AN EAST BAY TREASURE: Merritt College Landscape Horticulture

AN EAST BAY TREASURE: Merritt College Landscape Horticulture

By Jillian Steinberger M.A.merritt

Thinking of a green career? Why not study under some of the Bay Area’s leading landscape professionals at Oakland’s Merritt College. The school’s Landscape Horticulture program offers over 20 full-credit classes per semester leading to certificates in Permaculture Design, Landscape Design, Landscape Construction, Nursery Management, and Parks Maintenance, or to the new A.A. Degree in Landscape Architecture. And did I mention this is all for $30 per credit?

Many people have launched their careers here, and some have found their first clients. (Homeowners can call the department secretary to post a “wanted” ad on the job board.) UC Berkeley landscape architecture students come here to learn about plants. At various clubs and single-topic weekend classes for nonprofessionals, students make lifelong friends and associates.

A Plant Sale Not To Miss

Twice yearly the Merritt Landscape Horticulture department holds a plant sale to help raise funds for their programs. These sales provide the public with a great opportunity to learn about and purchase a wide variety of plants.The spring sale is coming up on Saturday May 5, 2012 9am–3pm and Sunday May 6, 2012 noon–3pm.

The Big Wide World of Perennial Vegetables

Perennials vegetables (plants that live for more than two years) can be difficult to locate, but at Merritt, the offerings are getting downright curatorial. Says Merritt science technician Anders Vidstrand, “Our selection is reliable, and we continue to build on it.” The sale features “the regulars”: tree collards, artichokes, cardoon, asparagus, sorrel, New Zealand spinach, and perennial arugula, as well as Andean species like oca, mashua, yacon, rocoto chili, and runner beans. You’ll also find “oddball” perennials like moringa, cranberry hibiscus, and Okinawa spinach. This year they’re selling harder-to-find plants: sea beet, perpetual spinach, sea kale, skirret, scorzonera, Good King Henry, and, says Anders, “a bunch of other really odd and rare edibles that aren’t necessarily perennial.”

Strange Fruit

Adventurous fruit-lovers will find such unique delights as pepino dulce, cape gooseberry, naranjilla, litchi tomato, cocona, caigua, passion fruit (numerous varieties and species), many varieties of guava (strawberry, lemon, Chilean, pineapple), Chilean and babaco papaya, fuzzy and hardy kiwis, dragonfruit, che, prickly pear, and sea buckthorn, as well as many figs, a full range of citrus, cooler climate pomegranates and grapes, olives, and berries (goumi, goji, rasp, straw, blue, ollalie, tay, Logan, Marion, and Boysen).


Pictured above: The Merritt College Landscape Horticulture Permaculture Demonstration Garden (photo by Jillian Steinberger).

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