Monmouth Floriculture Students Blossom at Prestigious Flower Exhibition

by Jennifer

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ — Demonstrating their creative prowess and horticultural finesse, students from Monmouth County Vocational School District’s Floriculture Program clinched top honors at the renowned Philadelphia Flower Show with their captivating “South Street Spiritual” window display.


Participating in the multifaceted MCVSD Career Center in Freehold Township, high school students engaged in various vocational disciplines, including culinary arts and automotive studies, alongside their regular academic curriculum. For these budding horticulturalists, their passion for flora took center stage.

Under the guidance of instructors Jill Wetzel and Kristina Guttadora, the students conceptualized and executed an award-winning masterpiece. Their first-place triumph in the Store Windows Design Class pitted them against seasoned competitors, including prestigious garden clubs and private institutions from Pennsylvania. Notably, MCVSD was the sole representative from New Jersey, amplifying their achievement.

The Philadelphia Flower Show, renowned as the nation’s premier horticultural event, provided an unparalleled platform for the students to showcase their talents. Immersed in this vibrant atmosphere from March 1 to 10, over 40 students found inspiration igniting their creativity.

“The kids were inspired – and they have a passion for this career,” remarked Guttadora.

Embracing the “South Street Spiritual” theme, the display seamlessly blended elements of Philadelphia’s urban landscape with the serenity of nature. A centerpiece featuring a blossoming Mother Nature mannequin celebrated the healing properties of various plants, while a whimsical nod to the U.S. Mint added local flavor to the exhibit. Utilizing materials sourced from the school grounds, such as birch tree limbs, the students crafted a scene designed to endure the show’s duration.

Judges lauded the exhibit for its impeccable presentation and cohesive design. Comments praising the “pristine plants” and “unified and soothing exceptional design” underscored the students’ meticulous attention to detail and artistic vision.

In addition to securing two first-prize blue ribbons in the store window category, the team garnered accolades including the Best of Blue Award from the Herb Society of America-Philadelphia Unit and a purple ribbon for the best-maintained exhibit.

Beyond accolades, the Floriculture Program at MCVSD offers students a gateway to lucrative career pathways in horticulture. Emphasizing hands-on experience and industry-relevant skills, the program equips students with invaluable expertise in floral design and greenhouse management. Membership in the National FFA Organization chapter further enriches their educational journey, fostering a deeper understanding of the agricultural sector.

Wetzel underscored the program’s vocational focus as a compelling option for high school students, highlighting its role in nurturing essential skills such as customer service and time management. From internships at local garden centers to leadership roles in prestigious botanical gardens, graduates of the program embark on diverse career trajectories within the horticultural domain.

Looking ahead, the students are poised to showcase their talents at the New Jersey FFA Horticulture Exposition at Mercer County Community College, a testament to their dedication and passion for their craft.

Behind the scenes, meticulous planning and preparation laid the groundwork for their success. From crafting a succinct intent statement to honing their design concepts, students embraced every facet of the creative process. Collaborative brainstorming sessions gave rise to the spiritual and healing theme, while practical skills in floral arrangement and stagecraft ensured a flawless execution.

As the curtain falls on their Philadelphia triumph, Monmouth County’s floriculture students stand as exemplars of creativity, dedication, and horticultural excellence. With their sights set on future endeavors, these budding artisans continue to bloom on the floral stage, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of horticulture.


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