Students showcase creativity at landscaping conference

August 14, 2019

Palo Alto College

Students in the landscape and horticulture program at Palo Alto College put their creative talents to the test at this year's Texas Landscape and Nursery Association (TLNA) Conference in San Antonio.

Every year, the conference selects a landscape and horticulture program from a Texas college to participate in designing and constructing an entryway display to the conference. This year, Palo Alto College's Landscape and Horticulture program was selected. Students spent the summer planning and designing a unique patio design for the August 2019 conference following the theme of "The Wizard of Oz," equipped with a yellow brick path, characters from the story, and some signature props, like Dorothy's ruby slippers – or in this case, ruby work boots.

"TLNA knows that our students will eventually become the people they hire, who run their companies, or become peers that will have their own companies next to them," said horticulture instructor Rose Flores. "If [TNLA] can be involved in the student's growth, they can assure [our students] get the right start."

The annual display selection is an initiative put forward by the TNLA Parks and Patio Committee, a group of board members within TLNA who partner with local colleges and universities to create a themed design that looks like a park or patio. The display measures 20 feet by 60 feet and allows visitors to walk through and observe the intricacies and detail students put into the creation. This year, Palo Alto College students had three days before the conference to assemble the display, and all plants and materials used were donated from vendors attending the conference.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase our students' skills," said Flores. "It's not just about growing and maintaining plants. There is a design element when it comes to landscaping."

Palm trees, foxtail ferns, colorful zinnias, and other plants were incorporated into the patio design. Interpretations of characters such as the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch of the East, and even Toto made an appearance. The Scarecrow was fitted with gardening clothes and ruby boots, while the legs of the Wicked Witch of the East, sporting ruby slippers, were shown sticking out from under a large planter.

Flores said there are many exciting opportunities like this for students in the horticulture club at the College. Even students who are not involved in the program have the opportunity to join.

"We travel to conferences around the country and even compete in one of the biggest events of the year – the National Collegiate Landscape Competition – in the spring," said Flores. "It's basically the landscaping Olympics."

While traveling to various events, students have the chance to network with local vendors and businesses. Flores said conferences like TLNA have led to internships around the country, and in some cases, outside of the country.

"A lot of the companies who are at these conferences look for student interns; it's a great introduction to the industry," said Flores. "This gives students an idea of what kind of path they want to take."

Bryan Larison, a landscape and horticulture student and club member, had assisted in assembling the display at the conference and thought the entire experience and opportunities that came with it were invaluable.

"The networking and being able to go to these events is such a huge benefit," said Larison. "Being able to meet people from different companies and chat with them ... it allows you to get your foot in the door and it goes a long way."

To view more photos of the construction of the design and the finished product, visit the program's Facebook page.

To learn more about the Landscape and Horticulture program, visit