Shopping Center. Working with Roger Grothe, Aloha’s president and an international authority on rooftop gardens, the students came up with cutting-edge design ideas that were incorporated in the project.
Rooftop gardens, a major piece of sustainable architecture, offer a wide range of benefits, including:
- Improved access to outdoor green areas in urban settings
- Amplified urban food production
- Enhanced air quality, increasing oxygen while reducing carbon dioxide emissions
- Delayed storm water runoff
- Expanded bird and butterfly habitats
- Superior building insulation and energy savings
- Boosted property values
- Increased job opportunities in research, design, construction, landscaping, gardening, health care and urban farming
Landscape Horticulture Students Involved in the Projects
- Faith Applequist
- Anthony Deeb
- Suzanne Gappa
- Valerie Kohorst
- Kristie Malecha
- Breanna Pool
- James Reetz
- Elizabeth Spedaliere
The DCTC Landscape Horticulture program offers students the technical and business skills needed to succeed in the landscape industry. First-year students learn the basic science and technical skills related to all fields of landscape horticulture. Second-year students specialize in one of three interest areas:
- Design and Sales
- Landscape Construction
- Plant Production (nursery and greenhouse)
Landscape professionals design, install and care for residential, commercial and public landscapes. They also find rewarding work in nurseries, greenhouses and garden centers as well as in exterior and interior landscape or maintenance firms.
According iHireLandscaping.com, landscape designers in Minnesota earn a median salary that approaches $41,000/year. Top earners make well over $60,000/year.