When spring temperatures begin to rise, the City of Grand Junction Parks & Recreation Department’s Horticulture Division sees the fruit of their labor bloom. Each year the City makes a concerted effort to increase the number of flowers and other plants grown in the City’s greenhouse. In 2022, the horticulture team grew around 10,000 flowers and plants, which adorned City parks and Downtown Main Street. This year they are aiming much higher.
Tim Wilkerson and the horticulture team work year-round to bring color to the community with vivid displays of vibrant flowers. “So far, the City plans to grow an astonishing 5,769 plants from purchased liners, 36,133 plants from seed and 3,500 plants from cuttings,” Wilkerson said. “We are shooting to grow 45,402 plants for installation in 2023,” he said. “This number does not include the several thousand shrubs we purchase each year.” This season, they’ve already planted 4,000 pansies at City Hall and around Grand Junction.
In early spring, Wilkerson and his colleagues spend time in the greenhouse seeding and growing over 40,000 annuals and perennials. In addition to that, they also begin preparing the garden beds for planting.
Once the plants are ready, they begin by planting the perennial flowers throughout the City. In recent years, the horticulture department has been working to transition to native perennials that require less water, like yarrow, spirea and euphorbia. After the perennials are planted, they begin planting annual flowers, which only last a single season, like petunias, zinnias, impatiens and vincas.
In the fall, the team is busy cleaning up leaves, gutters, and garden beds. They also start clipping cuttings from plants to root for the following season, which provides significant savings. In October 2022, Wilkerson and his colleagues planted 10,000 flower bulbs, which is evidenced by the multi-colored tulips, hyacinths and daffodils that have sprung up to signal the new season. They also begin helping the Forestry Division hang Christmas lights in October.
During the winter season, the team shovels the sidewalks in City parks and Downtown. Guests and residents can walk freely throughout Grand Junction without having to trudge through snow and ice.
As one of four horticulturists that work for the City of Grand Junction, Wilkerson is an expert when it comes to managing the City’s plentiful garden beds. The Grand Junction Parks & Recreation Department’s Horticulture Division manages 36 developed parks, over 900 acres of open space, 21 miles of trails and hundreds of acres of landscape beds – all bursting with colorful flowers and shrubs.
Wilkerson started as a seasonal worker in the department in 1999. Now, nearly 25 years later, getting his hands dirty and providing beauty to the city is what has kept him in his position for so long. “I really love what I do,” he said. “We beautify the landscapes around town and people just love all the flowers. That’s what has kept me here for so long.” Having been born and raised in Grand Junction, Wilkerson takes great pride in keeping his home City looking its very best. “People often walk by and say, ‘Wow, you must love your job. You get to be outside enjoying the sunshine.’ And they are absolutely right.”
Photo: Susan Justice
Wilkerson spends much of his time in the City’s historic Downtown. The charm of the tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly area is magnified by the well-kept, colorful raised landscape beds that Wilkerson works hard to maintain. In addition to working with plants, Wilkerson is also an equipment operator and handles all the electrical needs for the popular Downtown Market on Main, the Parade of Lights and other events.
Currently, the department is hiring seasonal horticulture positions, which Wilkerson said come with plenty of perks. “What sells what we do is that we’re outdoors and rarely inside,” Wilkerson said. “To me, that’s a huge selling point. Plus, there’s a lot of variety in what we do and the value to the community is huge.”
To learn more about a seasonal horticulture position with the City of Grand Junction, visit this link. Find out what it’s like to work for the City by checking out what other employees have shared and learn about other open positions by visiting the City of Grand Junction job board.