msu landscape design & horticulture

student forum


Leave a comment

Arrival Day, Tuesday May 26th

(Posted by Christian)   Today we desended upon Montreal like sporatic raindrops thoughout the day. I was the first to arrive having flown in late monday eavning in one of the most torrential downpours in recent memory. Today the weather changed and we had sun, warmth and humidity. One local told me that it was really the first warm weather that he had eperianced this spring. Catching the 747 bus in from the airport was easy and direct. I wandered the Rue Sainte-Catherine in search of a rain jacket to replaice the one I had left at home. I settled on something more like a sweatshirt and meandered west  into the old city to look around. Our leader, Jennifer Britton at this time was hurling westward in a speeding train from Qubec City due to arrive before noon. I headed back to the east side on old Montreal to meet her at the hostel. I arrived shortly before she did and enjoyed watching the aray of multi -national visitors come through the doors and try their best french with the desk clerk. When JEnnifer arrived she also used her impeckable skills at french withthe clerk. He was obviously impressed. After a bit of confustion whith the number of rooms and the number of persons and the exchange rate, we were all checked in. Next was to set out to find a bite to eat and wait for the other three to arrive. Around 6 pm the trio did arrive all at once and to our surprise in a single taxi. Nellie had flown in from Seattle while  Elizabeth and Marisa had departed from Bozeman. After settling in to their room we went downstairs to the hostel reasturant to eat dinner. After than we did some evening exploring of Rue Sainte-Catherine. How different it looked at night. I wish that I had the forthought to take pictures during the day.  


Leave a comment

Montréal retrospective.

Posted by: Jennifer Britton (professor and fearless leader!)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

We travel abroad to see different places and people, to experience and learn from our world’s diversity and share commonalities in the human condition. But how can we teach travel? Of all the pedagogical experiences in a professor’s repertoire, study abroad can be one of the most challenging and rewarding. This summer for eight filled to the brim days I led six Montana State University Environmental Horticulture and Plant Sciences students on a study abroad to Montréal, Québec. A short plane ride but a world away from Bozeman, Montana we explored our North American neighbors unique French-Anglo cultural, horticultural, design and undeniably charming joie de vivre!

We lodged in McGill University’s New Residence Hall dorms, a perfect central downtown location and comfortable too. A busy venue at the peak festival season the lobby had a steady flow of Canadian’s coming for a multitude of events. On any given day the ménage was an eclectic mix of scout troopers and people with body tattoos, sometimes both! McGill’s food services provided us with lunches and a dinner making food logistics easy and tasty. Students commented often their surprise and pleasure of the food quality both at the dorms and in general around town- there was much fresh and healthy food to be found.

In a constant flow of observation and conversation we saw, heard, and tasted the culture; and true to the non-vehicular urban experience we walked, biked, and rode the metro to gardens, parks, and open air markets. Lectures, topics, and tours in horticulture and landscape design provided students with historical and contemporary Québec knowledge. Lessons provided an opportunity for depth in experience with four main learning objectives: cultural, plant, park observations and blogging.

During the trip students were required to seek a new experience beyond our time in class together. Allowed the opportunity to try something new and unique in Montréal their cultural experience could take many forms: food, music, theatre, art or historical museum, architecture, or shopping. Shared in a written and visual exposition students described their unique cultural exploration and phenomenological experience of who, what, where, when, why their exploration felt “very Montreal” and what they took away from the experience. The general parting sentiment and noticeable theme was the description of Montréal as a place weaving “the old with the new,” an irresistible balance of history with contemporary life.

Students also kept a journal and travel sketchbook entry for everyday on the trip and constructed a camera obscura (an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen) to help them in their sketching ability. This project had two parts: first to build an individual camera obscura with the supplied material and second to use the camera at their discretion to sketch the landscape.

