Having a forest management degree and working in downtown Lawrence don't seem to jibe.
But with the landscaping and beautification emphasis, downtown has sprouted trees and flowers for five blocks.
It takes a crew to keep everything together, especially with the 3,000 flowers planted this year at a cost of $7,000.
That also equals 500 hours of planting and 80 hours of care per week.
Crystal Miles, Lawrence Parks and Recreation horticulture manager, has worked for the department since 1981, and she manages the 11 full-time and 10 part-time division employees.
Rod Croucher, the downtown field supervisor who earned his forest management degree from the University of Missouri, joined the department in 1991.
He works with a crew staff to make sure the flowers stay bright and the trees healthy downtown.
What do the trees do for downtown Lawrence?
Crystal Miles: The trees bring a lot of benefits to downtown Lawrence. They soften the noise. They lessen the effects of pollution from automobiles, and they shade the streets. They also bring large buildings to human scale.
What about the flowers at the corners of the intersections?
Rod Croucher: The flowers are more of a beautification for the downtown area. People like to look at them. It gives you a little carefree feeling, I think.
Miles: They call it "colorscaping." Where it's dry, people like to see flowers. They come to see the color and the excitement of it.
What do the variety of colors do for downtown?
Croucher: It softens up the hardscape down here is what it does - your bricks and your concrete and all of that stuff.
Miles: We were requested to provide these services by the City Commission and the Downtown Lawrence Assn., and the goal was to provide a profusion of blooms for as long a period as possible.
It won't quite be year-round, but it will be three-seasoned.
What is the best thing about the downtown planting?
Croucher: I look at it like a benefit to the community as a whole.
Crystal Miles Job: Horticulture Manager for Lawrence Parks and Recreation Education: Lawrence High School graduate, Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture form Kansas State University. History with Lawrence: Grew up on a farm north of Lawrence and moved back to the city in 1981 to work for the city's horticulture division. Family: Husband, Steven, appraisal supervisor for Douglas County.
Rod Croucher Job: Downtown field supervisor for the city's horticulture division. Education: Burlingame High School graduate; Bachelor of Science degree in forest management from University of Missouri. Moved to Lawrence: 1992, to work for the horticulture division. Promoted to downtown supervisor three months ago.
Flowers in beds along Massachusetts Street Easy Wave white petunias, Misty Lilac Wave petunias, Blue Wave petunias, AngelMist purple angelonia, Lady Fingers ipomoea, AngelMist white angelonia, Ace of Spades ipomoea, Red Pacifica vinca, Peppermint Cooler vinca, Titan Punch vinca and Profusion orange zinnias.
Miles: I believe the staff finds a lot of personal creativity in the process as well. They can help design the gardens and color forms and plant forms and come up with some really fun things. It makes their job real interesting.
Was anything new added this year?
Miles: We've probably doubled the amount of flowers from last year, so we've increased the volume. We added larger plants this year, so all of our flowers are tract-grown.
Other than the various beautification and landscaping projects around the city, what is the department involved with?
Miles: We oversee the street-tree planting for the Lawrence Homebuilders Assn. Just the contract planting, not collecting money. Other departments do that. But we just help them with getting the trees planted, and this last year, we did 780 trees.
What is a typical day for the downtown crew?
Croucher: We start at 6 (a.m.). I come down, and we split up into different sections of town that need watering. Then I'll do some landscaping. I've got a lot of things going on at one time, so I may not stick with one thing. I'll go take care of some flowers, plant some flowers or something. Trimming shrubs, mowing, we do a lot of mowing and fixing hydrants.
What is the most critical issue Lawrence faces now?
Miles: I am a big proponent of taking care of trees and planting trees. In 2000, we had temperatures over 107 for five days in a row in Lawrence. Lawrence was the hottest place in the nation.
With all of our new development, we've got to stay on track with planting trees. We have our "Tree City, USA" program, where we spend two dollars per capita to plant trees and care for trees within our city, but I think it needs a lot more participation from home owners and businesses to preserve trees because it's part of global warming and to combat that.
What is the mission for the horticulture division?
Miles: Find a space and make it a place. Make it a place somebody wants to be and that the public can enjoy. Make a difference.