Learn (and meet): Edmonds Flower Baskets
Updated: Sep 16
The iconic City of Edmonds’ hanging baskets symbolize an Edmonds summer. We are lucky enough to have the grower right in the City’s backyard – Debra Dill, City of Edmonds Parks employee for more than 13 years.
The flower basket program started in the mid-70's as an element of the Street Beautification Program. In a typical year, the program is supported by more than 100 volunteers from the Floretum Garden Club and Edmonds in Bloom and two employees. This year, due to COVID-19, we had only two employees and they weren't allowed to be in the greenhouse at the same time. Everyone, especially city staff, was very disappointed because it is a social affair as well.
Here’s our Q and A on the secret behind our outstanding flowers.
What is the one thing we all should know?
Petunias are the workhorse of summer annuals. They grow, and grow well, all summer long.
Where do you start?
In the fall, we think about the colors we want to see the next year. We start many of our plants from seed so, while most people are limited to what they can get from a local nursery or Lowes in late spring, we can choose whatever we like from various catalogs. This year, I wanted a deep red.
We have a propagation house with heating tables and grow lights. We begin with the seeds and about ¼ strength of fertilizer. (A starter fertilizer would work as well.) We use Nutriculture 12-31-14. We are very careful about our fertilizer and watering. We put the water-soluble fertilizer (similar to Miracle Grow) directly in the water then water deeply and thoroughly two or three times a week, making sure the soil dries out between waterings. (Check out slide show to the right to watch the seeds grow!)
Is that important?
Yes, for two reasons: The fertilizer we use really helps to strengthen the plant’s cell walls and it also keeps the growing compact at first which is what you want. You get a strong, healthy stem which also helps keep the aphids away. Watering deeply encourages the roots to use all the soil in the container.
When the soil is mostly, but not completely dry between watering, it helps to prevent stem and root rot by keeping the moisture away from the stem.
After about a month, when they get bigger, we up the fertilizer to about half strength. The flowers are at full fertilizer when they go in the baskets. And, again, we fertilize, at first with the 12-31-14 and slowly transition late spring to a 20-20-20- and water deeply and thoroughly two or three times a week. This keeps the aphids away as well and helps us achieve as large a basket as we can.
What kind of petunias should we buy?
We use two types, Supertunias (sometimes found under the name ‘Surprise’ or ‘Success’) and wave petunias. The wave petunias mound and spread out which is great in a basket. The Supertunias trail out as they grow which is great for getting baskets that look large and full. We throw in another big leaved plant or trailer as contrast.
This year, we chose Supertunia Black Cherry, Honey, and White and Ipomea batatas ‘Margarita” for that big leaf contrast.
Can you share next year’s colors?
Hmm... I always like to try different things each year. White is always is great for offsetting other colors, so that will most likely be one of the colors. At the moment I’m thinking a vibrant purple like a magenta with a bright yellow (if I can get it) or a blue. For contrast we will either use Creeping Jenny or Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ depending on the petunia chosen. Although, I just saw a cool Begonia called ‘Canary Wings’, which may switch things up a bit as it would be like the Ipomea used this year for that large leaved contrast. Designing with plants is so much fun!
Debra is a City of Edmonds Field Arborist.
She started in Commercial Design and Illustration, but was always interested in horticulture. In 1995 she took a job with a landscape company and never looked back. She had her own landscape business for a while then ended up at Lowes. It was her husband who helped get to her to Edmonds! He saw the posting for the Hort/Greenhouse position.
She’s been in the horticulture field for just over 25 years and with the city for 13 of those years.
What she says: I love that each species is unique in its needed requirements for growing well, but they are all, in a way, similar in their overall needs. With a little understanding and patience, plants will always reward you for your efforts.