Trainees keep the greenhouse spotless

Plant saleAll ready for their plant sale last Monday are, standing, left to right, Michael Branchaud, educator Danielle Céré, Marc Paradis, educator Jules Lefebvre and Santosh Kumar. Seated are Jerry Haikalis, John Hawkhurst and France Portelance.

If you're downtown at night and you see a glow at the top of the Henry F. Hall Building, you're probably looking at the greenhouse on the roof.

The greenhouse used to supply the flowers that decorate both campuses, but no more. Because it is too labour-intensive for the reduced numbers of staff, that task is contracted out. However, the greenhouse is still essential to the university because plants are cultivated there for the use of the Biology Department. Tobacco, geraniums, coleus, ferns and other plants are grown for use in experiments and class demonstrations.

Technician Sabah Mikhail has been responsible for the greenhouse since the full-time greenhouse director, Hervé de la Fouchagière, retired several years ago. Fortunately, she has the assistance of a hard-working group of "trainees," as they are called. Ten clients of the Services de réadaptation l'Intégrale, under the guidance of l'Intégrale educator Jules Lefebvre, mop floors, wash glasses, and keep the place shipshape.

Mikhail admits that when the idea of intellectually handicapped helpers was broached about five years ago, she was skeptical. Now she declares, "We couldn't do without them -- they're wonderful."

Cutbacks may have resulted in dustballs in the labs between visits from the professional cleaners, she said, but the greenhouse is spotless. "The trainees are always coming and asking what more they can do."

The academic season is over and many of the plants have stopped blooming, but they're still thriving -- they went up for sale on the mezzanine of the Hall Building this week. They'll be replaced with new plantings in June and July for the next set of plant physiology classes.

- Barbara Black


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