Some 70,000 flower starts are growing in trays.
An acre of earth is being tilled and fertilized.
In a couple of weeks, workers at Spokane’s Manito Park will plunge the plants into the soil at Duncan Garden.
When the flowers bloom, their color will testify to nine months of beautification of the landmark garden, which is being restored to the tradition of Renaissance symmetry.
“We need some sunshine and warm weather,” said Jim Flott, horticulture supervisor at Manito Park, who is spearheading the work.
With its granite fountain in the middle, this is a setting long known for summer weddings and a relaxed air of elegance.
Flott and his staff of nine gardeners are quadrupling the size of the flower beds, arranging them so each side of the garden becomes a mirror image of the other.
A new reflective pool at the south end and arbor arches on the east and west entrances will enhance the formal feel. The lawn has been leveled and reseeded. New benches are being installed.
The work is being accomplished with no increase in the park’s budget, thanks to about $40,000 in donations from Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane and Friends of Manito.
Landscape architect Debbie ClemOlsen said summer visitors can expect an explosion of color and texture since the larger flower beds will have several varieties of annuals of different shapes and sizes.
Old standbys like geraniums and marigolds will be used, but the staff promises to try unusual varieties like matricaria, a small daisy-like border flower.
“Part of the mission of Manito Park and the gardens is to let visitors explore new plant material,” Flott said.
Combined with the Gaiser Conservatory greenhouse, the rose garden, the perennial garden and surrounding wild lands, Manito is one of the finest horticultural parks in the Pacific Northwest, Flott said.
Duncan Garden was originally completed in 1914, and was known as the sunken garden until being formally named in 1942 after longtime park director John Duncan.
Over the years, the flower beds became relatively small compared with the size of the surrounding lawn, and the south end had a different shape from the north end near the conservatory.
“The flower beds were way undersized in proportion to the garden,” Flott said.
Still, some 250,000 visitors visit Manito Park each year, making it one of the city’s top attractions.
Maintaining a formal summer garden is a challenge in Spokane, where weather extremes can quickly damage plants. Last week, some of the starter plants were nipped by a late frost. They were covered, so the cold did not kill them.
Even so, Duncan Garden will probably be slow to bloom because of the unsusually cool spring, Flott said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo