Merriman Hills Garden Club Idea Blooms into Beautification Programming

by Cindy Pantea

merriman hills flowering aasFor longer than the existence of Keep Akron Beautiful and their amazing Flowerscapes, the Merriman Hills Garden Club of Akron, Ohio has been well known in West Akron for planting gardens in traffic islands around their neighborhoods. They are a well-respected, 88-yr-old gardening group.

The garden club holds regular meetings and works to educate themselves on gardening through lectures from Master Gardeners and other horticulture specialists. Their club is member of the Garden Forum of Greater Akron.

It has been said by officials of the Merriman Hills Garden Club, according to an August 27, 2009 article in West Side Leader, that their concept of neighborhood flower garden beautification, originating in 1947, played an instrumental role in inspiring Judy Isroff, the first Executive Coordinator of Keep Akron Beautiful. It was Isroff, along with Vince Lobello and then Mayor Roy Ray, who began the beautification and litter prevention agency in 1981, to bring pride back to the City of Akron.

adopt a site gardenAs such, the Merriman Hills Garden Club has been involved since the inception of Keep Akron Beautiful and its volunteer portion of beautification programming, named Adopt-A-Sites.

In the beginning, the Merriman Hills Garden Club planted ten Keep Akron Beautiful Adopt-A-Site gardens. Currently, members plant five.

Dorothy Lepp is our main contact (2011-current) for the Merriman Hills Garden Club. For Keep Akron Beautiful, this simply means that we have one person listed on file as the main person to call for Adopt-A-Site matters. As far as the garden club group is concerned, this lead role means that Dorothy is charged with the ordering of all flowers, organizing the groups of site volunteers, and keeping a watchful eye on all beds to make sure they are properly maintained.

While the group may plant fewer gardens these days due to less help and physical age, many of their established club members are also Keep Akron Beautiful’s most supportive and longstanding volunteers in not only Adopt-A-Site programming but also other areas, such as Beautification Watch Awards, the Dreamscape fundraiser, and Arbor Day, as well as helping with special projects.

The hard work and dedication of the Merriman Hills Garden Club members shows through their striking gardens and we thank them for originating the idea that planted pride in Akron.

Saturday, May 13, the majority of our Keep Akron Beautiful Adopt-A-Site volunteers picked up their flower orders at our office and will soon be planting their 2017 sites. If you see Adopt-A-Site gardens that you love, let us know so we can share with the volunteer groups!

 

 

 

Farewell Keep Akron Beautiful!

by Morgan Looney, Communications Intern

I can’t believe my time here at Keep Akron Beautiful has come to an end. I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day and it’s been quite the journey. I worked hard on Clean Up Akron Month, got to help organize and plan the Summit Lake cleanup and Super Saturday, helped plan both events, and was able to delve into writing projects.

Some of the most rewarding parts of my internship have been seeing exactly what KAB does for the community. I didn’t know much about the organization prior to beginning my internship and the things I have learned in my time here have been incredible. I’ve been able to gain a better understanding of the amazing work everyone here does, as well as participate myself and see how everything they do benefits the city and its people.

I’ve grown a lot throughout this internship as well with the most noticeable area of improvement being my writing skills. I’ve written numerous press releases, newsletters, and blogs and I feel like I’ve really got a solid footing with all three of these components. Along with improving my writing, I was given the chance to gain firsthand experience in other facets that will help me in my future career.

Thank you to every single member of the KAB team for welcoming me, showing me the ropes, and teaching me things I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. You all have been instrumental in my amazing time here and have supported me through everything I’ve done. Thank you all so much!

Preparing for the Beautification Watch Awards

by Morgan Looney, Communications Intern

April is beginning to wind down so it’s time to start preparing for another largely anticipated program here at KAB: the Beautification Watch Awards! The Beautification Watch Awards isn’t a competition, but a way for Keep Akron Beautiful to recognize and thank the locals and businesses who care about how their private property looks to others. Properties are nominated during the month of July either by neighbors or KAB volunteers who canvass city routes throughout the month.

Even though July is still two months away, it’s never too early to start preparing your lawn. To help, I’ve compiled some tips to help make sure your lawn looks beautiful and ready when July and the Beautification Watch Awards roll around!

  1. Eliminate broadleaf weeds once they’ve sprouted and ideally before they flower. These include dandelions, white-flowering clover, and big-leaf plantain and can be removed by hand if there are only a few of them. If they are out of control, consider spot treating them by applying natural weed control products. Talk to your local lawn and garden supply experts for assistance.
  2. Feed your lawn. Look for a natural feed from your local lawn and garden supply store experts.
  3. Aerate your lawn. Aerating your lawn improves air-to-soil interaction, allows water and feed to penetrate the soil deeper and easier, reduces soil compaction and also opens space for grass roots to grow and spread, while naturally choking out weed population.
  4. Mow your lawn high and frequently. Mowing your lawn too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root. A good rule of thumb is to never cut more than a third of the grass blade.
  5. Keep your mower blade sharp. A dull blade tears the grass, which results in a ragged edge that can make your lawn look grayish brown.
  6. Grass will go dormant in bouts of drought but does not die. Consider it a gift from Mother Nature and skip the mowing. If you must water your lawn, the best time is in the morning rather than at night to eliminate prolonged moisture on the blades, which can leave the grass vulnerable to some diseases.

Now remember, the Beautification Watch Award volunteers do not get out of their cars and check lawns for weeds nor do they go into backyards. They are looking for standout properties that are visible to the public and capture their attention as they drive through neighborhoods. So noticeable flower and shrub beds should be weed free.

