Pratt Master Gardeners beautify downtown planters boxes

Gale Rose
Master Gardener Karen Riffey holds new plants as she, and other gardeners, put new plants in eight of the planter boxes on South Main Street. New flowers, grasses and trees were planted to bring some change and more color to downtown Pratt.

A new splash of color is coming to downtown Pratt. Area Master Gardeners are rotating in new flowers, grasses and trees in eight of the downtown planter boxes.

“We wanted to add some color down Main Street,” said Master Gardener Linda Broce, chairperson of the downtown planter box project.

The last couple of years, people had indicated they wanted something other than the existing junipers and rose bushes, For years, the boxes had the same plants including some rose bushes that were susceptible to a knockout disease, Rose Rosette, that will eventually kill the rose bush.

“Once they get the disease, they are a goner,” Broce said.

It was decided that all the plants in eight of the boxes had to go. The city parks department took on the task of pulling out the rose bushes and the rest of the plants in preparation for the new plants. They drew some curious looks from passers by as they ripped out the plants.

There was a slight glitch in the planting schedule. The Master Gardeners wanted to install the new plants on May 4. But when they checked the boxes, the soil level was too low. The Master Gardeners had anticipated that the compost would be level with the bottom edge of the cap stones on the boxes. This would put the climbing plants high enough to grown over the box edges by the end of the growing season, Broce said.

Younie Landscape donated the compost for the project. Master Gardeners met with Kevin Younie Monday, May 4, to discuss the problem and the best way to proceed. Younie agreed to provide more compost to fill the boxes to the desired level. The additional soil was added the same day.

Another issue with planting was the threat of rain so the planting was delayed to May 5.

Master Gardeners gathered in downtown Pratt, handed out plants and went to work at each planter. Master Gardener Teri Briggeman used a battery powered trimmer to make the new Taylor Junipers look good while the rest of the gardeners went to work. The new plants were set in the boxes and given a drink of water.

Local greenhouses were utilized as much as possible. Plants from Mulberry Lane in Sawyer and from Heather Giesin who lives by Southwest School and specializes in succulents, provided plants. The rest came from Johnstons in Wichita. Perennials, annuals, shrubs and the new evergreen, Taylor Junipers, were used in the project. The Taylor is tall and skinny and was placed in the middle of the box as a center piece. It grows up but doesn’t spread out so its perfect for the project.

“They don’t have to be trimmed and they won’t take over the whole planter,” Broce said.

Petunias, plume grass and sweet potato vines will give new color to the downtown area. It will take some time, but by the end of the growing season, the petunias and the sweet potato vines will overflow the sides of the boxes and make a colorful display for the downtown area.

As part of the project, each of the eight boxes will have two Master Gardener volunteers that will care for the box all growing season, Broce said.

Pratt Garden Club, Pratt Travel and Tourism and the Master Gardeners all donated money for the project. Younie Landscaping donated the compost for the planters, several tons of it. Skaggs Ace Hardware donated a bag of mulch for every bag purchased for the project.

Travel and Tourism also donated money to add mums in the fall.

“That was cool that they did that,” Broce said.

Originally, the Master Gardeners were going to invite high school students to help with the project. But Kansas State University Extension mandated that they could have no meetings face-to-face due to the COVID-19 so the gardeners had to do it all themselves.

“It was doable but not as much fun,” Broce said. “We always enjoy working with the young people.”