One of the first things that visitors or patients to Clarke County Hospital and clinic are likely to notice as they arrive are the colorful hanging baskets that adorn the parking lots. What people might not know is how they get there, or the amount of care that goes into making sure the flowers remain vibrant and flourishing from spring through the fall. That task falls to Mike Anderson, the hospital’s exterior maintenance man.
“Mostly I do the same thing every year,” said Anderson, who choses plants that he knows will do well with the materials he has.
This year, the overflowing baskets - both hanging and on the ground - are filled with pink bubblegum and silverberry petunias; some years Anderson also plants fuchsia petunias.
The pots that hold the flowers receive a fresh helping of soil every year for the new plants, and are fertilized every 10 to 15 days with a mix that is more absorbent for water.
The pots are ones that Anderson ordered from a company in New York, and he guesses that they weigh about 50 pounds empty, 75 pounds when full. They have a three and a half gallon reservoir in the bottom, and carpet strips inside go down to the bottom and come back up to sit on a shelf of dirt that allows for the water to continually soak into the plant. Using these pots allows Anderson to only need to water the flowers twice a week, though he plans to do an extra day of watering this week to compensate for the expected high temperatures.
Anderson purchases the flowers from Ellis Greenhouse in Lucas, and he gets eight flats each spring, plus the occasional extra the greenhouse has in stock.
“It’s a lot of flowers,” said Anderson. “No one has ever balked at what I spend...they see how the community appreciates them.”
In addition to the planters hanging around the parking lots and nestled near the hospital’s main entrance, Anderson is also responsible for the area by the fountain, where irises and peonies can be seen. In the spring, visitors can see colorful tulips that are planted in the fall. More peonies have also been ordered to add to the bed.
An area along Fillmore Street has a flower bed with more petunias and a variety of different colored tiger lilies. The backside of the hospital by the ER also boasts flowers. When the hospital’s renovation and expansion is completed, more plants will be added to the new areas.
“It’s quite a job,” said Anderson, who spends Mondays and Fridays watering all of the plants. “It’s fun, though.”
The hanging baskets will remain until fall, when the pots are taken down, cleaned out and stored for the winter to await next spring’s planting.
When not tending to the flowers, Anderson spends his other three days keeping the grounds mowed and weedeated.
If Anderson isn’t stopped while he’s outside working to be complimented on his green thumb, visitors are sure to let workers inside the hospital now.
“A lot of people, when I’m watering, they’ll come along and say they like them,” said Anderson. “If not me, they’ll tell them inside.”
Anderson also constructed the two wooden benches outside the main entrance, using pine wood and treating them with Australian Oil stain. Staff and visitors can often be found sitting there, either on a break or waiting for a ride.
Anderson has worked at Clarke County Hospital for eleven years. Wife, Deb, works there as well as a financial counselor. Anderson reports that they have a lot of flowers at their home, too.