Fremont gardener works for colorful summer blooms

5/18/2014 9:00 AM
By Associated Press

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — When Fremont City Gardener Jon Kuddes opens the door to the greenhouse, he opens the door to a world of color.

Reds and pinks dominate, but added to the array are ornamental grasses in shades of green and deep red and a little color in the new plants in plastic containers.

All have been spread across the tops of the many tables lining the greenhouse walls. Even the ground beneath the tables has splashes of color, gifts from the seeds that have dropped there and been allowed to sprout and spread.

Kuddes transplants mature plants, harvests seeds and clips cuttings so Fremont's city-owned flower beds will be awash with color throughout the growing season. In the greenhouse, the grass table is the first plant table encountered. It holds five different varieties of grasses.

"I do a lot of work transplanting grasses. I dig up a clump from the center of a plant and am able to get four or five plants out of that clump. I keep them here in the greenhouse for a year or two before planting them in the flower beds," Kuddes told the Fremont Tribune (http://bit.ly/1qDL5Lz). "I started with three plants of fountain grass and have grown a dozen or more from those."

Fountain grass is planted in the bigger flower beds.

On another table are canna lilies, seven varieties, all started from a tuber or root of a plant growing in one of the beds and harvested at the end of the growing season. About 200 plants fill the table top. It's a labor-intensive job to dig up the plants each fall, clean soil from the bulbs, then plant them in pots. This is done in October and November to give the bulbs time to take root, grow over the winter and be ready to replant in the spring.

There is the red, white and blue table with blue and white ageratum and red and white vinca. Kuddes estimates there are about 900 plants on the table. Red salvia, impatiens, marigolds and other plants fill remaining tables.

"Not everything I plant, I grow here," Kuddes said. "The Splash Station and the cemetery need color right away. I try to get color at the cemetery for Memorial Day."

The remaining flower beds are mostly filled with plants Kuddes has grown in the greenhouse. It was not always so. When he started in March 2008, not much propagation was happening in the greenhouse. In 2007, the city spent $10,000 on bedding plants. Last summer, the city spent about $700. That amount includes seeds, plants, plant containers and potting soil that Kuddes mixes himself, a 75 percent savings on soil alone.

Kuddes uses his own design ideas for the flower beds.

"I do a lot of it in my head," he said.

He has drawn design sheets on his computer for each bedding plot. He saves them so they can be used each year to re-imagine the space based on what he has available for planting.

When Kuddes began college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he planned to be a "turf guy" who would maintain the grass at sports venues like ball parks and golf clubs.

A summer opportunity moved him from that path and into public flower beds. Kuddes grows the plants, designs the flower beds and plants them.

"I am self-taught, hands-on, and learning as I go," he said.

Flower seeds are saved from year to year.

"I collect the seeds when the blooms get to the place where they are crispy and dried up. I pull off the bloom of a plant like salvia, let it dry, then collect the seeds. It's the same with marigolds. There can be a million seeds in one marigold bed," he said.

This season, he will use cuttings grown from plants used in the beds four years ago. He prepares the transplant by snipping off all flowers and larger leaves from a flowering stem. Kuddes will trim the buds as soon as they begin to show color so the plant can focus more of making a good root system. This year will be his sixth generation of cuttings from impatiens. He begins taking cuttings in January for plants used in the flower beds the coming summer.

Hostas and day lilies fill the spaces under the tables. They grow in the gravel below so they can be transplanted easily into the flower beds. Piles of pots and trays fill remaining greenhouse spaces.

"There are about 24 landscaped areas, flower beds and planters throughout the city of Fremont. They are located in the parks, around city building and facilities and in the right of way areas," he said.

Under each landscaped area location is listed the number and location of each bed or planting. For example, under the listing for downtown are 25 cutouts in sidewalks, 45 hanging baskets, the landscaped area in the KHUB parking lot, 12 planters on various corners and the flower bed in "Rump's Lot."

Kuddes spent almost 90 hours just watering plants and flowers last year. He uses a tank truck for watering chores and a part-time employee waters hanging baskets in the downtown area.

"When the beds still look good in August, there's a lot to be proud of," he said.

Kuddes has a list of future landscaping projects like the areas around the Barnard Park gazebo and rose garden.

In the planter outside the greenhouse on South Broad Street tulips are in bloom. The flower beds around Fremont City Auditorium also hold tulips and daffodils. In a few weeks the culmination of a year of planting and propagation will begin to be visible all over the city — Kuddes' work displayed for all to see.

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Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com


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