Volunteer Brandon Lavy is collecting a tray of plants that will soon be set up in a downtown area to beautify the landscape. About 15 volunteers under the Director of the City Parks Department, Paul Norton, worked around planters and in beds to place flowering plants on Wednesday May 12th. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)
GREENFIELD – Paul Norton loves when strangers stop to roll down their car windows and pay him a compliment as they drive through downtown Greenfield.
Norton, a Greenfield Parks Department official known commonly as “the flower type,” said hundreds of people stopped to compliment the colorful blooms he watered along the city streets each summer.
“You can’t believe how beautiful and transforming Greenfield looks. We’ve been compared to Nashville, Indiana, and that’s a huge compliment, ”he said.
In his five years with the parks department, Norton led efforts for Greenfield’s annual Planting Day, a time when volunteers roll up their sleeves and fill the city’s decorative planters, hanging baskets, and flower beds with brightly colored blooms.
About 15 people gathered in the parking lot of Greenfield Christian Church on Wednesday afternoon, May 12th, for the grand event that began with an encouraging talk and guidance from Norton.
“Let’s go,” he said as the volunteers spread out in several directions, where small perennial pots waited next to concrete pots and flower beds.
With a clear blue sky, the crew did the job quickly and it took about an hour to stick more than 800 wave petunias, sweet potato vines and ornamental grasses in the dirt. The city’s plants will have the same red, white and blue theme as last year.
“I look forward to this day all year round,” said Bobbi Anderson, chairman of Greenfield in Bloom, the nonprofit that organizes the annual Planting Day.
“The flowers downtown really make a huge difference,” said Anderson, administrative assistant for the Greenfield Parks Department, where she often takes calls that complement the downtown flowers.
“We get hundreds of comments every year about how beautiful it is,” she said.
About half of the volunteers on Wednesday were members of the Hancock County Master Gardeners, who traditionally provide their expertise at the annual event.
Lynn Meier, who became a master gardener nearly four years ago, said it was an honor to help transform the city center into a tapestry of brightly colored flowers.
“I think that makes a great impression. When you drive through, you can’t help but think it’s a beautiful city, ”she said. “It shows that the people here really care about the community.”
She and her planting partner for the day, Sally Parsons, both showed up on Wednesday to get their hands dirty, wrapped in black fleece jackets with gardening gloves and trowels in hand.
Parsons, an active member of the city’s arboriculture organization, Regreening Greenfield, said the trees and flowers in the city center are unforgettable.
“All the brightly colored blooms really make Greenfield stand out when people come by,” she said.
Norton said a lot of planning goes into creating the floral landscape, which is a love job. He spends time at home going through the inventory and arrangement of each plant, and provides volunteers with a diagram of exactly where each flower goes – right down to the color of each petunia.
All summer long, it’s his job to look after the plants, which means much more than just watering, he said.
“That includes fertilizing, watering, pruning, trimming and clipping flowers … anything you would do in your garden,” he said.
“It is important to know when and how much watering has to be carried out and the temperature and cloud cover are taken into account. There is a science exercise that I go through every day. “
Norton commends the collaboration of city officials and volunteers in making the annual spring planting possible.
“I am proud of our volunteers and how quickly they are involved,” he said. “That’s why I love Greenfield. You don’t get that everywhere. “
Meier said it was an honor to help, but acknowledged that it also gives volunteers the right to brag all summer long. “It was fun driving through with the grandchildren last year and saying, ‘Look, Grandma planted them,'” she said.
Gardener colleague Peggy Robertson also enjoys seeing the flowers bloom every year after she helped plant them.
Every summer she hears comments from people all over town about how great the flowers look downtown.
“People just like to drive through on such a beautiful day and look around. It’s beautiful, ”she said.
While flowers have been planted in the city’s flowerpots and hanging baskets, Norton said the city’s sidewalk beds will not be planted this year, in part due to downtown road works.
“It was a joint decision between the mayor, the roads department and the parks,” he said, pointing out that the construction and chemicals would make the flowers at street level more difficult to survive.
“We hope to take the idea back up next year,” said Norton.