WSU students win national landscape competition

By Carmen Chandler, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Three senior Landscape Nursery and Greenhouse Management (LNGM) students, Cora Borgens, Jamie Conner, and Khalil Al-Wazan, won first place in the Fall 2021 LandCare Case Competition.

Overhead view of landscape with different areas highlighted in different colors.
The final result of the winning proposal made by WSU students.

The competition required teams to develop creative landscape solutions for a designated client, solving the client’s priorities to maximize the allotted space while navigating the hurdles of California terrain. Teams filled over 226,000 square feet of landscape, including 80,000 square feet of turf deemed unsustainable in California’s current ongoing drought. They had to install irrigation, improve curb appeal, generate revenue, and increase the client’s return on investment to complete the competition.

After teams received the instructions, a LandCare branch manager mentored them in the process. This mentor could answer questions about the case study and give them a better understanding of what the client wanted. Mentors could only answer the team’s questions, not give opinions or suggestions on the project.

Six university teams had approximately six weeks to create a detailed written case study and a five-to-ten minute video presentation solving the client requests. Team WSU created a nine page written case study and a 29 minute video presentation, surpassing what was expected for the large-scale competition.

“You get all this thrown at you and you aren’t sure what to do with it,” Jamie said.

Meeting with their mentor gave the team more clarity. From there, they delegated the project into three sections, taking on specific tasks to return to the group and combine their ideas.

Each section had its own goal and priorities to fulfill the case requirements. Cora took her area and focused on native plants to create a habitat garden for local wildlife with an accessible sitting area. Her goal was to have a place for wildlife to live and provide entertainment for the employees that will use that area, integrating native habitats into a useful and functional space for both to enjoy.

“Human aesthetics shouldn’t come at the cost of the wildlife that already existed there,” Cora said.

Team WSU learned of their win late last year, two weeks after submitting their project. That wait led to some anxiety.

“Before that point, we firmly believed we could win this,” Khalil said.

The contest provided the students with a new perspective of what they can do with their degree.

“It opened my eyes up to different opportunities,” Jamie said. “After participating in this competition, I can definitely see myself doing landscape.”

Each student received a $1,000 scholarship for winning the competition and walked away with an experience that they will carry throughout their careers.