The Department of Applied Plant Science is in charge of maintaining the Ricks Gardens on campus which involves various duties.

They are in charge of wrapping certain plants in a supportive burlap so that heavy snow won’t break them and applying a waxy substance to other plants, so they can conserve water through the wintertime. They are also in charge of raising new plants and flowers and planting them when summertime comes around.

“(Winter) is really an active time for us,” said Reese Nelson, an applied plant science faculty member at BYU-Idaho. “Although the plants are going dormant in the wintertime we are actively planning and planting for the upcoming season. So right now … our greenhouses are getting bedding plants ready for the summer season, in the (Ricks) gardens.”

This process is mainly run by the students in the department. This gives them the opportunity to participate in hands-on work that is related to their major and helps prepare them for their future career.

Entrance to the BYU-Idaho Plant Shop.

Entrance to the BYU-Idaho Plant Shop. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

The applied plant science students also have the opportunity to learn the retail side of gardening in the BYU-I Plant Shop.

Sierra Brazell is a horticulture student who is passionate about her work. She had the opportunity to intern with J & J Nursery and Garden Center, the company that supplies plants for BYU-I. Brazell said the internship opportunity helped her to discover what she wanted to do with her job and improve her skills.

“I love plants, and plants make me happy,” said Brazell. “I love the people too. I think this program and the people we have here are the best like they make it so much better. I learned so much from all my teachers. I learned so much from my friends, my fellow students and classmates. I couldn’t do this without people, (they) are so amazing.”

Sierra Bracell working in the Benson Building Greehouse.

Sierra Bracell working in the Benson Building Greehouse. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

Nelson is one of the many faculty members who mentors the applied plant science students on their path. He discovered his love for the outdoors from his experience in maintaining fields as a summer job in his youth, and he knew he wanted to work outside.

“(Science) was too rigid for me and … art … was too subjective,” said Nelson. “I wanted something in the middle of that. I wanted to combine art and science. And so I found horticulture … and horticulture was the best marriage between … art and science.”

From there, he found his desire to teach horticulture while maintaining the grounds at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. He wanted to continue working with flowers and researching them and decided he could do both of those while teaching.

“I can still do the research, and I can still be around the flowers,” said Nelson. And now I’m a missionary. I spread the good word … of horticulture. And so teaching … was kind of a combination of those two things.”