Old Town landscaping target of new group

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Smithfield Horticultural Society in the works

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Suffocating trees, weedy flower beds, mounds of mulch — the condition of many Main Street planting areas are the driving force behind the formation of the Smithfield Horticultural Society. 

The idea is to inspire good horticultural practices by showing how it’s done and advocating to the Smithfield Town Council about planting issues, said Mark Hall, a member of Smithfield 2020 who got the idea of a Society started. 

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As a businessman and developer, “I know the value of landscaping and horticulture is constantly undervalued,” he said.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Assisting in the effort are the owners of Fleur de Fou, Joseph McCain and Jason Camper, whose floral shop is located on Main Street. 

Camper, who supervises the landscaping at Busch Gardens, said there is a problem on Main Street — the medians are unkempt. Camper showed a series of photos of overgrown plantings, trees whose roots were coming up for air, parched flowers and weed-filled flower beds. 

“You can’t just plant something and leave it,” he said, adding that the trees are “suffocating” due to being repeatedly mounded with mulch.

McCain said the town has a contract with a local landscaping company for ongoing maintenance and that the idea behind the Society was not to replace that, but to complement its efforts. 

The town’s contract is with Southern Shores Lawn and Landscaping at $3,010.37 a month and covers not only Main Street, but many other areas in the town, such as around the welcome sign and Windsor Castle Park, according to the contract.

The landscapers are to control weeds, maintain the edges of beds, mulch, water during excessive heat and drought, install new plantings, prune, test soil and mulch, according to the contract. 

Ideas discussed at the inaugural meeting Thursday included ways to enhance the landscaping at the Post Office, a circa-1937 building and what Hall calls a “focal point” of the street. 

Other ideas included having artists paint the large utility boxes rather than trying to disguise them with plants and coming up with planting ideas that also look good in the winter. 

Camper wants the street to have some plant conformity, “like a Hallmark movie,” he said. 

Once established, the Society would like to move beyond Main Street to other parts of town. 

The Smithfield Horticultural Society is being sponsored by Smithfield 2020, but the goal is to make it an independent nonprofit organization. 

The plan is to charge a membership fee — $30 for individuals and $45 for couples. The Society will host educational business meetings, an annual fundraiser, access to organized trips to other cities, early access to an annual plant sale fundraiser, discounted membership rates for workshops and plant sharing. 

Those arrangements are in the process of being finalized, said McCain. 

For more information and updates, check out the Smithfield Horticultural Society Facebook page.  {/mprestriction}