February 15, 2009
Christopher Bemke is a young pioneer in the horticulture industry.

A graduate of Denis Morris High School in St. Catharines, Bemke is the first student to graduate with a Specialist High Schools Major (SHSM) in horticulture. He achieved the final component of the SHSM as part of the provincial examination conducted by Landscape Ontario. With the designation, he has now been accepted into the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.

On January 8, at Congress 2009, Landscape Ontario had the privilege of presenting Christopher Bemke with his certification passport, proving that he achieved four certification stations, as required by the new Landscape Horticulture SHSM designation. This presentation was conducted by John Wright, a honourary lifetime member of Landscape Ontario, and past chair of the association’s foundation committee. On hand for the presentation were over 200 SHSM secondary school students. Christopher also received a pair of secateurs.

In Grade 11, Christopher was advised that the Niagara Catholic District School Board was to establish a horticulture/landscape program. He made sure that the course was on his schedule for Grade 12. It was this class that really accelerated Christopher’s career path. Almost immediately, his teacher saw potential in Christopher and recommended him for the Specialist High Skills Major Award. Dave Antolin had no doubt that Christopher had the ability to achieve it. Christopher was also selected to attend the Skills Canada Competition in Waterloo for Horticulture/Landscape. Christopher and his partner achieved bronze in all of Ontario for their efforts.

Christopher worked for the Niagara Parks Commission in Niagara Falls for two summers. In the summer of 2008, he was placed at Oakes Garden in Niagara Falls and then helped a gardener to maintain a huge portion of the Niagara Parkway.
Christopher graduated from his horticulture/landscape class with a 96 per cent average.  He had to take a three-day CPR course, complete 220 hours of co-op, write four exams at Landscape Ontario, and take a plant identification exam. He applied to the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture for his post-secondary education. This is a very difficult school to be accepted at, as it only takes in 13 to15 students per year.

Christopher will begin classes at the NPC School of Horticulture in March, 2009.