You read here last week of the success of the Friends of the Library bulb sale fundraiser. Though not a municipal beautification project, per se, the effect is the same, in that a prettier town and county will be the result.
While we are on that subject, I think it is time, since my previous efforts on public beautification information, for some comments on the subject.
On our several garden tours to the British Isles, I was continually astounded at the public beautification efforts in our Motherland. Of course, England is the Mother of Gardens, and has been since Roman times. They have a 2,000 year jump on us in that regard. Nevertheless, it was surprising the extent that every township, from huge metropolitan cities to little villages, go to keep the beauty coming. Small public parks were overflowing with flowering annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Large botanic gardens ditto, from the world famous Wisley on down to small town gardens.
We all know that it takes money and constant care to keep up such a regimen and, apparently, the British are willing to fork it up in the form of high taxes and grants provided by individuals and the government.
Back here in the boondocks of the South of the United States of America, there is little semblance of such extravagant output for the cause of beautification. Few in these parts would approve of more than a few cents, if that, added to their taxes to support what many consider frivolity. Beautification is way down on the agenda of priorities of most folks here.
Having said that, it is pleasing to note a few cases of municipal improvement in the area of beautification during the past few years.
Our courthouse and its environs are second to none in that category, with each corner of the square tended by a different club or other organization, and each corner is decorated for the appropriate season, right now for Yuletide.
Right across the street, the new park is coming into its own. It is immaculately kept, and the plantings there are healthy and well tended. The white loropetalums flower almost all year, and the ‘Stella d’ Oro’ daylilies show off in spring and sporadically after that. I would have chosen large crape myrtles instead of the red maples, but their fall color is indeed glorious. Their invasive roots will be a problem some day.
Several downtown businesses have their own window boxes and potted plants at the sidewalk, and the environs of our churches are beautifully kept up.
The city hall grounds were redone a few years ago and are coming into their own with the years of time.
Even out in the shopping areas, there is considerable improvement in some of it, though a strip mall or group of retail stores is difficult to make into a beauty spot.
Our cemeteries, for the most part, are well groomed, though Memorial Cemetery could use a bit more attention, to wit: there are some trees there that have been planted by birds or squirrels and are candidates for removal. Other, better, trees could be added. I am happy to say my grandmother and father planted two of the few quality trees there, both willow oaks.
Some time ago the big oaks along Memorial Drive were wisely removed, after being chopped off repeatedly over the years to keep them out of wires. ‘Natchez’ crape myrtles were planted instead. The first year they suffered from extreme cold, but were pruned back and now are perfect trees there and will be more perfect as time goes on, with white bloom for two months and mottled cinnamon bark the whole year. Thank goodness, the powers that be are pruning them into trees instead of topping (“crape murdering”) them. Deer, the nemesis of every gardening effort, have horned and killed some of the bald cypresses along the entry lanes there, but they will be replaced. Trunk guards might have to be employed until they get some size.
It’s a tough haul, this municipal beautification, and it takes time to see results. Yes, England and Europe are 2,000 years ahead of us, but we’re catching up.
OLIVER WAS GREAT GROWER
One of Henry County’s great gardeners crossed the river a couple of weeks ago. Terry Oliver was one of the most expert fruit and vegetable growers I have ever known. His orchard and vegetable garden yielded enormous crops every year under his tutelage. I was the recipient many times of juicy pears, apples and peaches. Then there were figs and muscadines also, as well as heirloom tomatoes and other garden goodies.
Terry’s heart was as big as his working hands, and his generosity provided others with delicious produce. His dear wife, Patsy, and a host of other people will miss him, but our loss is the gain of the Garden of Eden.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Mondays at 642-1162.