Hats Off: Local greenhouse creates beauty on highway island

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Neil Johnson
Sunday, August 24, 2014

JANESVILLE--Who: Local greenhouse K&W Greenery, Janesville.

What it did: Planted four plots of annual flowers and grasses in the grass median on Highway 14 adjacent to the greenhouse. 

The idea started when city council member Matt Kealy asked K&W owner Phyllis Williams last December if the greenhouse had ever thought of beautifying parts of the city that look drab, such as highway islands.

Williams said the greenhouse decided to start with the median island directly across from K&W, which is at 1328 Highway 14 on the city's north end.

In early July, workers at the greenhouse began the project. 

Williams and K&W greenhouse manager Dee Speaker said it took the greenhouse a few days to roll back sod in the median, fortify the soil underneath and plant the flowers. Greenhouse crews planted the flowers in the rain, which gave them a nice, healthy start.

The city's parks and public works departments helped mark the work area with barricades to keep workers safe, Speaker said.

Motorists on Highway 14 will see plants in four plots in the median. The plantings include a bright-colored mix of zinnias, annual vinca, petunias, cannis, summer snapdragon and purple fountain grass. 

Because the plantings are all annuals, the greenhouse will have to plant in the median again next year.

It took a little while to get the plan together this year, in part because the state Department of Transportation, which has authority over Highway 14, had to sign off.

Speaker said the plantings next year are planned earlier so that motorists can enjoy the flowers longer.

The plantings also required agreements with the city, which Williams said was no problem.

While the city mows the grass around the plantings, the greenhouse donated all the labor and the flowers. The greenhouse has watered and maintained the plantings all summer.

“It didn't cost the city or taxpayers a penny.” Williams said.

Williams said she hopes the planting serves as a pilot project for future plantings in areas throughout the city. She said the city's parks department is interested in the prospect, and she believes the project could involve local business sponsorships, so it wouldn't be a taxpayer burden.

“Just because you're a business that doesn't have anything to do with plants or flowers, it wouldn't mean you couldn't get involved,”

Other recent, privately organized plantings in Janesville include the center of the Racine Street roundabouts. Those plantings were organized by Janesville-based Grainger Industrial Supply.

Willams said the greenhouse's plantings have gotten dozens of compliments and notes from people who appreciate the little splash of beauty in the highway island.

“It lifts people's hearts,” she said.

Last updated: 2:23 pm Sunday, August 24, 2014

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