It’s 9:30 a.m. on a recent workday and the City of Odessa’s horticultural division staff are already dripping in sweat and up to their elbows in dirt.
The three-member staff, which includes horticulturist Jerri Pond and assistants Patricia Springer and Saul Trujillo, are responsible for the raising, planting, and care for tens of thousands of flowers and plants that are raised in the city-owned greenhouse and then planted throughout city parks alongside roadways and downtown greenspace. In addition, the crew oversees a nearby tree farm, which is the temporary home for more than 2,000 tree varieties that will someday replace aging, dying trees in the city.
“They do a tremendous job and amount of work for a three-person staff,” said City Parks Director Steve Patton, whose department oversees the horticulture efforts. “On average they grow about 100,000 plants and flowers annually, which really adds color throughout the city and enhances the quality of life.”
Very few municipalities operate their own greenhouse and tree farm, opting instead to purchase what they need through nurseries, Patton said. Managing their own operations saves the city money, and allows staff to plant and replace trees, flowers, and plants quickly. It also allows staff to grow plant and flower species that will grow in Odessa, which is a notoriously difficult area to grow things.
“It’s very difficult to grow things in Odessa, which the soil contains a lot of alkalines, and has a high salt content,” Patton said. “When you have a highly knowledgeable staff, as we do, they can recognize problems like that and know where and how to plant things.” The city’s large greenhouse, which is located along the 4300 block of West County Road, is the heart of the operations.
Pond’s team is also responsible for the planting and care of thousands of plants and flowers that grow in large, self-watering plastic planters. Every 1-2 weeks water is added to the bottom of the large planters. The simple, but the ingenious system includes a wick-like device that pumps up towards the surface when the plants and flowers begin to thirst. “It’s a lot of work for three people,” admits Pond. “But I thoroughly enjoy it. I always have. “I take pride in getting it in, watching everything grow, and watching people enjoy it.”
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