Business Donations Benefit VIU Horticulture Program

Business donations benefit VIU Horticulture program

VIU Horticulture Technician Foundation program students and instructors take a break from working on the Hawkins garden meadow project.

November 5, 2020 - 9:30am

Industry support provides VIU students with opportunities to investigate environmentally sustainable lawn alternatives and become certified Allan Block installers.

With help from a variety of businesses, students in the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Horticulture Technician Foundation Program are in the process of converting an established lawn and garden area at the G.R. Paine Horticulture Training Centre into a drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly meadow. 

“The meadow project will expose students to changing trends, new technologies and people’s desire for ecologically responsible yards and gardens,” says Jessica Gemella, VIU Horticulture Technician Program instructor.  

Students in the program study landscape design, soil and water management, arboriculture, habitat enhancement and historic land-use as well as landscape the property at the Paine Centre as part of their class projects.  

Gemella is interested in connecting the meadow project to ongoing research.   

“It is an adaptive management approach that will evolve over many years with students studying and documenting environmentally sustainable lawn alternatives and adapting to climate change,” she adds. 

Students have removed the existing turf in the spot known as the Hawkins garden, a fenced, decorative area that was built about 25 years ago. Gemella says in recent years the irrigation ponds have completely dried up, leaving the facility with no capacity to water the area in the summer season. The meadow project will allow students to explore an option that an increasing number of people are interested in learning more about or trying. 

Business donations benefit VIU Horticulture program

“Lawns have been a trademark part of homeownership and curb appeal, yet they are expensive, require a lot of water, fertilizers and maintenance,” says Gemella. “If we convert those into productive places either for growing food or providing habitat for animals, imagine how that would transform our backyards and neighbourhoods.”

Instructors Scott Nicol and Christine Quist secured more than $10,000 in donations of materials and services for the project, including soil, seeds and plants from several Vancouver Island and mainland businesses. Students will test drought-tolerant lawn seed mixes for the local climate, conduct a trial of two turfgrass mixes with wildflowers and add flowering perennials to the site.   

Local businesses also supported the replacement of a failing planter edge leading into the centre’s main facility. Through these relationships, students received training to become certified Allan Block installers, and new equipment and training to identify insects from a biological control company. 

Business donations benefit VIU Horticulture program

The horticulture program has purchased new soil testing equipment and provided an extensive soil report for a donor, giving students real-world experiences. The program is working towards establishing a permanent soil lab facility on-site that would be able to provide that service to the local community.  

“We are grateful for the industry support we have received,” adds Gemella. “It is through these relationships that we have been able to enhance student experiences, helping to develop skills related to current approaches to landscape methods and materials that are relevant to the local environment. Being ecologically responsible reflects our students’ values in creating a healthy environment, and consumers want that too.” 



Annette Lucas, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.618-7296 | E: | T: @VIUNews 

Biobest Canada Ltd. – Pest detection tools and educational resources

DFL Pickseed Canada – Meadow seed

EMCO Waterworks Nanaimo – Irrigation supplies

Expocrete – Allan Blocks, pavers

Fisher Road Recycling – Soil

Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) – Student manuals and course fees

Island Topsoils – Soil

Kliejn Nurseries – Plant material

Nicol Landscapes Ltd. – Material delivery

Oldcastle – 3D modelling tools

Saanich Native Plants – Meadow plants

Sharecost Rentals & Sale – Soil 

Slegg Building Materials – Allan Blocks, pavers

Van Belle Nursery – Meadow plants

Xtend Rentals – Machine rental and delivery

Tags: G.R. Paine Horticultural Training Centre | Horticulture | Teaching and Learning

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