To engage their exploration of the Montreal Botanical Garden in active learning, students researched the flora on display to discover which, if any plants might also thrive in Bozeman, Montana. Suffice it to say, not many woodies! Although Montreal is a Zone 4 the less fickle spring and neutral to acidic pH lends itself to a wider planting palette. Just look at those Maples! Students also explored the garden with a specific focus area of how plant and place come together to make unique landscapes and to understand the concept and benefits of botanical gardens.

Parks also abound in Montréal, again what’s not to love? But the unquestionable jewel crowning Montréal is Mont Royal designed by Frederick Law Olmsted the landscape architect of New York’s Central Park and a multitude of other landscapes in North America. To engage students with the sense of place, they created “leave no trace” earth art with documentation. I admit I gave very implicit instruction on this assignment: NO digging, cutting or any other activity which may be construed as a legal offense! In the end my hesitation was unfounded, as the two student groups illustrated their sensitive character in ephemeral engagement between themselves and the environment, capturing the spirit and genus loci.

Finally to share the students experience with family and friends, and as a record of our travel together, we blogged daily with a student assigned to each day. Students were responsible to record the events complete with photos, sketches or any items that might share the class experience. The blog was their postcard home. If you would like to read more about our trip and activity see the posts below.

In my final reflection as teacher and traveler I can say yes the class rubric integrated theoretical knowledge and technical skill, but most important I believe our time in Montréal instilled a joy of travel through an experience free of fear and judgment. Not an easy task in a time when the U.S. State Department issued an unprecedented worldwide security warning (literally the night before our class began) and yet, for my first study abroad program to Québec I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable and playful group of students. They embraced the Québécois culture, sharing in my passion for this beautiful place, with open and easy-going exchange. They represented themselves, Montana State University and the United States as fun-loving, open, and thoughtful individuals. Most important they left people with a smile! Upon student’s feedback, I look forward to continuing and even expanding this program for the Summer 2015 by including Québec City and the agrarian Île d’Orléans. À bientôt, see you soon, Québec!

Photo’s of our trip…
Montréal has some seriously great street art!
Mosaicultures Internationales Montréal “The Man Who Planted Trees”  Is this just not perfect for us? _1380937
One for our MSU bee folks!_1380949
Japanese Garden- a favorite.
Chinese Garden- also wonderful especially with a cup of Jasmine Tea.
First People’s Garden- tobacco.
Classic full perennial garden.
Away from the crowds and under a gorgeous Maple!
Random “tree house” artwork engaging trees…
and Miss. Elisa.
Across the street Schwartz’s smoked meats.
In Mont Royal…
and then the big kids played!
Jean-Talon Marché!!
And now to eat!
LUFA anyone?
Experiencing art
feel the love?
Well, how about a little fashion…
Our week flew by! Last night out on the town…
Just have to go to a Jazz supper club if you want to say you experienced Montréal!
P1390176 P1390169
What a great trip!

Leave a comment

Friday, August 9, 2013

Posted by: Patrick Heslin

I woke up this morning to grey skies that threatened for sure rain, this did not look promising for our long anticipated bike ride planned for today. After a short walk through old Montreal revisiting for the first time since day one, we arrived to the bike shop on the riverfront anxious to gear up and jump on a bike to start on our way. The bike shop was in what seemed to be an extremely old and small building filled with bikes hung on every inch of the wall. Jennifer quickly shut down any thought of Kyle’s and my dream of cruising on a tandem bike today, but the nice man working at the shop hooked us up with some great cruisers, accompanied with matching helmets and fanny packs tightly secured to the handle bars…we looked really cool. We started off on the bike trail through the city along side the river, and after a few confusing street crossings and detours we found our bike path that would take us on a scenic and relaxing loop. The weather turned out to be perfect, overcast skies and a slight breeze while cruising on the bike made the heat and humidity quite pleasant compared to my expectations of pouring rain and wind that would have turned this into “not such a relaxing day” which it was supposed to be.

