By Hannah Lester
Would the loveliest village on the plains be complete without downtown Auburn’s hanging baskets of flowers?
Colleen Jennings is the individual responsible for keeping those flowers looking their best.
Jennings is a member of the Auburn Beautification Council and has been employed to care for Auburn’s flowers for 15 years.
Auburn has 35 baskets around town, hanging from lampposts. Twice a year, Jennings designs these baskets of flowers with seasonal plants.
“What I do, in addition to that, is keep them alive year round,” she said. “And that involves, in the summer time from like June through when we pull them out in October, it becomes a daily maintenance, you know, seven days a week.”
Picking flowers that will stay alive for their respective season is important. In the winter, Jennings plants pansies and violas.
“In the summer time are the really fun plants, that’s when the design gets to come in if you will,” she said. “And I just use a variety of plants. I like to use lots of color, texture, heights — but mostly color. I like to put everything that I can in there … I do a lot of pinks, reds and purples. That’s where, when I say design, I just choose a lot of variety of plants in the summertime. mandevillas, plumbago, vinca, angelonia, joseph’s coat, cascading vinca.”
Jennings’ favorites are mandevilla and angelonia, so take a closer look around town and you’re sure to find those in the 35 baskets.
“It is a labor of love and I really do enjoy what I do,” she said. “I get to be outside, I get to create things that people really, honestly enjoy. I have people stop and tell me quite frequently that they really enjoy the baskets.”
Auburn residents aren’t the only ones to enjoy the baskets, Jennings said that guests have given her praise on the flowers, too.
Jennings was one of six lamplighter award winners the Auburn Mayor Ron Anders named during his state of the city address in November.
“How much time does it take to make a city beautiful,” Anders said. “The effort to keep Auburn beautiful is ongoing … One of my favorite aspects about downtown are its beautiful hanging baskets. Always blooming. Always communicating that Auburn is a unique village.
“… Her attitude can be summed up in this quote, ‘I do occasionally have a lizard leap out of the baskets. When one lands on me, I’ll be screaming, other than that, it’s a day in the sunshine.’”
Jennings said that while the job can be hard at times, or tedious, she loves the work.
“It’s very heartwarming to have a student come up to me and tell me, ‘these baskets are my favorite thing about Auburn.’”
This is the fourth in a series that will highlight the work these lamplighter award winners have done for the city of Auburn.