- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Tim Forster is an artist whose work grows all over Rapid City.

Forster, greenhouse specialist with the Rapid City Parks and Recreation Department, plants and nurtures around 50,000 plants, including 2,000 rose bushes, in various areas around town with the help of his seasonal team that works from March to November.

Some parks are small, like Wilson Park, with only five rose beds and six flower beds. Other flower gardens are more extensive, like the arrangement in William Nordermeer Formal Gardens in Sioux Park, with over 70 flower beds containing more than 10,000 plants.

The city’s greenhouse, off Canyon Lake Drive, is where Forster starts the plants that will beautify Rapid City all summer and into the fall, the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/1Kru1jN ) reported. Some plants like begonias and geraniums have to be started in January.

Forster spends the winter months designing the gardens. One of his gardening philosophies directs his designs.

“A lot of our gardens no one will walk through, but they see them every day when they drive,” he said. “I want to capture their attention.” Forster picks bold colors that stand out and mixes contrasting colors together.

He designs the flower beds differently each year, not only to keep things visually new, but also for the health of the plants and soil.

“If I planted the same plants in the same location year after year, I would have a slow decline. It’s like crop rotation for crops,” he said.

In April, Forster cuts off any blooms starting in the greenhouse. “I want the plant to spend more energy on growing strong roots.”

He also turns off the heat to the greenhouse in early May to harden the plants off. He keeps some plants in the greenhouse after the spring planting to replace plants that either die from transplanting, storms, or vandalism and theft.

“Vandalism and theft aren’t a huge problem,” he said, but it does occasionally happen.

Recently, Forster and his crew finished planting the huge planters located on the Sixth Street Bridge. Each planter has 12 different plants that Forster picked because of their bright colors. He used a garden design theory home gardeners can use with their own planters.

“Think thriller, filler and spiller for your container,” he said.

The thriller is the plant in the middle that is bold and captures your attention. The fillers are plants that take up space around the thriller. The spillers are plants that creep or spill over the edges of the planters.

Forster knows that gardeners will copy his moves in their own gardens, especially with the timing of the covering and uncovering the roses.

“I actually cover them up early, my timing is dependent on having seasonal help,” he said.

“You have to let the roses freeze hard, so they know it’s time to go dormant. Wait until late November,” he added.

Taking care of the rose bushes involves timing and hours of manual labor. During the summer, especially at their peak around early July, the 2,000 rose bushes have to be constantly deadheaded, a process of manually removing the dead blooms which signals to the plant to keep re-blooming.

In early November, the roses are non-selectively cut to 15 inches. Then a 3/8-inch compost from the landfill is placed around the base to protect the crown of the rose, followed by leaves over the top, and then poultry fencing to keep the leaves from blowing away.

In mid-April, when the rose bushes are uncovered, the leaves are carefully removed as not to damage the delicate roses.

“It can be challenging working with plants and organizing the seasonal team,” which is usually young high school or college students, Forster added, “but it’s fun.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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