As if by magic, beds of colorful geraniums, petunias, marigolds, grasses and dusties will pop up to beautify street medians and parks in Colorado Springs this spring.
That seemingly overnight transformation is actually the work of several dozen volunteers and a few city workers.
Donna Sanchez, horticulturist and median maintenance supervisor for Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, coordinates the Springs in Bloom program.
The 22-year city employee makes sure the city grows plenty of plants to fill the flower beds, and she coordinates up to 150 volunteers to venture into different parts of the city and plant them in 52 flower beds, most in downtown.
Since 2004, when budget cuts forced the city to stop planting the flower beds, volunteers have kept the city pretty through the Springs in Bloom program.
The first year, the volunteers supplied the flowers, but that proved too costly.
Since 2005, the city has grown and supplied the plants, soil and fertilizer for Springs in Bloom. Volunteers pick them up by the truck- or carload, plant them and maintain the beds throughout the spring and summer.
It’s a big job — and not an easy one — that lasts from May to October.
“Colorado gardeners seem to like a challenge. It seems like the more challenge in it, the more pride they take in it,” Sanchez said.
Gardening groups, neighborhoods, businesses, churches and individuals volunteer year after year at certain locations.
“It’s our 15th anniversary this year, and some groups have been in the program for all 15 years,” Sanchez said. That includes the Centennial Chapter No. 58, Order of the Eastern Star, which plants the flower bed at Cascade and Willamette avenues in their signature star shape.
For most groups, Sanchez will provide a design and planting instructions, including spacing and what plants to use where.
“I use a lot of the solid, bright colors,” Sanchez said.
There are usually a few open beds that could use a few green thumbs. And this year, a few beds are available for “adoption.”
“We have seven open right now,” Sanchez said. “Last year, we had five beds that didn’t get adopted.”
As an incentive, Sanchez adds a little friendly competition.
“One of the biggest drivers to keep people in the program is our yearly competition, usually at the end of July or beginning of August. We hand out Golden Trowel Awards, which are engraved photos framed with a picture of the winning flower beds, to the top five beds done by three groups: businesses, service organizations and individuals,” she said.
“We also do a year-end celebration in America the Beautiful Park.”
The bigger flower beds, such as those on the grounds of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, usually get adopted by larger groups as they’re a bigger time commitment. The city waters the beds through an automated irrigation system, but the volunteers must do the time-consuming work of weeding and checking on their beds’ welfare.
“If it’s an individual who’s looking to adopt, I’ll steer them toward the smaller beds,” Sanchez said. “In the beginning, I encourage the volunteers to go frequently, take a look at the soil and make sure it’s wet. Then they might visit once a week or so to make sure the weeds don’t take over.”
Sanchez and her two technicians grow plants for all divisions of the city, including Patty Jewett Municipal Golf Course, Valley Hi Golf Course, the Colorado Springs Airport and maintenance districts such as Old Colorado City, Stetson Hills and Briargate.
“Most any flowers you see around town are grown here at the city greenhouses,” she said. “We also grow vegetable starts for the community centers.”
Tucked away on Glen Avenue are several large greenhouses including city founder Gen. William Palmer’s original greenhouse, which was moved from his home, Glen Eyrie, in 1907.
“Part of General Palmer’s vision was to beautify the city with trees and flowers,” Sanchez said. “As the city grew, they added more greenhouses.”
The tradition of keeping Colorado Springs in bloom continues.
Contact the writer, 476-1602.