The bike path was very well constructed and maintained with painted lanes on the smooth asphalt that provided for a smooth ride, along side the path were beautiful old trees and simple but nicely maintained landscapes, I was impressed. Seeing the city via bike path gave me a whole new perspective of Montreal. There were many people using this path for their daily commute and many others for their daily exercise and recreation. We biked along the river where old textile mills had been converted into apartments and office buildings, while looking very modern, but staying true to their original architecture. We looped through a sculpture park which had many large works of art that continued to catch our eye on the bike ride. We stopped for lunch underneath a large canopy of trees by the river, and watched some locals paddle board. After lunch the group started our way back towards the bike rental shop to end our perfect ride on this perfect day.

After the bike ride we dispersed and I went back and took an incredible nap, (not exaggerating) it was one of my best. After we regrouped later that night in the lobby we made our way to china town for cheap but delicious steamed buns. We then walked around and experienced a little bit of Montreal’s nightlife it was a perfect way to end this perfect day. The night came to an end when we tried entering a “bumping” club when a 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide bouncer said we “needed reservations” after cracking his neck. Although his obvious disapproval of us was somewhat hurtful, it was probably for the best.








Leave a comment

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Posted by: Breanna Leake

An overview of LUFA Farms. After a short metro ride and a long meander through an industrial part of Montreal, we visited the rooftop garden built and operated by the LUFA farm organization.  Almost hidden, the greenhouse is easy to miss from the exterior, located above conventional office buildings.  The concept for the LUFA farm is simple, but powerful.  Instead of clearing forest ecosystems for agricultural use in rural areas, they aim to place farms directly in the middle of large cities on the rooftops of pre-existing buildings in order to feed ever-expanding urban populations.  By aiming for sustainable living in an urban setting, these forward-thinking entrepreneurs hope to start a trend that will spread across Canada and into other industrialized nations.

The LUFA farm strives for sustainability in all aspects of its enterprise.  Their daily operations use 50% less energy than a conventional greenhouse of comparable size and they recirculate both city water and collect rainwater for irrigation.  A wide variety of crops are grown through a hydroponic system with peat moss used for anchorage of the root system, including bell peppers, 9 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant (seasonally), lettuce, spinach, herbs, and other leafy greens.  For an average starting price of $30 for a basic package, the LUFA farm will deliver a box of fresh vegetables to one of nearly 100 drop-off points throughout the island of Montreal.  The crops are harvested ripe the morning before delivery and the box can be upgraded with add-ins such as fresh-baked bread, honey, jams, coffee, and a variety of other produce from their partner distributors.  Although the methodology inherent in the water nutrient/recirculation process makes them ineligible for organic certification, the LUFA farms minimize their environmental impact through the absence of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides.  Additionally, a large portion of the organic waste is sent to compost, with the hopes for expansion in the future.

Overall, the tour of the LUFA greenhouse leaves the visitor with a sense of hope for a sustainable future and continual innovation in an expanding world.  “LUFA” is no acronym – the farm was named for the Vietnamese “Luffa” squash, well-known for its fibrous texture used as sponges, but also for its versatility as a tool, food, and even medicinal uses.  The greenhouse seeks to reflect its namesake and establish a multi-purpose space for both business and sustainable nutrition.

DSC02224 DSC02209 DSC02223DSC02221DSC02228DSC02229

LUFA Farms

A wide array of vegetables and herbs are grown on the rooftop gardens of the LUFA farms.


Our tour guide in between rows of hydroponic, rooftop-grown vegetables

“You Made This Happen” – written in the cement at the top of the staircase.


Translation: “Our vision is of a city of rooftop farms”

Leave a comment

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Posted by: Rob Bourne

Today Pat and I continued the with the “GREAT berry earth art” experiment. This turned out to morph into more of a disaster as time went by but the final product turned out as planned so with failure and mostly embarrassment came a small success. Thus ending our short lived earth art careers for now.

