Casey Chambers of Pratt gives special attention to his flower garden to the delight of passersby.
They are not the only flowers visible along Pratt’s busy First Street, but as a group, the vivid display at 414 East First causes many to look more than once.
The wide variety of now colorful blooms belong to Casey Chambers, a long-time former custodian at Pratt’s USD 382.
When he was a boy growing up in rural Cairo east of Pratt, Casey Chambers joined his siblings and parents in tending the large vegetable garden that helped provide income for the family.
For the past five years, Chambers has focused his horticultural attention on flowers, from red cannas with spikey-looking red blooms which tower to 10 feet tall, to tiny baby‘s breath and a slew of other varieties.
Chambers’ south-facing front-yard garden teems with a host of plants that catch the attention of passersby.
Fourteen potted plants line the brick walkway making a picturesque entrance to his home.
“Almost everybody looks at it,” Chambers said of his living floral display.
Chambers said he switched from vegetables to flowers when he moved into the home half a decade ago because he wanted something pretty to look at in the front yard.
“I’m still learning this flower business,” the 63-year-old gardener said. “I’ve had lots of failures, along with successes.”
Retired from a 29-year custodial career with USD 382, Chambers used his extra hours to plan and grow his front yard flower garden, adding spots of color in the side yards as well.
“I’ve got a lot of roses. They’re all hybrid, meaning they have very little scent so they don’t attract pollinators and they’re not always true to color,” Chambers said.
He also likes sunflowers, which seem to have been contributed to the array by nature.
“The sunflowers just came up and they spread,” Chambers said.
Not so with other varieties.
Chambers estimated that he spends at least $800 a year to make his garden grow. He buys from area nurseries and other retailers selling plants and also on-line, including Ebay.
“This year I spent about $100 on seeds that either didn’t come up or didn’t bloom. That was really disappointing,” Chambers said.
The avid gardener doesn’t let that disappointment overshadow the glories of the flowers that do bloom, from snapdragons to zinnias, vinca and petunias, plus a host of others.
One of his secrets to keeping his flowers blooming throughout the season, according to Chambers, is treating the soil with Miracle Grow. Another is to deadhead the plants, which he does by snapping off blossoms.
“They’ll grow back in a week and keep a yard colorful,” Chambers said.
Another tip concerns watering.
“Flowers love rain,” the gardener said Friday morning as he checked his range gauge. “Overnight we got three-tenths of an inch.”
Between rains, Chambers said he rises at 4 a.m. to water his flowers.
To keep his brick walkway looking picture perfect, Chambers said he relies on a power weed eater, which does the trick.
Amongst the flowers populating his garden, keeping company with the cannas, roses and sunflowers are paintbrushes, vinca and baby’s breath. Here and there are marigolds, cone flowers, crepe myrtles and hydrangeas, plus others.
Chambers, who was named after New York Yankee’s legendary right-fielder Casey Stengel, said he plans to keep his garden growing for as long as his grand-kids continue to make frequent visits to see it – and him.
“I have four beautiful granddaughters and they all love flowers,” Chambers said.
His youngest granddaughter is nine, so chances are Chambers’ garden will continue to spark oohs and aahs of delight for years to come along Pratt’s First Street.