Landscape Horticulture

REAL Magazine profiles Matt Brooks and the new Sustainable Food Systems Certificate

Read the new article about Matt Brooks and Landscape Horticulture’s new Sustainable Food Systems Certificate.

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Plant Sale List

2013 Plant Sale List

Hort Club Spring Plant Sale

2013 Plant Sale Flyer

Sketch-Up for Landscape Designers at DCTC

Created by: Tyler Wortz

Check out some of the amazing drawings created by students enrolled in the Sketch-Up for Landscape Designers class offered at Dakota County Technical College. This course met just one day a week and attracted mostly landscape designers already working in the field. It was a great opportunity for landscape design professionals to not only learn a new skill during the slower winter season but to meet other professionals and discuss the use of various computer programs used in the design and sales process. Thanks to all who attended this course – I enjoyed teaching and learning from all of you!


Created by: Caroline Dittmann


DCTC Landscape Horticulture Students Benson, Greenwood, Grothe & Gardner Receive MNLA Scholarship

Four students in the Landscape Horticultural  program at Dakota County Technical College recently received scholarships sponsored by the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) Foundation.  The scholarship recipients are Camille Benson, Karina Greenwood, Jesse Grothe and Charlie Gardner.

The MNLA scholarship program recognizes superior students enrolled in horticultural or landscape studies programs at several area colleges and universities.  The scholarships are designed by MNLA and its member companies to help grow future leaders in the nursery and landscape industry.

Four MNLA member firms sponsored the scholarships for the Dakota County Technical College students:

  • MNLA Landscape Professional Advancement Committee, based in Roseville, sponsored the scholarship for Benson.

Congratulations Camille!

  • Gertens, based in Inver Grove Heights, sponsored the scholarship for Greenwood.

Way to go Karina!

  • Hoffman & McNamara Nursery and Landscape, based in Hastings, sponsored the scholarship for Grothe.

Congratulations Jesse

  • Bachman’s, Inc., based in Farmington, sponsored the scholarship for Gardner.

Congratulations Charlie!


To be eligible for an MNLA scholarship, applicants must possess a “C” grade average or better, present letters of recommendation from instructors and employers, and submit an essay stating their career goals and objectives.

The Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association is the state’s largest green industry trade association with over 1,200 member companies.  Members include nurseries, garden centers, landscape contractors, landscape designers, irrigation contractors, commercial flower growers, tree care specialists, professional gardening services, and turf and landscape management professionals.

Sketch-Up for Landscape Designers

Attention all landscape designers! Are you wondering what new skill you will pick up over our long Minnesota winter? Why not learn how to put Google Sketch-Up to work for you next year. The landscape horticulture program at DCTC is offering a one day / week course in Google Sketch-Up. Class meets every Tuesday from 12:00 until 3:00 pm in our naturally lit state of the art computer design lab. The course is listed as LAHT 2232 – Landscape CAD II in the DCTC course catalog. Questions about the class can be answered by calling instructor Matt Brooks at 651-423-8392.

This model was drawn by course instructor Matt Brooks using Google Sketch-Up.

Ted's Poolside Bar and Lounge

The following models are examples of current student’s work in Sketch-Up.

Kim's Picnic Shelter

Becca's Shadow Study Model

Camille's garden model based on photograph

Camille's garden shown in different "Image Styles"

Students Design Parks for Sustainability

Sustainable Parks Design Guidelines

DCTC landscape horticulture students exploring native prairie restoration planting

While reorganizing files and rearranging the landscape design studio this week I ran across a project that students worked on a few years back and wanted to share it with you. Check out their design guidelines handbook “Rosemount Naturally!” which was presented to the Rosemount parks department a few years ago and has since been used in the redesign of some city parks in an attempt to reduce long term maintenance costs and create more eco-friendly environments for all of us. Just click on PDF icon above and enjoy!

DCTC Landscape Horticulture “Driftless” Tour a Success

Instructors Matt Brooks and Catherine Grant along with 12 students in the landscape horticulture program at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) recently traveled to the Driftless region of northeastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin to tour three very unique horticulture related businesses, to experience the unique geography of the region and to learn about the Native Americans and the effigy mounds they built on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. 

