On Tuesday, the sandy floor of an equipment shed at Elmira Farm Service was dotted with small oases of greenery, as high school students from the Upper Grand and Waterloo Regional school boards took part in a regional horticulture competition.
The students had five hours to build a small functional landscape following drawings and using pavers, wall stone and plants before being judged by industry professionals. The competition is a partnership between the Waterloo Region chapter of Landscape Ontario and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.
Woolwich played host to a number of budding landscape horticulturists on Tuesday, as St. Jacobs Country Gardens welcomed Grade 9 and 11 students from Glenview Park and Waterloo Oxford Secondary School for workshops and a tour.
The students completed workshops on landscape design, softscape and hardscape before heading to Elmira to see the results of the competition.
Rob Tester, who sits on the board of directors for Landscape Ontario Waterloo Region, has been involved in the education side for a number of years. Ten years ago, there was just one horticulture class in Waterloo Region. Now three or four schools offer the program, and their classes are full.
This is the first year that the high school horticulture competition will be held at the national level, albeit as a demonstration. The winners of the provincial competition in May at RIM Park will advance to the nationals and showcase what the trade is all about.
Landscape horticulturist just became a Red Seal trade a year ago, meaning the trade is held to a standard of excellence that is recognized across the country. The national competition for high school students builds on that.
This is the second year the regional competition has been held at Elmira Farm Service.
“This is a way for them to see what they’ve learned,” Tester said.
All of the judges are industry professionals, so the students are not only being judged by people who know the business, but get exposure to potential employers.
“A lot of these kids will end up working for one of us here.”