Keri Iverson Keeps The Bright Promise Of Summer Flowers
By: Barb Boyer Buck
Although the parks and outdoor planters of Estes Park are empty this time of year, the planning and preparation for the annual summer flowers lasts year-round. Keri Iverson, the Parks Department employee who is responsible for the Town of Estes Park’s spectacular botanic displays, is busy planning for the warmer months to come.
The showy, bright colors of new seed catalogs fill her desk top, a marked contrast to the drab and windy environment outside. Keri is carefully taking into account what has worked well in the past – and what interesting flowers and plants will make their debut this summer.
“New for the coming season are millet grass – to be added to Elk Island – tidal wave petunias and several varieties of dianthus,” she explains. Along with the proven varieties that always do well such as petunias, cosmos, snap dragons, and marigolds, Keri likes to try something new every year, drawing on her ever-increasing knowledge as she continues her education in horticulture.
Keri graduated from Poudre High School in Fort Collins in 2003 and began working as a Parks Department seasonal employee that summer. In the fall of 2005, she joined the staff as a full-time member and has been planning flower beds ever since. She is currently in her second year of schooling at Front Range Community College in Westminster, studying horticulture and landscape technologies – usually via night classes that work around her busy professional schedule.
“Right now I’m working very closely with my grower.” Keri’s schedule in the winter months includes picking the flowers she wants to use and working with Tom Acton, of Duran Hobby Acres in Longmont – the grower who is carefully nurturing the plants for Estes Park’s upcoming summer season. The Parks Department greenhouse can hold 300-400 flat of flowers; however, close to 1,000 flats containing approximately 18-36 plants per flat, are used to populate the outdoor environs of the Town of Estes Park each season.
Part of Keri’s job is to carefully schedule with Acton when the flats arrive at the local greenhouse so her summer crew can get them planted before the next batch arrives. “The first order will come in at the end of May,” she said, “and we’ll get a delivery about once a week for the next three weeks.”
Keri and her seasonal crew of approximately 10 temporary employees work about 10 hours a day, five days a week to accomplish this – in all types of weather. “The hardier varieties go in first” – which helps guard against late snow storms. “Also, the plants we get are larger to make up for the shorter growing season.”
The summer Parks crew continues on this heavy work pace throughout the summer months and into the fall – continually deadheading the flowering plants, fertilizing with a bloom-builder, weeding, cleaning out the mulch beds — and applying Liquid Fence.
Admittedly, this is Keri’s least favorite part of the job. Liquid Fence – an entirely organic-based mixture of the most foul-smelling substances — must be applied to the flower beds at least once a week to keep the elk from feasting on them. The smell is evident the entire day, until it completely dries, and several calls are received at the offices of Public Works during this time wondering if “something died in the flower beds.”
Perennials are also planted, mostly in the public parks – these start arriving in mid-May. Last summer, Keri and her crew planted several varieties of perennials at the Convention and Visitors Bureau on Highway 34. Additional perennials, along with trees and other flowering annuals will go in around the newly renovated downtown intersection and parking lot near Dairy Queen this season.
In the fall, Keri keeps busy with her rapidly decreasing number of seasonal workers to cut back the perennials, rip out the annuals and amend the soil with compost. As soon this work is complete, Keri dives right into planning for the following spring.
Keri also serves on the snow-plow crew this time of year and is continually on call.
Despite her myriad of duties and responsibilities, Keri’s bright smile reflects the joy she receives from her work, the satisfaction she gets every summer when she sees thousands of visitors and residents admire and appreciate the beautiful displays. Her sunny attitude reminds us all that summer is just around the corner, and brilliant, colorful days are on their way.