ATI students designing bee-friendly landscape for A.I. Root

What do candles and flowers have in common (besides romantic candlelight dinners)? Bees, of course, and the A.I. Root Company in Medina has sought to bring its history as a candle maker and bee steward together in a project involving ATI's landscape horticulture program.

The project began with Kim Flottum, world-renowned bee expert and editor of Bee Culture Magazine, which is published by A.I. Root. His idea was to develop a competition among Ohio's landscape programs to design bee-friendly landscaping around the company's offices.

Flottum approached Denise Ellsworth, program director of honey bee and native pollinator education with OSU Extension. Ellsworth put him in touch with Laura Deeter, coordinator of ATI's landscape horticulture program. "I provided names of other landscape program advisors but then suggested he come down to visit with me aboutthe scale of the project," Deeter said. 

Flottum, Ellsworth, and Floyd Ostrowski, A.I. Root's vice president of operations, met with Deeter at the beginning of December. "I quickly recognized that their original idea was well beyond the scope of design students and suggested that we concentrate on one area," Deeter explained. "They selected the front of the historic homestead. At this point, they also decided that our students would be tasked with this project and it wouldn't be an interscholastic competition."

Part of Landscape Design II class

After visiting the homestead, Deeter felt it was perfect for her students, small enough not to be intimidating, but for a well-respected company and with very specific plant and site needs: in this case, public- and bee-friendly, while complementing the historic home -- no small task. She decided to make the project part of her Landscape Design II class during spring semester.

Early in the semester, the class travelled to A.I. Root to take measurements and get an idea of what company officials had in mind. Midway through the semester, the students presented their preliminary plans to the company and were able to hear valuable feedback. For example, the bees currently take a specific flight path to cross the street and that takes them over a sidewalk and roadway. Could the students create a design that would alter this?

Winner announced later this summer

At the beginning of May, A.I. Root hosted a luncheon at which Deeter and her students presented their final plans to a group of judges consisting of local garden club members, OSU Extension staff, and local landscape business leaders. The judges provided feedback on the designs to company personnel, allowing them to select one design.

The winning design will be revealed at an open house and garden unveiling scheduled for later this summer.

"A.I. Root has several other areas that need design work," said Deeter. "I really hope we can continue this relationship into the future with other classes."

-- Frances Whited, ATI