Flag bed in Lincoln Park
The annual floral program is a year round task. The process begins by bidding out the desired floral materials in November/December. This process usually takes two months. Once a supplier is chosen for the annuals, arrangements are made with the supplier for ship date and ready dates. Typically, we expect our plants to be ready for mid-May which is when the planting program begins. From January to May we are in constant communication with the grower about the flowers. Several on-site visits to the greenhouse are made during this time as well.
Once the flowers arrive, planting begins. The last average frost date is approximately May 15th. We have roughly 20 annual planting beds which vary year to year, depending on irrigation capabilities. In some years when beds are installed, a late May freeze or severe hail-storm may devastate a planting bed. Extra plant materials are never ordered. We simply order the same plant materials for all beds and, if necessary, we will eliminate a low-visibility bed. Flowers to be used for these beds are then used to replace unfortunate losses from those freezes or hail-storms in beds planted earlier. Thinking ahead helps save money in the long run.
Beds are roto-tilled in spring and fall. Maintaining a loose and airy soil profile helps the flowers reach their full vigor and aids in root establishment. Compost is added to each bed in either the spring or fall. During the season, Forestry staff will water, weed, dead head, cultivate, shape, shear, and tweak each flower-bed on a daily basis. Pre-emergent herbicides are applied to each bed two weeks after planting. This helps reduce the amount of weeding required per bed.
Most perennials we use are grown in the City's greenhouse. Whenever possible, "xeric" plants are grown and utilized. Each year, at least one perennial bed is created and old ones renewed. Perennial beds, over the long haul, help us save money from the purchase of annuals every year; however, having vibrant and colorful annuals continues to be an integral part of the floral program. When designing a perennial bed, keep in mind that perennials aren't always in bloom during the entire green season. A good mixture of plants that will bloom throughout the summer months is essential to any perennial bed. There are several key things to keep in mind when planning a perennial bed. Maintenance -
Plan your bed to minimize future maintenance. Perennial beds always take a fair amount of weeding, dead heading and rejuvenation. Think about plants that may eventually require extensive trimming near sidewalks or driveways. Never mix a shrub bed with turf, always separate the two in some way.Watering -
Understand the watering requirements of each plant you desire to use. Try not to incorporate plants with different watering requirements together. Take advantage of xeric plants to help reduce your watering costs. Xeric does not mean "rock" or "cactus". Multiple Season of Interest -
Utilize plants that provide some type of interest in each season. For example some plants provide winter shape, stem color and texture, spring color, summer fragrance or fruit, and fall leaf color. Color -
Try to include a mixture of plants that will bloom throughout the entire growing season. For example, incorporate some plants that bloom in early spring, spring to summer, summer to fall, and late fall.