The first stop on the tour was at the Seed Savers Exchange  just north of Decorah IA where we heard the history behind the non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. After a picnic lunch we hiked the beautiful grounds including the apple orchard and old growth white pine forest before setting off for the Ion Exchange  just north of Marquette IA.    

Students hiking the back forty at the Seed Savers Exchange

Next stop was at Ion Exchange, Inc. which is a native wildflower and prairie grass nursery located in NorthEast, Iowa, since 1988.  Students learned how they grow premium wildflowers and grasses for prairies, wetlands, and savannas and all the hard work that goes into the process. We toured the greenhouses to observe the vast array of planting plugs as well as the production areas where the seed is cleaned, screened and processed for shipment. 

Julie from Ion Exchange explains the process of seed cleaning and screening.

The second day of our tour brought us to Star Valley Flowers located in Soldier’s Grove WI. where students and instructors alike were captivated by the bucolic  setting of this former dairy farm in the rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin. Owner John Zehrer told the story of Star Valley’s humble beginings and how it has grown to become the largest field-grown cut flower and woody twig  producer in the Midwest with 165 acres in production, shipping product across the country from Honolulu to Boston. 

John Zehrer (red vest) and DCTC students in shipping barn at Star Valley Flowers

Before heading north to Viroqua for lunch at the Driftless Cafe, John loaded us up with beautiful bundles of curly willow and yellowtwig dogwood that the greenhouse students are eager to propagate and plant on campus.

The Driftless Cafe in Viroqua, WI. Yumm...


 After a post lunch hike at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in LaFarge WI. it was back to our cabins at the Natural Gait near Marquette IA. for a group dinner, campfire and rest before our next day’s visit to Effigy Mounds National Monument where we enjoyed a guided tour with the park naturalist Jessica, as the gale force winds toppled trees around us! 

A tree in the woods definitely makes a sound when it falls!

Burial mound at Effigy Mounds national Monumant

Taking in the view of the flood stage Mississippi River

Landscape Horticulture Program Receives National Accreditation from PLANET – Professional Landcare Network

After a three-day visit from a Professional Landcare Network accreditation team led by Kent Hammond, associate professor emeritus at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio., PLANET granted full accreditation to the Landscape Horticulture program at Dakota County Technical College. The college’s PLANETaccreditation status will continue until 2017. Another review will be required at that time. David Emmitt, program manager at Cuyahoga Community Collegein Cleveland, Ohio, and Scott Frampton, co-owner of Landscape Renovations, Inc., in Afton, Minn., were also members of the team.

PLANET, or the Professional Landcare Network, is a leading-edge association committed to supporting a global membership of green industry professionals in fields such as lawn care, exterior maintenance contracting, landscape (design, building & installation) and interiorscape. With roughly 4,300 member firms, PLANET administers comprehensive programs in the following areas:

  • Business management
  • Government affairs
  • Public relations
  • Technical assistance
  • Safety and insurance
  • Education
  • Interindustry relations
  • Other facets of the green industry

PLANET’s Accreditation program evaluates and recognizes landscaping curricula that keep pace with the evolving needs of the landscape industry. PLANET recognizes four-year Bachelor of Science and two-year Associate of Science degree programs that meet or exceed the stringent requirements of the accreditation process.

PLANET Mission

“The Professional Landcare Network cultivates and safeguards opportunities for our members—the dedicated professionals and companies who create and enhance the world’s landscapes.”

Sherralyn Cox, DCTC dean of design and health & human services, stated that the visit by the PLANET team constituted a rigorous examination of the Landscape Horticulture program’s curricula, faculty preparation and credentials, and learning facility.

“The visit definitely showed the strength of our program,” Cox said. “Our ties to the landscape horticulture industry are especially good because we incorporate feedback and significant participation from our advisory committee. We also engage in numerous activities beyond the college campus, including service-learning projects, workshops and green-industry tours as well as competition and networking events such as PLANET Student Career Days.”

“DCTC has the reputation as the number one horticulture program in Minnesota.”

Cox went on to say that the program was commended on the quality of the faculty, including Matt Brooks, Jeff Kleinboehl and Ed Plaster. “Their hands-on approach was recognized as most advantageous for student learning and eventual networking with our contacts in industry,” she said. “The learning atmosphere they create was evaluated as excellent. Students feel prepared for their life’s work through their ability to contribute to their new field. We have a one hundred percent placement rate, which is rare in this economy.”

