- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

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.

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