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‘Sometimes it’s just nice to have some pretty flowers to look at’

MORGANTOWN — Thank Grandma.

That is, if you ever find yourself admiring one of the 50 or so brightly colored flower baskets or planters downtown, and wonder who’s responsible.

Specifically, thank Marchetta Maupin’s grandma.

“When I was really young she gave me a pack of zinnia seeds. They were very poor. They had a piece of gutter left over and my grandpa put it on legs, like a pedestal. They filled it with soil and gave me some zinnia seeds,” Maupin said. “They did really well. It just always stuck with me that I made those first zinnias grow. They’re still a favorite flower to this day.”

She’s had a bit of a green thumb ever since.

Maupin, Morgantown’s urban landscape director, has been brightening up the city’s downtown since 1998 – as a volunteer at first. In 2002, the city put her on the payroll.

These days, Maupin, and/or a member of her small team, are out every morning by 7 a.m., 350-gallon water tank in tow.

While she’s had to forego the zinnias on High Street, there are plenty of million bells, petunias, sweet potato vines, euphorbias, dichondra and bacopas dotted in and around the city’s downtown to make up for it.

“It’s a pretty hot environment downtown, so it has to be things that can survive in that with our watering schedule,” she said. “I try to have a lot of variety of color, and bright color. I try to have a mix of things that trail and things that stand up in the baskets. I try to have complexity in each basket so that each one is a little different, and has different textures and colors in it, basically.”

The varieties chosen also have to be hearty enough to stand up to the pollution that comes with downtown traffic.

“Amazingly, and I don’t know if It’s because we take such good care of them, but they typically hold up pretty well. Of course there was a bit of a learning curve. Those first years there were some failures, but we figured it out,” Maupin said. “They do get pretty dirty, but we really do look after them. I guess they’re living on love … and water and fertilizer.”

While the baskets downtown aren’t Maupin and company’s only responsibility – they’re also charged with the care of the city’s trees and landscaped areas as well – they’re easily the most noticeable, and the most appreciated.

“I love the baskets. I love them. There’s a lot of aspects to the job other than that, but the baskets are the thing that people can really see and appreciate,” Maupin said. “Sometimes you’ve got to focus on the nice things with everything that’s going on in the world. Sometimes it’s just nice to have some pretty flowers to look at.”

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