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Congratulations to Amanda Hamilton, who was recently selected as the 2016 recipient of the Marcus W. Rennix Memorial Scholarship. A junior horticulture major at West Virginia University, Hamilton grew up in Raleigh County and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. She was chosen for the award based on her excellent grades, involvement in student activities and glowing teacher and employer recommendations.

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Hamilton’s interest in plants started when she was a child. She loved playing outdoors and  in her family’s gardens, where they grew lots of vegetables, herbs and flowers. In high school, Hamilton excelled in biology. Her teacher, Ms. Clark, encouraged students to excel and to consider careers in the sciences. For Hamilton, she recommended agronomy or horticulture.

“After some investigation of what the field of horticulture included, I fell in love. It was the perfect mix of biology, chemistry, art and hands-on work,” she said.

Hamilton encourages other students to consider careers in the green industry. “Any student who doesn’t want to spend their working career in a cubicle from 9 to 5 should consider horticulture or the green industry,” she said. She finds cultivation particularly rewarding.

In addition to succeeding in her course work and being involved in activities such as the Horticulture Club at WVU, Hamilton has held two enriching internships. At The Greenbrier resort, she developed an interest in public grounds maintenance. She credits her employers there with giving her both hands-on skills and lessons about management.

“I learned that every garden had a history and a value to cherish. I learned how to cherish it through my coworkers and the guests at the resort, who would approach us just to tell us how beautiful the grounds were,” Hamilton said.

Her second internship was with Bob’s Market and Greenhouses in Mason County. This large-scale production facility gave her a new perspective on the industry’s demands and challenges. After working there, she saw “what it takes to produce the petunias, and all the hands required to grow and harvest the seeds we buy in paper envelopes each year. We saw why the costs keep rising and all of the sacrifices our very own planet makes just so we can enjoy these delicate delights.”

After she graduates in 2017, Hamilton hopes to land a job maintaining public or historic grounds, or a botanic garden. She is interested in helping people understand a garden’s history and how plants connect to the past, the environment and to people.