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Volunteers plant flowers along Douglas to make a prettier Wichita

Euel and JoAnn Reed volunteered to help plant ferns and flowers along Douglas Avenue on Saturday. Organizer Cindy Carnahan plans to beautify Douglas Avenue between Washington and Main streets.
Euel and JoAnn Reed volunteered to help plant ferns and flowers along Douglas Avenue on Saturday. Organizer Cindy Carnahan plans to beautify Douglas Avenue between Washington and Main streets. The Wichita Eagle

Cindy Carnahan has learned much about flowers from prodigious digging in her own backyard. She learned from great gardeners.

Starting Saturday, she began to share her knowledge and passion with all of us.

Before dawn, Carnahan, leader of the Carnahan Group at J.P. Weigand & Sons Realtors, led volunteers planting hundreds of flowers in big pots all up and down what she calls “Wichita’s front door” – Douglas Avenue.

“We’re going to be slinging some dirt and planting some flowers, and at the end of the day we want to have done it so well that everybody’s going to want more,” she said.

The city pitched in enough money to supply more than 100 pots, 10 tons of gravel and six tons of potting soil. Carnahan herself has done fundraising, tapping into decades of relationships she developed across the area.

What that meant Saturday was that volunteers like JoAnn Reed, her husband, Euel, and experienced gardeners like Joan Fox and Linda Shea spread out along Douglas and planted begonias, ferns, caladiums and other annuals.

“I just hope nobody messes with them,” Carnahan said, as she passed out orange T-shirts to volunteers.

The strategy here is to make Wichita more attractive to people and companies wanting a good new place to live.

“Douglas is our signature street,” she said. “And we’ve got to sell lifestyle here, because we have no mountains and no oceans. Flowers indicate that we care about something other than our vocations. That’s what flowers say.”

The flowers planted in about 80 pots on Saturday will be uprooted come winter and replaced with boxwoods, Carnahan said.

When next spring comes, she’ll gather volunteers and swap out the boxwoods for the annuals again.

If anyone out there can help her and the community find a greenhouse to store the plants getting swapped out, she’d love to hear from you.

She’ll see to it that eventually more than 100 big flowerpots will adorn all corners and both sides of Douglas between Washington and Main Street. Next on her agenda: hanging pots adorning much of Old Town and Delano.

Jeff Fluhr, president of the Greater Wichita Partnership and Wichita Downtown Development Corp., has praised this kind of work as not only a way to beautify Wichita but to tout Wichita as a destination place. Other cities, some of which are growing faster than Wichita, he has said, have adopted flowers along roads and streets as a way to attract visitors, companies and new residents.

“We’re going to make it all pretty,” Carnahan said.

Roy Wenzl: 316-268-6219, @roywenzl

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