Another year ends for city flower display

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 14, 2002

Once upon a time, tourists compared Austin's hanging flower baskets to those of Red Wing.

"Now, it's the other way around," according to Dennis Maschka.

The executive director of the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department should know. He's the person responsible for the flowers which debuted on Austin street light posts in 1995.

Email newsletter signup

Last week, the petunias were taken down for another winter. "The flowers added a lot of color and beauty to the city and people would stop into local businesses and say how wonderful they are," said Maschka. "They used to talk about Red Wing's colorful flowers and compare us to Red Wing, but now they say we're ahead of Red Wing on that issue.

"I think they are an asset to our community. It's a quality of life issue."

From springtime to fall, the hanging flower baskets dot the cityscape along North Main Street and south to the bridge over the Cedar River leading to Marcusen Park.

They also decorate streets off Main Street in the greater downtown area and circle the Mill Pond pathway in Horace Austin Park and other areas.

In all, there were 410 pots of petunias decorating the city this spring and summer.

Eight workers were needed to water the plants seven days a week. The water wagons roamed the neighborhoods along 10th Street NE and 4th Avenue NE and NW to ensure the petunias, wherever they were hung, blossomed throughout the seasons.

Now, budget constraints may prevent the number of hanging flower baskets from growing.

Maschka said the popularity of the flowers is indicative of Austinites' appreciation for such quality of life issues and he points to another example.

"We moved seven trees from the area near the Honor Guards Park along Hormel Century Parkway to another area in Austin Bandshell Community Park near the Veterans Pavilion," Maschka said. "The trees had to be moved to make way for the new geothermal cables for the Packer Arena ice rink.

"I don't think we would have been so conscientious about moving trees years and years ago. Now, there's a new awareness for how important things like flowers and trees are to our overall quality of life in Austin. I think we appreciate those kinds of things more today than ever before."

The 410 pots of petunias won't return again until they are hung in the baskets in mid-May 2003 for their eighth season in Austin.

Austin's street lamp poles will not be bare for long: Christmas decorations will hang there beginning in late November.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at