MCCC Horticulture Program Set to Blossom at Philly Flower Show

'In Full Bloom' Runs from June 11 to 19 at FDR Park


West Windsor, N.J. – Students in the Horticulture program at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) have been watching their greenhouse garden grow in preparation for the Philadelphia Flower Show, which will be held from June 11 to 19 at FDR Park (1500 Pattison Ave., Philadelphia, Pa.).

The theme for this year’s show is “In Full Bloom.” Approximately 25 MCCC students, faculty and alumni have joined forces to create “Re-leaf,” a 400-square-foot display that focuses on the healing, restorative power of gardens and natural environments.

“As an educational institution, we try to present ideas each year that inspire people and provide information they can take home with them,” said Professor Amy Ricco, coordinator of MCCC's Horticulture/Plant Science Program. “Our emphasis this year is on gardening for mental health.”

In the MCCC backyard garden, visitors will find vegetable plants that promote healthy eating, as well as plants with medicinal properties and three mature shade trees. There will be plants soothing to the touch, like lambs’ ears; ornamental grasses that swish and sway in the breeze; herbs with wonderful scents, such as dill, mint, lemon balm, sage, and basil; and pollinator plants like marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and nasturtiums that attract butterflies and birds.

“That’s the short list,” Ricco notes.

Ricco and Adjunct Professor David DeFrange met with interested students in January, assigning and overseeing tasks ranging from designing the display, to researching healing gardens, to growing happy plants.

Alumnus Jerry Albrecht (’19), who, as a student, built a lighthouse, a windmill and other structures for previous shows, has signed on to assist this year as well. During the “build phase” at FDR Park, Albrecht, DeFrange and about 10 other Mercer volunteers will be on hand for the installation.

The show has moved outdoors since the last time MCCC participated and won gold in March 2020, when it was housed in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Many of MCCC’s plantings are new, but some shrubs and perennials date back to 2020 and even earlier. “They’re like our children at this point,” Ricco said.

The pergola featured in 2020 will be reused in a relaxing, shady, patio setting. (After the show, the pergola will be permanently installed as an outdoor classroom behind the MCCC Greenhouse.) A water feature is on loan from Magnolia Garden Center (Magnolia, N.J.).

Two other MCCC programs are contributing to the display. Instructor Kerri O’Neill’s ceramics students have created plant labels shaped like leaves, as well as bowls that will hold fruit designed to attract butterflies. Six students in the Graphic Design Club, advised by faculty members Tina LaPlaca and Mauro Zamora, made informational posters based on research conducted by the Horticulture students. The display logo was designed by Lizzie Estrada.

Ricco observes that she and her students learn something every year, including the practical aspects of transporting and installing the display. “We get so much out of it. We have to think about every aspect, right down to securing the plants in the truck.”

“I hope all this nail biting will result in something really nice,” she said.

Transport and installation takes place June 6 to 9. And then it’s show time – for the plants and flowers and all those who love them.

Horticulture-Plant Science at MCCC

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In the MCCC Greenhouse: back row, from left, James MacDuff, Nate Jones, Katrina Henriques, and Jasmine Lettieri; front row, from left, Tom Pennachio, Professor Amy Ricco, and Aidan Reed.



Graphic Design student Lizzie Estrada designed the Releaf logo and two additional posters for the display.



The display features many kinds of herbs, including four varieties of basil.