Bidwell Training Center's horticulture displays always a hit at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show
Gary Baranowski is on his knees, deadheading flowers in the Bidwell Training Center's exhibit at the Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show. The school's director of horticulture technology is leading by example, showing his students what it takes to make each garden area special.
It's that attention to detail that has made the annual displays here such a hit over the past 15 years. They always combine fascinating and detailed horticultural information with a welcome amount of whimsy, too.
There are two distinctly different areas where Bidwell is represented at the show. Upstairs highlights the economic importance of plants.
"They're little fun facts about different plant families," Baranowski says. "It just helps people connect plants to what they do in their everyday lives."
Students created all the displays as part of their curriculum. Baranowski stresses to them the importance of having fun while designing their areas.
"I always tell our students, horticulture is a little bit about science and a little bit about art, you have to have both though," he says. "And when you do, you can't help but hit a home run."
The exhibits include displays of different plant families such as pine, laurels, orchids, spurge, mint, cashew, grass and many more. The displays offer interesting details about each one. (Did you know pure vanilla comes from a type of orchid?)
Bidwell offers students post-secondary training in many different fields — culinary, medical, pharmacy, lab tech and, of course, horticulture. Qualified students are not required to pay tuition.
The Pennsylvania Wood Mobile is also part of the upstairs display. It's an interactive walk-through exhibit that highlights the state's forest resources and industry.
Downstairs is where most of the whimsy happens. In a celebration of Bidwell's 50th anniversary, there are displays highlighting current and past training programs at the school, and it's done in a fun way.
A wooden tool box is transformed into a planter filled with brightly colored tulips, kalanchoe with Spanish moss and variegated ivy spilling over the side representing the former carpentry program. An IBM Selectric typewriter is home to pretty double pink flowers for the office technology program. File cabinets are painted fun colors and stuffed with plants. A bass drum along with a trumpet are planted as an homage to jazz and the music program.
Baranowski let his students loose at Construction Junction as one source to find props for the showcase.
"Students were challenged to find bits and pieces of these various career areas that could be put together and somehow fashion a plant container," he said with a smile. "You can see the creativity, the imagination and the resourcefulness of our students in each of these displays."
It's a unique and inspiring way to give his students the experience they need to be ready to look for work when they graduate.
"They connect to the real world," he says of the project. "They need to make that practical. The day they leave Bidwell, they are job ready."
Details: bidwelltraining.edu or 412-459-7408, ext. 150
The Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show continues through March 11 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 9 and 10 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 11. Admission is $10, $4 for ages 6-12. Details: pghhome.com
Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or email@example.com. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at everybodygardens.com.