I was able to break out my skateboard on this beautiful day and make some much needed arcs and a few slides to start off the morning in style. We met for the main event and traveled to the open market place called the Marche jean-talon which was officially revived in 1993 and is open daily for produce, breads, cheeses, fish, meats, crapes, coffee and other such items one would expect to find at a typical farmers markets. Surprisingly enough this market focused more on the food which was fantastic. This market was packed with local families shopping for their weekly needs. We appeared to be 7 of very few non-locals. While doing some quick sketches many locals came up and talked with us in curiosity into what we were doing which added to the dynamic of the experience.

Jennifer’s quick sketches in the market was an exercise to loosen us as a group up. They were no longer than a 1 minute of a random item of her choice and it was “quick and dirty”. This was great because we all come from fairly different backgrounds and styles and it forced us as a group to produce something quickly in a public setting. We went as a group through most of the market stopping at random for a quick sketch that ended as quickly as it started. It was really exciting and fun.

We went to the Montreal museum of fine arts in the afternoon where we enjoyed many exhibits for free. Something that the U.S museums could learn from by making it more easily accessible for people to interact with great art work. We continued with the quick sketches throughout the drastically different exhibits and picked a piece that spoke to each of us and had about 5 minutes to get a good drawing or drawings done before moving on to a different floor of the museum. This was great after we had all loosened up at the market and where ready to put pencil to paper (no pens allowed in the museum…news to me).

A large Chihuly exhibit was the main attraction (had to pay to see this one). Massive amount of great glass works varying form bowls to trees and a great celling exhibit where you would lie down and observe a clear glass ceiling with many different pieces arranged and overlapping each other. The great part about this portion was the interaction with others trying to lay on the mats in turn so you ended up laying down next to random people but it didn’t matter and certainly wasn’t awkward (at least for me) because the exhibit was so profound that you were so focused people kept bumping into each other in stunned observation.

Earth art project

We Choice to focus on the natural movement of earth and stone that initially created the park and the formation of the area through time.

Trial 1



Brianna, Pat, and I (Rob) set up at a main entrance of the mt royal park by the large pound. We set up on a fairly good size rock and placed the small amount of berries we collected in the cracks and pits in the rock. We added some charcoal to bring out the contrasting colors. We were successful in displaying our concept but wanted to expand so unfortunately we took the berries with us for the next set up.

Trail 2



Pat and I were initially very excited about expanding this idea to a larger scale and headed out early the next morning with the excitement of children at Christmas. We walked quickly to the nearest park and found more of the similar berries and about 50 feet from those berries a good rock with lots of character on the side of the trail was available for construction. We began with excitement and joy. After about two minutes three middle age women walkers came by and asked us with amazed looks on their faces “Are you guys trying to grow something?”… We told them we were studying earth art for a class we and needed to create and document a piece for class later that day. The woman responded “how many people have asked you what you are doing here?” Pat responded “You are first of many I’m sure” with a chuckle they went along up the trail leaving us questionable of our concept and of any artistic ability we may have possessed.

We pressed on a little less confident than before. The next who passed was a man with knee high socks who slowed his pace but had no earthly business commenting based on his outrageous walking outfit. We pressed on as more passed, more odd stares and weird looks weighted heavily on us.

I could barely contain my laughter as more passed.

The final straw was about 10- 12 minutes after our initial set up on the site an older man came over and was staring at use with wonder. I spoke and said “how’s it going” no response and he looked straight up to the tree tops as if wondering where these berries came from he took two more steps forward then retreated back from where he came from with a look of disapproval. As three more people came walking down the path in the distance we bailed on any further attempts to document this apparent failure.

It’s truly a shame that we were disheartened by the views of others in our attempts to stretch our concept. This was a completely different experience from trial 1 where we were not bothered at least we thought. Overall this was a great experience and I will remember it fondly as I continue my higher educational pursuits.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.