Horticulture Team nurtures plants, friendships


Maia Weissman, staff writer

It may be pouring rain outside, or perhaps it is a cool breezy day, but you would never know from within South’s greenhouse, where the humid temperatures keep plants in the nursery thriving. The greenhouse’s atmosphere, where the Horticulture Team students bond together through close friendships over the plants they nurture, resembles the warming weather of spring.

Every Wednesday after school until 5 p.m., South Horticulture Team members occupy the greenhouse exercising their knowledge of plants, carrying out garden maintenance, and preparing for upcoming horticultural and floral competitions, Erin McBride, Horticulture Teacher and Horticulture Team Sponsor, said. The 2023 season is off to a great start with the team placing first at the College of DuPage Floral Competition, McBride explained. 

“[The season] started off with a win, so we hope to continue that,” McBride said. “The kids help each other be better, and they instill motivation and determination to do their best [in each other].”

Each competition brings something new as individual events change from year to year, junior Hayden Hogue, Horticulture Team Member, said. 

“This year we [competed in] plant identification, general knowledge, tool identification, and arrangement making,” Hogue said. 

At the Joliet Junior College Horticulture Competition on April 1, two new events focused on florals, junior Oliver Mitchell, Horticulture Team Member, said. In floral competitions, competitors are given a set amount of time to recreate a floral arrangement based on a picture provided by the competition, Mitchell explained.

“In the competition, we had to mimic to the best of our ability a corsage that had six flowers in it and then a centerpiece,” Mitchell said.

Because junior Olive Hayes, Horticulture Team Member, enjoys the creative parts of producing flower arrangements, they favor arrangement making during competitions.

“[Creating a floral display] is really stressful when you’re in a competition, but once you’re done and you’ve seen the finished product, it is really satisfying,” Hayes said.

The floral arrangement event is new, but the General Knowledge exam and Plant Identification (Plant ID) events are two that stay consistent in all competitions annually, Mitchell explained. Plant ID is the event that is worth the most points and dictates a major part of how the team prepares for competitions, Mitchell explained.

“We do a lot of practicing for Plant ID because it is a lot of points and a big section of the competitions,” Mitchell said. “We look at pictures or cuttings of different plants and [look for the plant on] this big ID sheet, which has all the possible plants that it could be listed on.”

 The Horticulture Team looks forward to what they expect to be a very successful rest of the season, Mitchell explained. 

“I have really high hopes,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of very capable people on the team this year.”

The group also has amazing chemistry as a team and has formed its own community within South, Hayes said.

“It is definitely a small group, [but] we are very close and are all very similar people, so it is [fulfilling] that we have found our own community within [South],” Hayes said.