For more information about the Beautification Watch Awards, including the criteria used to judge the properties, visit our website. In the meantime, start looking out for properties you think will be deserving of a nomination come July! If you would like to do an entire route of homes and businesses, contact us by email at keepakronbeautiful@akronohio.gov.

How to Plan and Plant Your Flower Garden from the KAB Expert

by Cindy Pantea

Here are some tips for home gardeners to help you plan and plant your flower garden from Flowerscape Director Leah Heiser. Information was from the 2017 Volunteer Adopt-A-Site Clinic. For information on becoming a Keep Akron Beautiful Adopt-A-Site volunteer next year, visit our web page at http://www.keepakronbeautiful.org/adopt-a-sites-in-the-area.

Begonias and Hostas

Dorothy Francis and Sylvia Martin 2015 Adopt-A-Site nicely filled in with Begonias and Hostas, which can handle both the sun and shade of this site.

Plan Before You Shop

Tips to help plan your garden before shopping for flowers or plants:

  • Check your bed to see how much sun or shade the spot gets.
  • Check the soil to see if it is typically dry or if it holds a lot of water after a rain.
  • Plan for deer or groundhog visitors and pick plants that deter them.
  • Plan heights. (Take into account whether your lot’s corner gardens need shorter plants so as not to obstruct the view of drivers on streets.)

Armed with this knowledge, the planting instruction tags will help you determine before purchase the types of flowers or plants that will best suit your needs.

Know Before you Buy

Before you buy flowers, keep in mind that flowers and plants—some more than others—may need deadheading to encourage more blooms or to keep your beds looking nice. The flowers known for needing consistent deadheading are: Ageratum, Cosmos, Geraniums, Marigold, Cannas. Also, some flowers have an early or later blooming life or blooms may even close when there is no sun.

Begonia with hosta

Begonias with Hostas from Sunnyside Neighbors’ 2015 Adopt-A-Site

    • Begonias – Good in sun and shade. Does NOT require deadheading. Great for making designs in your flowerbed because they hold their shape.
    • Celosia – Sun loving. Loves dry, infertile soil.
    • Coleus – Shade loving. Deadheading puts more energy into leaf BUT no deadheading creates plumes that pollinators love.
    • Dahlia – Sun loving.  Deadheading required. Dahlia tubers, however, are sustainable and can be trimmed, dug up and overwintered.
    • Dianthus – Annual and perennial varieties exist. Annuals are self-sowing, so deadheading is important to reduce volunteer plants plus encourage additional blooming. Perennial varieties are short blooming and should be propagated by division, tip cuttings or even layering.

      dusty millers

      Dusty Millers lighten Parkway Estates’ 2015 Adopt-A-Site and Coleus have inviting plumes for pollinators.

    • Dusty Miller – Lovely addition to garden to lighten space. Great with spreading petunias and ornamental grasses. Deer resistant. Hold shape and are great for making designs in your garden.
    • Gomphrea – Can be cut at end of season and used for dried flowers in vases because they hold their color.
    • Lobelia – Great shade plant for area with consistent moisture.
    • Marigolds – Deter deer. Seed pods easy to harvest (by allowing to turn brown and then picking off) for planting following year. Otherwise, deadhead consistently to keep garden looking great.
    • Nicotiana Saratoga – Grows in both sun and shade. Likes fertile, well-draining soil. Hummingbirds love them.

      kab flwsp with cannas

      This 2016 Adopt-A-Site by Overwood Neighbors has perfect cluster of Cannas for height, yellow Inca Marigolds and a border of Begonias. A great example of a nicely arranged full-sun site.

    • Cannas – Full Sun. Deadheading and pruning needed. Bright colors may attract hummingbirds, especially pink. Look better in beds when massed together.
    • Vista Bubble Gum Spreading Petunias – Hardy and grow in sun to part sun. Both Leah and former Flowerscape Director Polly Kaczmarek have said, “You get a lot of bang for your buck with petunias.”
    • Portulacca – Likes hot, dry and sunny. When sun is not out, blooms will close, so plant with other types of blooms.
    • Verbena – Likes sun. Deer resistant. Summer to fall bloom. Do extremely well if using liquid fertilizer.
    • Zinnias – Pollinators love! Pair with Marigolds that hold its blooms. Best if watered in morning rather than at night.
    • New Guinea Impatiens – The preferred variety of Impatiens plant to buy that is less likely to get Downy Mildew virus. Likes 4-6 hours of afternoon shade.
    • Vincas – Hardy, sun loving and NO deadheading required.

Mix and match plantings for a garden that blooms with the season and adds texture. Plant perennials, too. They add texture and help fill in bare spots. Hostas and ferns are great perennials!

Planting Your Garden

Before planting, pull weeds by the root and turn soil with shovel or rototiller. Environmentally speaking, it is preferred that you pull weeds by hand rather than use weed killer. In a case where weed killer was necessary, you may want to wait two weeks before planting. Then, when you’re ready to plant, follow these tips:

  • Make sure to water your plants before planting.
  • Break root balls before planting so they have a chance to spread out.
  • Follow spacing rules on the instruction tag, as crowding can cause unwanted mildew disease—Profusion Zinnias are known for this.
  • Water after planting.
  • Watch closely one to three weeks after planting.
  • Once established, water once or twice a week—with a sprinkler and in the morning is best.

Remember that ordinary mulch robs your soil of nutrients. Want a better option? Try Sweet Peet Organic Mulch, EXCEPT for acidic loving Rhododendrons and Azaleas. In such cases, use premoistened peat moss as a soil amendment.

Final note from Leah: If you notice that insects are eating away at your hard work, consider Googling types of Integrated Pest Management before going to insecticides. Sometimes a problem can be solved by reducing fertilizer or water or even adding plants that attract birds to eat the insects, creating your own ecosystem!