Public beautification projects need constant maintenance
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
It’s not the cost, it’s the upkeep, my wise father tried to tell me. I was crying for a car and had settled on a 1947 Pontiac (this in 1956) at Theo Austin’s GM dealership.
“Don’t forget gas and oil, insurance, repairs and all that stuff,” Dad cautioned. It went in one ear and out the other. I bought the car, which I promptly wrecked. It wound up being a money pit keeping the thing running. Dad, as usual, was right. He had learned a lot by the time I was 19.
Same thing with public beautification projects. It’s not the original effort, in both sweat and dollars, but the ongoing upkeep that always turns out to be the problem.
In the 1980s, I was involved in the original planting of Bradford pears along Veterans Drive and an alley of dogwoods on Grove Boulevard. The Bradfords are sorry trees, but nobody knew it then. They have since splintered time and again at the hands of drunk drivers, ice, snow and spanking breezes. They have been dutifully replaced, but I fear the carnage will continue.
At the Grove site, an original planting of some 30 white dogwoods now sports a half dozen or so survivors that have outlasted borers, school buses, cars, droughts, freezes and innumerable other maladies. A sad remnant of what could have been.
At the Paris-Henry County Heritage Center on North Poplar Street, luck has been a little better, but not problem-free. The foundation shrubs in front of the terrace are American boxwoods, about as tough a plant as one can find.
They have flourished for many years now and have reached enough stature to be telling. If we can go a few more years without any well-meaning person trimming them they will attain the billowy look old boxwoods are known for.
A hedge of euonymous planted along the back parking lot was, for some reason, cut down a few years ago, just as it had reached effective size. Other shrubs and trees on the property have, for the most part, done well.
Three serviceberry trees at the front drive are now 15 feet tall or more and bloom dependably. Ditto crape myrtles (pray someone doesn’t top them), a nice holly tree at the southeast corner, yews at the old garage building and other assorted woody plants.
The courthouse grounds have been a bright spot in local public planting efforts, thanks to the excellent routine maintenance that is ongoing. We should all be proud of our courthouse and its environs. Out-of-town visitors frequently comment on them.
A more recent fiasco has been the entrances to the fairgrounds. The local Master Gardeners replanted the two gate surrounds just about a year ago, after public works personnel took out an old rotted raised bed and some dilapidated and poorly chosen shrubs and trees.
Permanent mowing strips were installed and new and more suitable shrubs were planted. The Master Gardeners were not expected to maintain, but merely install, the new scheme. Which they did, in good order.
The fly in the ointment, however, came along with the drought of 2008, the second in as many years. Annuals put in for summer color withered to nothing before you could say Jack Robinson. The shrubs managed to barely hold on. No growth, of course, just mere existence.
The north gate has a water spigot close by, but the south gate does not. Watering must be done by hauling from the north spigot, some 200 yards or more away, an onerous chore. It didn’t get done with any regularity. The problem of ongoing maintenance reared its ugly ahead again, and that planting suffered. It is not beyond redemption, however, and we can hope for better growing conditions this year.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Public projects are proverbial problems.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 4.28.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path