Matt Brooks teaches the landscape design interest area of the program. He and his fellow Landscape Horticulture faculty are always working to align their program with industry to maximize job prospects for graduates. “PLANET accreditation distinguishes our students as future leaders of the green industry,” Brooks said. “Our program’s affiliation with PLANET opens doors of opportunity for our alumni across the country.”

Kent Hammond, the PLANET accreditation team leader, reported that out of approximately 560 horticulture programs nationally, only 60 meet PLANET requirements and just 26 have achieved accreditation.

“DCTC has the reputation as the number one horticulture program in Minnesota,” said Hammond, who singled out the program’s self-study, an internal critical self-analysis, as the best he had seen in his 20-plus years of conducting site surveys.

DCTC Landscape Horticulture students with garden guru, P. Allen Smith (fourth from right) | PLANET Student Career Days | Chattahoochee Technical College | Atlanta, Ga. | April 7–11, 2010 

A founding instructor of the Landscape Horticulture program, Ed Plaster understands the significance of PLANET accreditation. Currently a part-time instructor, Plaster taught the program full-time for 30 years before retiring. He worked with fellow faculty and DCTC staff to prepare the program’s self-study and meet all requirements of the PLANET site visit. Dean Cox praised Plaster’s contribution as instrumental to the accreditation process.

Cox pointed out that she and the DCTC community are proud of the Landscape Horticulture faculty and their continuous and successful efforts to increase student and graduate achievement. “Expanded course and certification offerings make our program a superior choice for prospective students with an interest in all aspects of the landscape, design and horticulture industry,” she said.

For more information about the DCTC Landscape Horticulture program, please contact the

DCTC landscape design students tour Welch Permaculture Gardens

Landscape Horticulture students tour Welch Permaculture Gardens

Bruce Blair | Welch Permaculture Gardens 

Picture-perfect weather in a picture-perfect setting greeted 15 students on a two-hour visit to Welch Permaculture Gardens on a Friday afternoon in early October 2010. The students were taking part in a field trip offered in the Introduction to Sustainable Landscape Practices course taught by Matt Brooks, an instructor in the DCTC Landscape Horticulture program.

Designed and operated by Bruce and Brenda Blair, Welch Permaculture Gardens is an intensive, two-acre sustainable land use project located on the sandy floodplain of the Cannon River just outside of Welch, Minn. Spectacular limestone bluffs overlook the gardens and the river, the latter hardly a stone’s throw from the Blairs’ front yard.

Introduction to Sustainable Landscape Practices Class 

Bruce Blair is a founding board member of the Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate, a nonprofit organization with the following mission: “Through research, education, demonstration, and community-building, PRI Cold Climate catalyzes and fosters the creation of an abundant and restorative culture for living in northern temperate climates.”

“WPG is distinct from most projects through intensive, intentional and successful design and development of relationships—physically, spatially, temporally and biologically. — Bruce Blair

Blair led the guided tour of Welch Permaculture Gardens, explaining in a series of mini-lectures how permaculture functions in relation to the systems and processes in place on his family’s acreage. Permaculture by definition is a methodology for designing human habitats and establishing agricultural practices that emulate networks observed in natural ecologies.

Welch Permaculture Gardens 
Stops on the tour covered a number of permaculturally significant areas, including:
  • Riverfront ecological restoration
  • Flood management
  • Woody biomass production for home heating
  • Forest and annual gardens for food crops
  • Chickens and geese on free range, including chicken infrastructure
  • Extensive fruit production
  • Small pond
  • Water management, including storage, pumping and irrigation water from Cannon River
Welch Permaculture Gardens Map and Area Descriptions
“Run everything you can through a chicken.” — Bruce Blair 

“Bruce showed how careful analysis of his site allows him to recognize patterns that guide him in developing concepts he can then implement and refine,” said Matt Brooks. “He and his family are in their seventh growing season at WPG. Bruce continues to build on his knowledge and successes. Our students came away with a new appreciation for sustainability and the importance of learning all we can from our natural environment.”

Welch Permaculture Gardens Field Trip Gallery

Bruce Blair | Welch Permaculture Gardens

Introduction to Sustainability Design Class

Welch Permaculture Gardens