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Garden Club reinvigorates neglected planter

A planter box at the Phoenix Post Office has shrubs, annuals and perennials for the first time in at least 19 years after Phoenix Garden Club members planted the box Friday.

“I love you guys,” shouted Robert Turner, as he entered the facility at 105 W. Bolz Road. Turner said the box had never been planted since he moved to Phoenix in 2000. The building opened in 1998.

“What a nice thing for them to do for the community. It’s absolutely wonderful,” said Turner, who noted the effort was made by all volunteers.

Club members and Postmaster Lisa Howell agreed on the project with certain parameters, including use of drought-resistant plants that can be easily maintained and are attractive to bees and butterflies. Club members will keep up the area.

“This is a great thing. They just want to make it look petty,” said Howell, who has been at the location since 2011. Lack of a working water system to supply the planter was an obstacle to the effort until maintenance was done on the building earlier this year, which included installing a new line. The watering will be controlled by a timer.

A contract for grounds maintenance and custodial work does not include planting or maintaining the planter, said Howell. But she said a worker will keep an eye on it to make sure it gets water if required and that the system works.

There was lots of laughter as seven club members began work at the site a little before noon in what became a four-hour session. First step was digging out weeds in the box.

“It’s looking better already,” said a customer as he eyed the weedless space while entering the post office during the early stages.

A minor hiccup emerged when it was discovered nobody had a key needed to turn on an outside water bib. Members carried water in drinking cups from a nearby water fountain. Club member Judy Grillo drove to the Talent Post Office, where she was able to get a key to use.

“Every plant, when it gets planted, needs to get watered,” said club President Kandy Scott. Club members created a plot to show where the plants would be placed in the 6-by-8-foot space inside concrete walls.

The club spent $250 to purchase shrubs, annuals and perennials. Seasonal plantings put in Friday for the winter are pansies and ornamental cabbages. Next spring, they will plant more annuals, likely including petunias and zinnias. Members brought leaves from home to mulch the site.

“When we went shopping for things, this planter kept getting bigger in my mind,” said Scott. Laurel, salvia, heather, Barberry and creeping rosemary were planted. After about five years, the rosemary, planted on the perimeter, should hide much of the box exterior. It also attracts pollinators.

“About the only thing it will need is pruning,” said Scott. “I like to see the community come together and take pride in the town.”

During summer, the salvia will produce bright red blossoms that look like lips, giving it the name “Hot Lips,” explained club member Diane Reiling.

Garden club members meet monthly to discuss business and listen to a speaker. The club also puts on an annual plant sale, usually the first Saturday after Mother’s Day or the day of the citywide yard sale. Members propagate starts in their homes, and proceeds from the sale are used for club projects and to provide two scholarships to Phoenix High School students in the Future Farmers of America program.

Information about the club can be found on its Facebook page at Phoenix Garden Club.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gamil.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneLadies of the Phoenix Garden Club add plants to a planter in front of the Phoenix Post Office.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneLadies of the Phoenix Garden Club add plants to a planter in front of the Phoenix Post Office.