Oregon incorporates art with landscaping

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Motorists traveling down Navarre Avenue have likely noticed the thousands of flowers that have bloomed at the intersection of Wheeling Street.
        Mike Jones planted the bulbs as part of a joint effort with the Oregon Economic Development Foundation and the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce.
        Dutch bulb supplier K van Bourgondien and Sons, of Columbus, donated 33,000 bulbs for the project, Jones told The Press last week. Jones’ company, MJJ 1 LLC, is an educational consulting company that focuses on landscape design and maintenance, floral design, blowing glass, kayak adventures, and community engagement.
        “I had been in contact with Bourgondien and Sons for the last three years,” said Jones. “Last summer, they said they were interested in having a display where they could donate bulbs in a highly visible area – a commercial area and public setting. They wanted to demonstrate the use of spring bulbs on a larger scale to encourage businesses and landscapers to use spring bulbs as perennials, where they are not lifted and thrown away after they bloom each spring and replanted with new bulbs each fall.”
         For his part, Jones was interested in teaching good horticultural methods that would show how you can successfully - through good soil preparation and planting - have spring bulbs that last for many, many years.
        “And do it in a way that is very cost effective,” said Jones.
        “It’s actually cheaper per square foot than what it costs to take care of your lawn,” he said. “It’s intelligent, it’s economical, it’s good business sense, to properly prepare the soil and prepare the bulbs to know how to mulch them so you don’t have strong weed pressure.. They could be used in major plantings in corporate and public garden settings – also at people’s homes. We’re trying to demonstrate the concept of interplanting different species so they become compatible with each other. That surely helps reduce the maintenance cost. It encourages young people today to be interested in pursuing a career as a professional gardener and be able to do these type of installations for both private, commercial and public settings.”
        The city of Oregon was interested in terms of economic development.
        “They were willing to go with my proposal and use the mound at the northwest corner of Navarre and Wheeling. So for 22 straight days after Christmas, before the ground totally froze, Bourgondien donated the 33,000 bulbs. We kind of lucked out. The ground didn’t freeze up. I put tarps down to keep the temperature in. It didn’t freeze up tight until the end of the second week of January. We got all 1,500 of them in the ground. Then we stored them in 35 to 40 degrees over the winter and planted the rest in early spring.”
        The flowers include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, ornamental onions, and crocus. “They will come back even stronger next year,” said Jones.
        “The display started to bloom before April 3.  We’ve been in good strong colors since April 3. If things go right, there should continue to be something in bloom all the way to the fall.”
Good investment
        “In most commercial settings, the real pressure comes when people don’t want to see dying foliage. So they pressure people to pull them right after they bloom. That is literally 15 times more expensive. All the labor to pull them, all the cost to buy the bulbs. What we’re trying to say is spend your money, prepare the soil well, plant them wisely, mulch them correctly, and financial returns will be several fold over multiple years. It’s a good investment. From the bulb company’s end, they know that people buy bulbs every year from the company. But they think they can sell way more volume if people were willing to plant them on a much more massive scale like we’ve done here. I could teach good horticulture, and the city of Oregon could benefit from the display. So it’s a win-win.”
        Jones has also been incorporating art into the landscape, similar to what communities in Michigan have done.
        “The goal is to incorporate art that is appropriate for the City of Oregon. It won’t be art like you see in the city of Toledo. But it’s reflective in many ways of the quality of gardening and art like you see in cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan, Seattle, Washington,  and Ann Arbor Michigan - here the ethos of the community embraces the concept of good art, good horticulture that will fit into the fabric of their communities,” he said.            
        “We put pieces of art in with the floral. There are metal flowers, solar powered candles hung from some of the crab apple branches, and we put up a wind vane. We are hoping some more major, substantial pieces of art can be funded to be brought in to key locations where the art might rotate every six months or year. And local artists would be able to demonstrate they have an understanding of the community and can generate art that is more appropriate here. It is cost effective, encourages economic growth and encourages the community to join together and feel proud. That’s the whole collective mission,” he said.
        Jones is doing a similar landscape in the front of the Oregon Municipal Building on Seaman Road. He hopes to sign up various businesses on the Navarre Avenue corridor as well.
        “Our goal is to have many commercial establishments on Navarre do these kinds of plantings,” he said.
        “We’ve partnered up with Penta, Cardinal Stritch, and Clay High School. Hopefully, in the fall, we’ll be doing internships for students interested in this kind of work and they can work with me. We’re looking to do additional projects at the Oregon Municipal building and at various commercial establishments up and down Navarre Avenue in the summer.”


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