May 15, 2018
Jana Freeman
With a passion for native plants and naturalized landscapes, Jana Freeman was the perfect fit for the Horst Dickert Memorial Scholarship. The Foundation scholarship, created by the Dickert family to honour industry pioneer Horst “Dynamite” Dickert, is awarded each year to a post-secondary student with an interest in native plants and their use in the landscape. Freeman, a second year student in the Landscape Technician program at Humber College, fit the bill.

“I enjoy the challenge of reintroducing native plants to the landscape that used to be there, but have been pushed out,” Freeman explained, adding she also strives to fight the issue of plant blindness. “I think it’s important to introduce people to the plants they are walking by every day, without really knowing what they are or why they are important to the environment.”

Freeman grew up with an appreciation for plants, and her interest grew after taking a botany elective in high school. That experience led Freeman to the landscape ecology program at Laurentian University, where she focused on landscape restoration.

While she learned a great deal at Laurentian, Freeman says the program and the career paths it was designed for were “too hands-off” for her. A lifelong gardener, Freeman was looking for a career that would allow her to work hands-on, in the field with plants in the landscape.

Now, as Freeman approaches the end of her tenure at Humber College, she is “thrilled with the courses and the career options it is leading towards.”

One aspect of the college that has been particularly beneficial was Freeman’s work experience at the Humber Arboretum. “I was fortunate to be part of a research project that was looking at invasive Phragmites,” Freeman said. “We were organically removing them from waterways and water meadows. And I was also a research assistant for a project where we were studying native pollinator plants for highway roadsides.”

Freeman was also part of the arboretum’s maintenance team, which worked towards controlling invasive species on the property, including dog-strangling vine and garlic mustard.

This season, Freeman will be working with perennial plants at Plant World in Etobicoke, Ont.

“I’m looking forward to spending the summer there while gaining some valuable industry experience,” Freeman said. “Long term, I’m hoping to end up with a grower that has a native focus, likely down in the Niagara area.”