Ivan Ruzic Retires

Contributed by Mary Urban


Retired after nine years as gardener for the botany department greenhouse at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Ivan Ruzic is planning to start over again raising plants in Florida.


Overseer of Lively Classroom UWM Greenhouse, to Retire


Ivan Ruzic, overseer of one of the most "alive" classrooms at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will retire Monday.


His classroom is the UWM Botany Departmentís greenhouse. In his nine years as gardener there, he has built a collection of 1,200 varieties of plants that are studied by thousands of students from grade schoolers to full professors.


Children from the Campus Elementary School, for example, come with their teachers to learn about the bean and corn seedlings, the balsam, ivy, potatoes and onions that college age students use in their research. They wonder if the gardener can show them a bamboo tree, and he can.


He also can show them the fallen blossoms of the night blooming cereus that had its moments of beauty the night before, unseen. He can show them how heís making two trees out of one umbrella tree by girdling part of the truck with sphagnum moss, into which roots will grow.


Children Discover Nature


After visiting the greenhouse, the children can, in turn, tell their mothers that the Kiwi fruit they bought in the markets last winter comes from a vine (Ruzic planted seeds from the strange fruit to see what would result).


They also can assert that geraniums in their window boxes and garden borders arenít geraniums at all but pelargoniums, that they sniffed spicy crushed leaf of the ginger orchid, that they took some mimosa back to their school for experiments and found why it is nick-named the "sensitive plant" and that they thought that delicate cottonwood tree cuttings, to be used for research, were about the prettiest things in the greenhouse.

None of these discoveries may be called trivia. Ruzicís seemingly casual comments on the plantings are preliminary to laboratory research projects on seeds, root systems, stems, foliage, flowers, nutrients, temperature variations, geotropism and photoperidodism-to name a few subjects-essential to serious botanical studies.


Started as Farmer


Where commercial greenhouse gardeners schedule their plantings to meet holiday floral needs, Ruzic calibrates his plant propagation to meet the classroom calendars of botany instructors.


Taking on the university work came naturally.


"As long as you know the fundamentals of agriculture, the rest comes easy, he said. "Iíve always been interested in growing two plants where one grew before."


That feeling toward plant propagation has prevailed since his dairy farming days, Ruzic came to UWM in 1961 from Greenwood (Clark County) after turning his 280 acre dairy farm over to his son.


When farming he served local dairy co-operatives as officer and board member. Before farming in Wisconsin he had worked on a wheat ranch in South Dakota, and as a boy had worked on his familyís Illinois truck farm.


Plants Beautify Offices


At UWM Ruzic not only works with the botany department, which grows decorative plants for landscaping and its visiting pupils but also co-operates with the UWM physical plant department, which grows decorative plants for landscaping the university grounds.


His talented green thumb is known over the campus-especially to the secretaries seeking appropriate greenery for departmental offices.


Ruzic, 64, lived at 1620 W. Good Hope Rod., Glendale, but will move to St. Petersburg Beach, Fla., where he intends to test his green thumb with the tropical plants native to the area.



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