A few public projects make the grade

A few public projects make the grade

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams

One of the more frustrating and perplexing garden projects is public beautification. Whether on a small scale or considerable, it seems that almost always deterioration sets in before the first summer is out.
Like my wise father told me when I begged endlessly for him to sign a note for me to purchase a jalopy of a car: “It’s not the cost of the car, it’s the upkeep.” How true. To paraphrase, re public beautification: “It’s not the cost of the project, it is the upkeep.” Upkeep, in this context, meaning endless weeding, watering, fertilizing and on ad nauseum.
Lest I offend some (including me) who have been involved with such projects which, at the moment, languish in some state of disrepute, awash with crabgrass and deads, I will confine my further remarks to those rare examples at the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a few about town.
Where to start? Well, for crying out loud, the courthouse grounds. Go anywhere you wish, and you will never find a finer example of precise maintenance and quality upkeep than here. I imagine it is the best since the erection of the courthouse in the late 19th century.
Twenty or more years ago, the grounds were re-vamped and re-planted. The lawn was seeded and shrubs were planted. Most of that work developed into fruition, with a few fits and starts along the way.
One of the best things to happen was involvement of some of the county’s inmates, who work diligently there. The lawn improvement came along with the expertise of former Extension director Ken Goddard, who did soil samples and followed recommendations on lime, fertilizer etc. To this day, it is a picture and outshines many residential lawns where maintenance is high.
Meanwhile, several flower gardens have been added, along with large containers of summer plants. Each corner planting is maintained by a different group of volunteers.
(Aside: I remember when those corner plantings were put in. I was asked for advice on some of them and recommended such as tough junipers and other bullet-proof plants that would survive abuse. The late Jack Jones, who had the flower shop, instead bucked my recommendation and set out azaleas across the street on his corner. I was sure spider mites and drought would reduce them to rubble in a wink. What do I know? Jack’s corner is one of the prettiest and now, after all these years, his azaleas bloom profusely every spring, a timely reminder of his love of flowers.)
Right across the street from the courthouse is the newest beautification project for the city. The fountain park is an asset, with glossy abelias, daylilies, loropetalums, other shrubs and trees. There’s a bunch of maintenance awaiting there, and we will see how it comes out. Call me in 10 years.
Down the street at First Baptist Church, the lawn and shrub plantings are closely maintained. The grass is a combination of fescue and bermuda, and each has its season, the latter for hot summer and the fescue coming to the fore in cool months. It is sprayed for brown patch and broadleaf weeds and mowed high, about four inches, requirements for quality lawns in this climate.
Shrubs are shorn once a year. Tall Foster hollies are healthy and thick. They were put into place when the educational building was built in 1966, and donated by church member Julia Hutson, an avid and skilled gardener. It is a major operation to keep them under control, and about every five years they are hatracked back to stubs, from which they quickly recover. Some years ago they had reached almost to the top of the education building and, at my recommendation, they were cut back halfway to four-inch thick wood. They looked terrible at first, and I was threatened with excommunication, but after a year or so they regenerated and I was given a stay.
Annuals at First Baptist are changed out twice a year, pansies for winter and begonias or impatiens for summer. A committee of church members keeps this going with admirable results.
The welcome signs into the city on major highways have little gardens under them. This year they have been the best I can ever remember, and it is due to constant and diligent maintenance over the horrible hot summer. Master Gardeners have this project and it is much welcomed, no pun intended.
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Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.

Published in The Messenger 11.22.11

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