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The Cuyamaca College Ornamental Horticulture renovation includes plans to replace an aging greenhouse with two modern ones with environmental controls and computer-controlled irrigation. The upgraded greenhouses and facilities will mean more plants, flowers and shrubbery to sell in the retail nursery operated by the program.  

Source: Cuyamaca College

August 12, 2019 (El Cajon) -- A groundbreaking to be held Aug. 22 marks the start of a $16.7 million project that will renovate indoor and outdoor classrooms and facilities, and add new greenhouses for Cuyamaca College’s signature Ornamental Horticulture program. The groundbreaking ceremony is set for 9 a.m. at the college’s Building M site. To attend, RSVP to

“This Proposition V-funded project is a milestone for the campus because of the significance of the program and its link to the history of Cuyamaca College,” President Julianna Barnes said in reference to the $398 million construction bond measure passed by East County voters in 2012 to improve and add facilities at Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges.  “Ornamental Horticulture has a storied past at our college and it is long overdue for a renovation. With the modernizing of facilities and the new greenhouses in particular, students have a lot to be excited about.”  

As one of the original programs started at Cuyamaca College in 1980, Ornamental Horticulture is a cornerstone program that’s produced thousands of graduates who have gone on to jobs such as landscape architects, turf managers, and even a host of TV landscaping shows – Sara Bendrick of  two TV DIY network series, “I Hate my Yard,” and “Lawn & Order.”

The two-year program offers nine degrees and certificates in arboriculture, floral design, golf course and sports turf management, irrigation technology, landscape design; landscape technology, nursery technology, sustainable urban landscapes and basic ornamental horticulture.

With the renovation slated for completion in fall 2020, the program’s students will see updated facilities, well-equipped greenhouses, an outdoor instructional area, expanded retail space and much-needed storage space. About 10,000 square feet of usable space will be added with the renovation.

The project includes gutting and renovating Building M to accommodate a design lab, a wet lab and lab prep room on one end and a classroom on the other. Two new greenhouses will replace an aging, smaller one. A separate retail shop will be added and equipped with a cooler large enough to store flowers and delicate arrangements created in the floral design program. 

Renovating the aging facility will mean major upgrades to the program, program coordinator Leah Rottke said.

“The main advantage of the renovation is that we will be able to provide students an experience that closely reflects the industry,” Rottke said. Rottke noted that the existing greenhouse is outmoded and has an east to west orientation instead of north to south to benefit most from the sun’s exposure. The new greenhouses will have environmental control features to improve plant life and an irrigation system connected to a central computer that will more accurately measure water usage and forecast needs.

“We are a career technical education discipline and we strive to help students get jobs, so it is very important that we are able to replicate what’s currently used in industry,” she said.  

Rottke said the new greenhouses and retail space will be a big boost to the program’s retail nursery.  Proceeds from nursery sales fund scholarships and pay for class trips outside of the region such as the Huntington Botanical Garden and Living Desert Gardens in Palm Desert.  

The program makes about 25% of its annual plant sales at the popular Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival, now in its 27th year. About 30,000 plants, including vegetables, herbs, California native plants, a vast array of annuals and perennial flowering plants, as well as trees and shrubs, are sold annually. 

The program will also be able to bring back its poinsettia sales, thanks to the new greenhouses. The sales were halted two years ago because the program lacked the space to grow the holiday perennial.

Other Prop V projects

In addition to the Ornamental Horticulture Complex and Building M Renovation, Cuyamaca College’s other major Prop V projects include a Student Services and Administration Building and improvements to the Student Center and Veteran Services Center. Major projects for Grossmont College include a Performing and Visual Arts Center, scheduled to be completed this fall, and a Science, Math and Career Tech Complex.

Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway, El Cajon, CA 92019.

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