The City of Long Beach had long had an Adopt-a-Planter program for its more than 30 street planters. I recall the planters being installed in the early or mid 90s. Volunteers came and went. Some were summer people whose planters therefore looked terrible all winter. Some planted with enthusiasm in May and then did not weed or water on a regular basis. Each planter had water piped in but the watering had to be done manually.
I had started out at the beginning with four volunteer planters, two of which lacked water due to a serious under-the-sidewalk plumbing problem so I planted them in drought tolerant fashion (santolinas, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, lavender) and they were not especially showy with annuals. However then city administrator Nabiel called them “magnificent” and as a result we got the job planting flowers in the city parks.
In July 2008 some of the planters looked like this:
Meanwhile during the same weeks the planters that we were doing looked like this:
Each volunteer was given $50 per year for plants and some of the planters were clearly not having that amount spent on them. And yet some volunteers did continue to do a superlative job:
Before every festival, part of our job would be to clean up the weedy planters, and often even the good ones were unweeded, undeadheaded and ungroomed because the volunteers were simply not in town enough to keep up. Long Beach, due to the daily efforts of the wonderful city crew (they have a fan club!), is probably the cleanest town next to Disneyland and the inconsistency and weediness of some the planters was bringing down the tone. We were backing up the efforts of the good volunteers by doing additional watering as well. By the end of 2008, more planters would be turned over to our care leaving less than half of them as a volunteer project.
The last planter we redid for the year was one of the two furthest north. The volunteer, who in my opinion had quite let it go, stormed up to us a bit later furious that we had redone it. Fortunately, I had taken a photo showing the state it had gotten into. But how can you tell a volunteer that they are not doing a good enough job. I sent her off to city hall where I suppose she was gently told that some planters were passing back into the care of the city.
With less conflict we redid another old one down by the credit union.
I also had my eye on the planter by Sand Dollar Deli. I called it the ivy monster and urgently wanted to remove the ivy, a noxious weed which set a bad example for novice gardeners. Because the awning to the adjacent shop needed repairing over the winter, we would wait till the city crew pulled out the ivy.
Later, that became one of our prettiest planters…above, in spring of 2011:
[2012 note: We now take care of all of them. Some of them still have good plants in them that were planted by the diligent volunteers of yesteryear.]