Bill Benham uses his plant growing skills to keep Monette's main street blooming six months out of the year.
The City Beautification Committee spearheaded the downtown flower project starting in 1991. A wide variety of plants and containers were tried until the project was perfected. Plants are required to be drought resistant and containers needed to be weatherized.
"I started to work for the city eight years ago," Benham said. "I had worked at a nursery in Cave City and for area farmers, so I inherited the City Beautification project, along with my work for the Street Department. I like working with plants and have really enjoyed taking care of the flowers.
"Mexican Petunias (Ruellia) had been purchased from a nursery in Jonesboro and Vinca plants were added around the edge of plastic and Styrofoam pots," Benham said. "That proved to be a good mix of plants. We started using a water wagon to water the plants and keep them blooming all summer."
"We get a lot of compliments about our flowers downtown," said Joyce Read, City Beautification chairman. "People will call city hall and ask what kind of flowers are in the containers. This year we are using hanging moss in the place of Vinca, and they will be even more drought resistant. Bill has acquired quite an expertise in working with our plants and they have never looked better. He has experimented with the Mexican Petunias and this year we were able to use the plants he had maintained through the winter and not have to purchase them."
There are 38 containers of plants downtown, with three Mexican Petunias in each and five other moss plants. The project had proved to be quite costly.
"In October last year I moved the pots to the old Monette High School building at the city park and kept them inside all winter," Benham said. "I had experimented with keeping them outside, but this did not work. When I took the plants in I trimmed them back to six inches and watered them every week. Every two weeks I used all-purpose fertilizer. They have grown to about two feet, are bushed out and ready to put out on the street."
"I never thought they would multiply so much, and soon there were 20 or so plants coming up in each container," Benham said. "I took the main plants out of the pots, trimmed the root system down, then placed them back in the pots. I saved all the extra plants."
"Having acquired so many Mexican Petunia plants, the City Beautification Committee decided to sell them for $1 each to help offset expenses of the project," said Mayor Chub Qualls. "The plants average about six inches each in height. People can call or come by and pick them up. We have paid over $7 a plant in the past when we bought them from nurseries. We were quite surprised to see how many plants had developed through the winter. Bill has done an excellent job."
Benham wears many hats as an employee for the City of Monette but none he likes better than helping with City Beautification projects, like summer plants and Christmas decorations.