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Spotlight of the Week

Pete Medaglia -- MIT’s Plant Guru

Aaron D. Mihalik

Many students know Pete Medaglia as the ‘plant guy’ who sells a variety of different plants and distributes helpful horticulture advice at the student center, but only a handful of students know about his IAP class offerings.

“Ten years ago I developed classes for adult ed programs in specific landscape, gardening and horticultural topics,” Medaglia said. “I teach several adult ed programs as well as give the same lectures at garden clubs. [Five years ago] I saw the [IAP] catalog and I was really fascinated with the level and diversity of classes being offered. When I approached people at the CAC about the idea [of presenting my lectures during IAP] they were enthusiastic.”

Medaglia’s IAP workshops cover a wide range of topics including bonsai, topiary and bulb forcing. He presents a special class just for IAP -- HMO for House Plants. “It’s about how to take care of house plants, how to propagate, how to keep them from getting sick, [and] how to make them better if they are sick.”

“Most of [my IAP courses] are to some extent hands-on,” explained Medaglia. “In the bonsai class we make bonsai... in the topiary class we make topiary. In the HMO workshop we take cuttings and root cuttings off plants and we re-pot cuttings.”

As with many IAP classes, enrollment is limited. Most of the courses that Medaglia offers are limited to twenty students. Also, most of his classes require a materials fee. The fee is not “out of the range of the average student” and it is “less money than to buy a finished [bonsai or topiary]” said Medaglia. He estimated the fee to be between $10 and $20 per class.

“I think [other colleges] that don’t offer [a program similar to IAP] are missing the boat,” said Medaglia. “For students that are intelligent enough to go to a good school, there are a lot of reasons to offer classes that have nothing to do with academics... [classes] that are just purely for enjoyment and general interest development.”

Through his booth in the student center and his IAP classes, Medaglia has built a relationship with the MIT community. “I constantly see people that I know or that I have sold something to in the past. Which also makes me a resource when people have plants that aren’t doing too well. I like to be on a first name basis with people. I get to see them freshman year and sell them a plant every year right through senior year.”