We Can Be Heroes

Several of the growers who have been active getting their cities involved in America In Bloom (AIB) have become local heroes. It wasn’t the reason they got involved but a very pleasant and rewarding surprise.

AIB is a national campaign and contest that promotes enhancing and revitalizing communities through horticulture. In five years, nearly 130 cities in more than 30 states have participated, and both wholesale and retail growers have played a strong role building the program.

In Logan, Ohio, near Ohio University, Rick Webb of Webb Perennials has led the town’s participation the last three years. Prior to that he had been supplying 25-inch hanging baskets in town to a local foundation that purchased them. Master Gardeners and the tourism board really embraced the program.

Webb became chief cheerleader and organizer. The response from volunteers was so strong Logan received AIB’s criteria award for community involvement sponsored by American Horticultural Society both this year and last. Webb is often interviewed in local media and when he speaks at local meetings, he gets a standing ovation. He also received the town’s Barton Hall Award, which recognizes a citizen of the year. But the best results are the ones everyone can see — plantings have doubled in three years.

Also in Ohio, Bob’s Market & Greenhouse sponsored the city of Gallipolis, which won AIB’s floral displays criteria award sponsored by Ball Horticultural Co. Plug production manager Lori Kelly, who also manages two of the retail stores, led the city’s participation with the retail merchants association, which purchased lamppost baskets planted and maintained by Bob’s Market.

The grower donated $5,000 worth of plants this year. In addition to the baskets and urns Bob’s maintains, volunteer groups planted adopted sites.

Ron Marlin of Marlin’s Plant Kingdom in Greenfield, Ind., is thrilled his city won its population category in 2004 and then again as it moved up to the next category in 2006. Marlin leases 24-inch pots that are changed out in spring and fall to businesses in town. The vice president of the chamber of commerce from one of the local banks championed the cause with him. While he paid the entry fee in 2004, the local Rotary did in 2006. Last year he worked with fellow grower Joe Boarini of Grande Greenhouse to organize a local contest showcasing the best front yards to pull plantings out into view.

Also in Indiana, Columbus made a strong debut, winning one of the most competitive population categories, as well as AIB’s landscaping criteria award sponsored by Project Evergreen. The grower-retailer behind the scenes is Gordon Elsbury of Elsbury Greenhouses. He had been supplying plants to the city parks department for 20 years and brought a busload of local officials and employees to Ball’s field days to get them excited about participating in AIB. The group was treated to a special welcome by AIB’s president Marvin Miller, also from Ball.

Each community is different in how it approaches AIB. Ideal organizing partners include city governments, parks and recreation departments, chambers of commerce, tourism bureaus, Master Gardeners, chapters of Keep America Beautiful and tree commissions.

If you think your town would embrace this program, now is the time to approach your civic leaders and community champions. Registration deadline for the 2007 competition is Feb. 28. For more information on how you can get your city involved, visit www.americainbloom.org.

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