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Published: Sunday, 6/23/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

COLORING OUR WORLD

Toledo, volunteers plant flowers in medians, containers

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Courtney Billian of Toledo carries two of the 75 flats of flowers the volunteer groups UpTown Association and the First Alliance Church are planting. Courtney Billian of Toledo carries two of the 75 flats of flowers the volunteer groups UpTown Association and the First Alliance Church are planting.
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Flower power is amping up.

Cherry Street is sporting color. So are medians on Summit and Monroe streets and Reynolds Road. The Anthony Wayne Trail was planted with marigolds and wave petunias last week. A blighted stretch of Huron Street will be rejuvenated.

A few years after the popular city of Toledo Urban Beautification program disappeared — resulting in roses, peonies, and day lilies being choked by weeds and mowed under — new growth is being established thanks to a city pocketbook that’s a bit greener. In 2010, Mayor Michael Bell cited dire financial straits for ending the program. To balance the budget without raising taxes, he was wrangling a $48 million debt, and priorities focused on the basics: police, fire, roads, and demolishing abandoned houses.

“For people to expect the city to do all of that [landscaping], it’s not going to happen,” he said at the time.

Granted, 2013’s flower allotment is less than some suburbanites spend on their own landscapes. But Denny Garvin’s not complaining.

Ms. Billian lays out plants on a raised bed in the median of Monroe Street in the UpTown neighborhood. Ms. Billian lays out plants on a raised bed in the median of Monroe Street in the UpTown neighborhood.
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“I asked for $100,000 in the budget and we were awarded it,” said Mr. Garvin, commissioner of parks, recreation, and forestry.

“I think the response from the flowers we put in last year in preparation for the Glass Arts Society’s conference was so incredibly positive and lasting, we decided to continue.”

Last June, nearly 1,000 glass artists and educators met for the society’s annual meeting held downtown and at the Toledo Museum of Art. People pitched in, raising money, donating flowers and elbow grease to spruce up vegetative dross and many continue the effort. Mr. Garvin’s department did what they could with no additional budget. “We had to eat it,” he noted.

A $70,000 contract has gone to John Bishop, a stalwart landscaper who, even when his work with the city was dropped in 2010, continued planting public spaces at his own expense. He filled 45 three and four-foot diameter pots in the median on Reynolds north of Heatherdowns Boulevard, as well as the right-turn traffic triangle at that intersection.

“I hated for all those cars coming into the city [off of the Ohio Turnpike] seeing it overgrown,” Mr. Bishop said in 2011. “The city’s fallen on hard times, and I wanted to do something for the city.”

Jason Everingham, left, and David Crafts, both of Toledo, plant flowers in a city bed. Jason Everingham, left, and David Crafts, both of Toledo, plant flowers in a city bed.
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This spring, he purchased annuals from local growers and his crew has finished the task. All beds and containers are piped for irrigation, and the remaining $30,000 will pay for maintenance and water.

A successful alternative to the shrunken budget was to spread the responsibility. Nearly 300 concrete pots that had brightened downtown sidewalks until financial drought turned them into ashtrays, have been distributed to shopkeepers who pledge to plant, weed, and water them.

Several groups, organized by one or two passionate leaders, have adopted plots. Dave Crafts of the UpTown Association and Paul Ackerman, a member of First Alliance Church in Toledo, selected a red-white-and-blue theme with celosia, vinca, and ageratum this year. They bought and planted flowers and are maintaining planters on several blocks of Monroe. The museum fills planters between its two major buildings on Monroe. The Warehouse District cares for oblong containers on Summit.

In West Toledo, Old Orchard residents plant flowers in the Kenwood Boulevard median and people on three blocks of Cheltenham Road plant their tree lawns (the strip between the sidewalk and the street) with color-coordinated annuals.

Volunteers Craig Jablonski, left, and Kory Meinhart plant begonias on Monroe Street. Volunteers Craig Jablonski, left, and Kory Meinhart plant begonias on Monroe Street.
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Perhaps nowhere is the spirit more evident and lasting than in Point Place, where 40 containers on Summit, its main thoroughfare, were filled last month with cannas and wave petunias; a small battalion of people, including staff and children at a day care center, have pledged to water them all season, said Cathy Rochte, the organizer and owner of owner of the Crimping Tree Dermatherapy,

“It’s gratifying that people have grabbed hold of this and shown that it’s a priority,” said Mr. Garvin. “I am extremely proud of the volunteer commitment to providing color and life to our city.”

Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com and 419-724-6075.



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