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Cultivating the Future: Mackenzie Sandusky

Cultivating the Future

From greenhouses to the garden to a future in the National Parks

There’s a lot in bloom right now in Purdue’s Jules Janick garden, located right beside the Horticulture building. You can find bright pink coneflowers, fuzzy-leafed Lady’s Mantle and even a horticulture student shining their brightest this time of year. Mackenzie Sandusky, a junior majoring in horticulture and minoring in entomology and psychology, has been working as an intern with Karen Sullivan, the Jules Janick head gardener, and Michael Dana, a professor of horticulture, since April, and she has loved every second.

Sandusky started out at Purdue studying health and human sciences, but she worked at Bennett’s Greenhouse in Lafayette last summer and developed a passion for growing plants. Even though it was scary, Sandusky is happy she made the switch to studying plant production.

Sandusky spends her time doing everything from “deadheading” flowers to amending the soil with compost. She also plants annuals in the flower beds, some of which she started herself in her spring semester HORT 491 plant production course.

Mackenzie Sandusky cuts the dead blooms off of a coneflower plant, called “deadheading,” to maintain the aesthetic of the garden Mackenzie Sandusky cuts the dead blooms off of a coneflower plant, called “deadheading,” to maintain the aesthetic of the garden

Sandusky’s favorite part of the garden, however, is whoever is visiting. “People are always asking me questions. A lot of people who come here are trying to plant a garden, and I like when I can help. They ask a lot of questions regarding how we will take on weeds or pests, and it's just cool to be able to teach people and tell them how we do things here.”

This combination of hands-on work and education is compelling to Sandusky. A recent camping trip out west has inspired her to consider applying to the National Park Service to be a park ranger after she graduates. She wants to work towards goals of restoration and conservation at the parks, while still educating park visitors. She’s learning as much as she can about different plants and pests while in the garden to prepare her for that future. 

Sandusky emphasizes that the garden isn’t just a tool for her and other horticulture students.

"I want to highlight the importance of the Jules Janick garden being here as a resource for people to use. I also think that it is a very good mental health resource. That's probably why I appreciate it so much: because it's beautiful, and it is a place for everyone. You never see the same thing twice here. You get to appreciate all the flowers, get to see them start and finish blooming. I love to see people come in and enjoy that."

- Mackenzie Sandusky

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