Students stop and smell the power of plants

Flower delivery

The Decatur High School horticulture class will host a spring plant and flower arrangement sale from noon to 5 p.m. April 27 and 9 a.m. to noon April 28. The sale will continue on weekdays from 7 a.m. to noon May 1-17.

Plants and flowers are available for delivery to local schools and businesses. To place an order, call Justine McMullen at (253) 945-5265 or e-mail


The Mirror

In a workroom brimming with vibrant flowers and thriving plants, students say learning smells sweet.

Indeed, the horticulture science classrooms at Decatur High School are as fragrant and fresh as a park on a spring day.

“It’s a fun class, plus it smells really good in here,” said Decatur senior Austin Hauge, who was arranging lilies, roses and carnations in a floral basket for an upcoming funeral.

The horticulture program, one of only a handful in the state, teaches students science fundamentals, responsibility and the value of life. At Decatur, students also learn business, marketing and sales by operating a floral shop.

“They have to account for all the money and they have to account for all the flowers,” said teacher Justine McMullen.

Students host two large plant sales each year and continue to provide floral services throughout the school year for holidays, weddings, funerals and formal dances. They receive orders by e-mail and deliver to district schools and local businesses.

Money raised goes directly back into the program, which has survived a succession of budget cuts.

“I have to find a way to generate some revenue for projects,” McMullen said.

The campus boasts two large greenhouses, a workroom, classroom, storage areas and walk-in cooler for flowers. Students study textbooks, research on computers, complete written assignments, arrange flowers and tend to plants. They earn lab science credit for their first year, and many opt to take the class again for an elective credit.

Although the students on Monday afternoon agreed that they were having fun, McMullen said the lessons are to be taken seriously.

“Since I got here I said ‘This is a science class, not a fluff class,’” she said. “I think it’s very academic.”

Students will use the skills they learn later in life when they tend to their own lawns and gardens, McMullen said. And growing a plant from a cutting or a seed to a thriving plant teaches responsibility, accountability and following through with tasks.

“Those are pretty lifelong skills, those are huge,” McMullen said.

Perhaps another reason for the horticulture program’s ongoing success is that students are motivated to learn because they enjoy coming to class, said Hauge, who opted to take the class for a second year.

“It’s better than just sitting in a normal classroom where it’s just pen and paper. This is more hands on,” Hauge said.

“This class is a really good stress reliever,” he said. “High school, you know, there’s a lot of drama. It feels like in this class there’s an aura of happiness.”

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

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