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The UD exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show has won three awards.
Pictured are (from left) Weber Stibolt, DART founder and president, Erin
Lynch, DART treasurer, Tony Middlebrooks, Jules Bruck, Ellie Brown and
2:50 p.m., Feb. 24, 2015--The University of Delaware award-winning
exhibit at this years Philadelphia Flower Show provides visitors a
lesson in the inherent value of abundant plant life, with a focus on
useful, edible and therapeutic plants found in the Amazon rainforest.
The exhibit, which was prepared by students and faculty members in
the Design Process Practicum class and the Design and Articulture (DART)
student organization, highlights the diversity of plants found in the
Amazon and the capacity of the rich ecosystem to provide medicines for
It captured several awards, including a silver medal in the
educational exhibitors category and an award of merit for outstanding
exhibit. Also, the exhibit received honors from the Herb Society of
The flower show will run through March 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The idea for the theme originated last spring in the
interdisciplinary Design Process Practicum class, which is taught by
Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and Jon Cox, assistant professor in the Department of Art.
Students in the class split into three groups and each group had to
design a flower show exhibit for three separate clients -- the Amazon
Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER), Duffys Hope, a
service provider for at-risk and hard to reach youth ages 12-17, and
Connections Community Support Programs Inc., which provides a
comprehensive array of health care, housing and employment opportunities
that help individuals and families to achieve their own goals and
enhance communities. Through Connections, the students specifically
worked with the Sturfels Youth Center, which provides a safe haven for
boys and girls who have been arrested but who have not yet been
convicted of a criminal offense.
When the professors were unable to choose a winner, they had Sam
Lemheney -- chief of shows and events for the Pennsylvania Horticultural
Society (PHS), director of the Philadelphia Flower Show and an alumnus
of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) -- pick the project to represent UD. He selected the project of the group that had worked with ACEER.
ACEER is committed to promoting conservation of the Amazon by
fostering awareness, understanding, action and transformation, and in
keeping with that theme, the UD group decided to highlight the plant
life found in that region.
Were really going to try to highlight awareness and understanding
of the conservation of the Amazon rainforest for the purpose of making
sure that we have good access to medicinal plants over time, said
Bruck. As the forest ecosystems are degraded and eventually lost
through poor agricultural practices, we lose an opportunity to
study species and the way indigenous tribes use medicinal plants. The
students were really interested in a forest to pharmacy concept.
Paige Gugerty, a senior organizational and community leadership major
who is part of DART and is the teaching assistant for the class, said
that the forest to pharmacy concept comes from the fact that in the
pharmaceutical industry, a lot of medications that we use, and even some
potential cancer fighting drugs, come from plant compounds found in the
Amazon. Its really important to preserve the Amazon because of those
plant compounds and the different medicinal and religious uses of what
is found there.
In addition to having an education display, the students were also
interested in having a very exuberant, colorful exhibit. To do that,
they had to select plants that are both educational and aesthetically
To choose the plants for the show, two students Gugerty and Elinor
Brown, a junior in the College of Health Sciences traveled to Florida
in September 2014 with Lemheney to visit nurseries and tree farms.
The fact that Gugerty, a leadership major, and Brown, an exercise
science major, were chosen to visit Florida to pick out the flowers
speaks to the interdisciplinary nature of the course, something the
professors stressed is important to the design process.
Were highly interested in crossing disciplines and were always
trying to get different disciplines to work together to see each others
perspectives and understand the strengths that each perspective brings
that they might be overlooking, said Middlebrooks. So the flower show
is a perfect opportunity because there are so many details to putting
together an exhibit -- from the initial exploration of ideas, to
generating ideas, to the creative details and the logistics for getting
it there, getting it set up, ordering materials, balancing the books,
and everything else.
For their part, the students were thrilled to be selected to travel to Florida.
I was so grateful that Jules offered up that opportunity to us,
Gugerty said. The fact that they sent two students was really awesome
because neither one of us is from CANR, but we worked together and
prepared for the trip and did a lot of our research up front so that
when we got to the nurseries, we were able to look at what we wanted to
look at and then come back and order pretty quickly.
Brown added that it was nice to travel with Lemheney and another
exhibitor at the flower show because they have such a connection with
people down there and theyre so close. It was really nice being with
them and meeting their clients and establishing a connection with them
that we can use for the next few years.
The students chose most of their flowers from Excelsa Gardens in Loxahatchee as they said Excelsa set the gold standard for nurseries and had a very accommodating staff.
The comprehensive plant list had around 450 plants in total and
included bromeliads, gingers, banana palms, orchids, bananas and cocoa.
Cox, who conducted studies in Peru recently, will include in the
display some masks and objects from his trip. There will also be baskets
that indigenous Peruvians use to gather plants and berries in the
exhibit, and ACEER is going to hand out samples of fair trade coffee and
promote other fair trade products.
In addition to the plants, the display will also have little bottles hanging from the ceiling to represent the concept of running water, and a CD titled Sounds from the Peruvian Rain Forest
will be played. There will also be art from Hillary Parker, an award
winning botanic illustrator, with some of her paintings representing
this areas local native plants that have medicinal properties and were
once used by indigenous North American peoples.
The theme of this years Philadelphia Flower Show is Celebrate the
Movies and the hope is that people who visit the UD display will walk
away knowing that they are in the directors chair when it comes to
conservation and that even though they arent in the Amazon, they can
have an impact on rain forest conservation by supporting ACEER, buying
sustainable products and even planting a forest garden of native plants
in their back yards.
What we want people to walk away with is that everything is
connected and that our reliance on medicines derived from tropical
plants reminds us to support education and research in products that
help conserve and sustain these ecosystems, said Bruck.
After the show, the plants will be sold at the Universitys Ag Day,
as most of the items such as the orchids and the ferns make for good
The exhibit is sponsored by PHS and the Hutton Fund, in memory of Richard J. Hutton.
Blake Meyers, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences, also contributed to the show.
Middlebrooks said that there is an open invitation to get involved
with the project. This is not a closed project in any way. We are very
true to our spirit of creativity and innovation, and anyone who wants to
bring their talents or even just their energy and enthusiasm to the
group -- students, staff, faculty -- were open to all those kinds of
For those wishing to get involved with the project, contact Middlebrooks, Bruck or Cox.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Lindsay Yeager and courtesy of Paige Gugerty
Originally published by UDaily
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