Watertown residents use flowers to beautify downtown

A small group of Watertown women plants the flowers in City Center Park every year, as well as other plants in the downtown area and in several Watertown parks. (Staff photo by Matt Bunke)
A small group of Watertown women plants the flowers in City Center Park every year, as well as other plants in the downtown area and in several Watertown parks. (Staff photo by Matt Bunke)

For anybody that has spent time in some of Watertown’s most scenic areas, it’s hard not to notice the flowers that beautify places like City Center Park, the trail through Rick Johnson Park, the Pergola along Mill Avenue, or the Lewis Boardwalk along the Crow River.

But what many people may not realize is that it’s actually a small group of local woman, not the city of Watertown, that is largely responsible for those flowers. While the city does provide some watering at several of the locations throughout the summer, the planning, planting and much of the upkeep is the work of local residents, several of whom have been doing it for two decades.

“They always say a vibrant city is one that has flowers in the downtown area and the surrounding area,” said Diane Hirsch, who started planting flowers in various areas of the city in about 1990, when her husband was the Mayor of Watertown. “I like to keep that up.”

Sue Magnuson has also been involved in the planting of flowers in the city for about the same amount of time as Hirsch. They’ve been joined more recently by Julie Geiger, and together, the three woman were largely responsible for this year’s planning and planting, though they did get help from others as well.

Over the years, a number of other women have been involved in the planting, including Barb Carlson, who Hirsch said was in charge of the process for many years in the beginning. However, Carlson passed away several weeks ago, and several other women who have played large roles in the planting have also passed away over the years.

Now, Magnuson and Hirsch are hoping to find more members to be part of a new flower club.

“There aren’t very many of us that do it anymore,” Magnuson said. “We’d love to have somebody join us. It’s fun.”

The women have planted a wide variety of flowers over the years. Hirsch said they typically plant “what works best.”

“It’s trial and error,” she said.

This year, the flowers include petunias, pogonias, zenias, marigolds and begonias, among others.

“We’re planting more perennial type things in there because our group is getting smaller,” Magnuson said. “It takes a lot of manpower to put in the annuals all the time, but you have to have them.”

Planning for the flowers starts early each year. Hirsch said the women typically begin in January.

“You have to go early if you want to get what you need,” she said.

The funding for the flowers each year is provided by the Watertown Lions Club. The city does some watering at some of the locations, but the woman said they also haul water in milk jugs to tend to the flowers throughout the summer, especially when the weather is hot.

This unusually late start to summer has caused many gardening problems this summer, and Magnuson said that’s been the case in their personal gardens as well. But as far as their city plantings are concerned, Magnuson said the weather hasn’t caused too many problems.

“It hasn’t been that bad for us,” Magnuson said. “For the city, we planted on the day we picked to do it originally, and it turned out OK. We didn’t have to water as much, because it rained a lot and it was cool.”

When asked why she has gone through so much effort for so many years to keep the flowers looking nice, Magnuson’s response was simple.

“I just like gardening, she said. “I like flowers, and I like to see the town looking nice.”


Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]