City prepares to beautify area

Published 7:43 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

The temperature may be below freezing, but members of the Austin Flower Basket Committee are already looking ahead to warmer months and the flowers that will grace the city.

Bonnie Rietz, former Austin mayor and program creator, along with city officials and area donors, announced the kick-off to the 17th year of the flower basket program Wednesday morning at the Hardy Geranium.

“No matter how cold the announcement day is, by May we will have some beautiful flowers,” Julie Craven, vice president of corporate communication at Hormel, said.

Email newsletter signup

This year, 190 baskets will be hung throughout Austin — down from 240 last year. The program also covers flower beds and pots around town, including the Eastside Lake and Sterling areas of town.

The program costs $40,000 total, with the city picking up $10,000 of the tab. Hormel donated $10,000 and two local residents donated $5,000. The remaining $15,000 needs to be raised in the community through donations.

The city’s parks and recreation department will soon start working with Hilltop Landscaping out of Hollandale to have the flowers purchased and ready to go, director Kim Underwood said. Then, planting usually begins in March. The hanging pots are filled with petunias, but a few other varieties are planted in the ground.

When the flowers are in bloom during the summer, the department has workers water them everyday, Underwood said.

“We plan on making it as beautiful and colorful as we can,” said Gretchen Boldt, owner of Hilltop Landscaping.

The program started off in 1996 with 165 baskets, but it soon ballooned into a 400-pot venture in 2001. Funding cuts brought that down to 240 in the last couple of years, which meant the Mill Pond area no longer received flowers.

To donate, the city is asking people to send checks to City Hall, at 500 Fourth Avenue NE, with “Flowers 2011” on the memo line. A single pot costs about $100, but donors can give as much or as little as they choose. Donations are tax-deductible, Rietz said.

Donations can be sent through mid-January.

Reporter Mike Rose contributed to this report.