March 8, 2021
Laura Delorme gains knowledge and confidence through horticulture
What sparked your interest in horticulture?I have my family to thank for planting the seed that later grew into my passion for plants and people. My mother grew up hearing about her father’s famous winery in Lebanon while my father was raised outside at his grandparent’s farm. It was their childhood memories that had a lasting effect on their lives, motivating them to allow their children to experience their version. Although at the time maintaining our vegetable gardens wasn’t the most exciting task, it sparked my curiosity.
What then prompted you later in life to pursue your career?I was quite involved with business and law-oriented extra-curricular in high school, which is what motivated me to pursue a Juris Doctor program at the University of Ottawa. Plants became more of a hobby for me, I collected many house plants and admired them from afar whenever I would play sports outdoors. It was right around exam season in the second year that I realized how out of place I felt in my program. I started researching program alternatives online and since plants were one of the only things that brought me joy at the time, I looked into horticulture. That’s when I found the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. I’d say the rest is history.
What do you enjoy most about your school?One of the biggest perks for me was living on campus at the School Residence. Although the grounds were there for the public to enjoy, our hard work went into maintaining our own home. I feel very fortunate to have had that experience. It also made studying plant material so much simpler and nap time that much more accessible. The plant identification classes played a crucial role in defining the start of my horticultural career. Each class allowed me to become more comfortable with the material and increased my confidence. The practical portion of the program was one of the main reasons why I applied. I got to work with equipment and learned techniques that I hadn’t had access to before my enrolment. I also learned that I was pretty good at it, so that was motivating. Being able to apply what I was learning solidified that I had made the right decision in pursuing horticulture as a profession.
“Being able to apply what I was learning solidified that I had made the right decision in pursuing horticulture as a profession.”
— Laura Delorme
Who has supported you along the way?My parents have been so supportive of my choices. My father being a tradesmen was very happy to know that I’d get to experience what he’d been raving about my whole life. Despite not having immense professional experience in horticulture when I first started, the instructor-curators at the school welcomed me with open arms. Most of them have decades of experience in the field so it has been so helpful to have them as a resource. I especially looked forward to being on Sue Clarke’s or Darrell Bley’s crews. They have decades of experience and are always willing to teach the students something valuable. As mentors go, I’d say that I looked up to most of the students in the class of 2020. Working while getting to know them as a supervisor and friends was a privilege. They seemed to have grown so much throughout their studies and will go on to be great contributors to the industry.
What work experience do you have?Through my studies, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the maintenance of the botanical gardens. This has exposed me to greenhouse work, turf management, IPM, design, woody plants and perennial maintenance. I’ve appreciated being exposed to the more sustainable approach to landscaping, using little to no pesticides, operating electric equipment, favouring plant material that favours long-term enjoyment etc. The knowledge and confidence that I’ve gained through attending the school has allowed me to work as a gardener in both the Niagara and Ottawa regions. While most of my experience has been outdoors, I’ve had the chance to work with cut plant material as a florist at a local shop in Ottawa.
Each of these positions have exposed me to the realities of the different facets that make up the horticulture industry. It is interesting to see how the approach and mentality varies. I’d love to eventually work more closely with woody plants. In the mean time, I’m slowly growing my collection of tree-related books.
What are some of the career opportunities you want to pursue?It goes without saying that horticulture is everywhere and it affects us all. The more I submerge myself in the horticulture industry, the more I learn about the lack of access to the knowledgeable resources that make it up. Most individuals love plants but perceive them as superficial or intimidating. I often hear of those who want to learn more about horticulture but don’t know where to start. With my education, I hope to have the necessary knowledge to initiate projects and inform the public. I’ve come to develop a fond appreciation for trees and would like to spend some time specializing in arboriculture. To complement my horticulture studies, I plan on taking supplementary courses on mental health and human behaviour. This way, I can be proficient in both plants and people in hopes of successfully bridging the gap between the two. Eventually, I hope to travel through work; which is convenient considering how one can find some form of a plant growing just about anywhere. Specifically to Italy, New Zealand and Oregon.
How can horticulture benefit people and the planet?Professor Lynda McCarthy explained it best at the LO Conference in 2019. Horticulture professionals play a crucial role as environment ambassadors. We dedicate our lives to the care of the natural organisms that surround and bring joy to people. The science behind our practices are not new concepts; restoration, stewardship, permaculture along with others have been studied for centuries. This being said, horticulture professionals have the knowledge and resources to make environmental sustainable practices accessible to the general public. It can be daunting to feel as though the sake of the planet lies in our hands. My goal remains to teach people that they too can make a change by doing environmentally positive actions in their everyday garden spaces. For example, we can choose to decorate our yards with perennials rather than hardscape, to grow our produce in the summer, to maintain our gardens with natural amendments rather than chemical fertilizers, to embrace nature’s imperfections and use them to our advantage. Horticulture is just another facet of our lives that we can use to improve our impact on the planet. Any change can be overwhelming but with the right resources and dedication, we can accomplish something worthwhile.
Do you have a favourite plant?I’d say that my favourite plants depends on the day! Every day exposes me to a new species and, like most things, I have a hard time picking favourites. As mentioned, woody plants hold a special place in my heart and I find myself lucky to be able to work with them. Besides being visually stunning, they are valuable to the health of our environment, every day of the year.
What other activities do you pursue outside of school?When I’m not too tired after a long day of working outside, I like to play sports. I had a pretty active childhood and got to try a lot of different things. Soccer, snowboarding, cycling and yoga are my favourites these days. Through Covid, I’ve had lots of time to read, write, draw and listen to music. Another hobby that has occupied most of my time this past year is crochet. My instructor, Sue Clarke, was the one who encouraged me to start and I’m so grateful she did! It’s amazing what you can do with some yarn and a hook.
Learn more about the scholarships available through the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation and the Cullen Family Scholarship program.