Once again, my travels took me back to my hometown where I am rather glacially performing a task of book-writing based around the myriad great accomplishments of my old high school coach and Kentucky schoolboy legend, Jack Hicks. But even though the task is slow, it is definitely taking shape as our interviews any more range delightfully into personal realms and to the fun stuff of specific games and favorites. I so look forward to spending time with Jack any more and his appreciation for the visits is reciprocated in spades.
Nearly every visit I make begins with a stop by the new riverfront park – Smothers Park – smack on the river in downtown Owensboro, a small city with an ego and a vision. My appreciation for the park grows as it matures and as its legend expands. Yet more stories circulated based around kids who don’t want to leave. Oh the tragedies! The humanity!! 😉
(click on pictures to enlarge)
The approaches from the street are universally thick with developing plantings, now reaching the second year stage which – for me at least – was always that stage where the eventual look of decades to come most reveals itself as the plants mature sufficiently to illustrate their eventual plumage and shapes. Certain definite judgments can be made at this time assessing the appropriatenss of the arrangements and selections surrounding hardscaped areas. With just a couple of exceptions, this park grades out spectacularly.
The red brick street and the contrasting color and structural elements of the tall thin grasses, replete with those gorgeous seed plumes, make for a contrast of planes and even motion, directing and protecting foot traffic most satisfactorily. The sandy colored wall blocks of the planters behind are soft and nearly unobtrusive, displaying more the colors they contain in the persons of gorgeous plants and their blooms.
Cool colors are also available with surprising alacrity as we cross the sidewalk/street threshold and walk deeper into the park.
The visual effort at cooling us off is pronounced and uniquely situated, even dappled with impossibly rangy blooms from the Variegated Hosta varieties which punctuate the view and influence the tenor with minimal effort. This is a really interesting area to me, taking such advantage of the desire to evade the heat in a typical very hot Summer of an average Owensboro year. Below, this testament is grossly enlarged upon as we visit the cool fountains, spritzing our kids and ourselves, most enjoyably. The fountains and water effects are literally everywhere.
I particularly enjoy the small fountain at the rear of the veteran’s area. Unobtrusive, it’s a complete surprise as we walk around the corner after regarding the well-achieved solemnity of the display which honors all vets from Owensboro – from every war, many of whom I am proud to say I also knew quite well.
I remember my first views of the park, from my initial visits which so fascinated this landscaper and landscape installer. I could watch that stuff for hours. And did! Naturally, I was quite pleased to see others doing the work instead of myself, in a burst of true honesty. I once laughed when someone asked me to describe a day at work and replied: “Oh, I guess I move around 10 tons of stuff a day from place to place.” 😉
Back to modern life………..
I have always relished a certain Midwestern quality to the Owensboro geography. Huge sunsets and sunrises merge with the sheer flatness of the land itself and its agricultural bounty as a grain-producing center. But a hot muggy and oh-so-lush Southern-style Summer climate and ambiance often overwhelm the senses as well. Great bourbon and beautiful women are commonly seen – at least by me!! And often! But then, of course, I actually look. It’s a curse.
Well, Smothers Park is a tribute to beauty. The expanses of gorgeous perennial blooms is rapidly becoming a signature element to this slice of gorgeousness.
I have long been a Black-Eyed Susan fan and it won’t be fading any time soon. I also have to say that the judicious use of modern hybrid grasses combines the softest edges structurally imaginable for these gorgeous beauties and produces a literal privacy for a Susan to do her work. In another 2 years, this area will be simply breathtaking.
I remember when I discovered the new landscaper passion for shrub Roses. Easy to grow, profoundly blossoming on a highly regular basis and – more importantly – integrating the most deep and fabulous reds, yellows and cream colors into hardy and low maintenance shrub beds, these plants are one of the true “coups” of landscaping and horticultural accomplishment. It has recently become possible to have roses almost wherever you want them. And to forget about them!!
I love the way the design on Smother Parks uses these shrub Roses so tastefully – as highlights and swatches of color above more routine surfaces, stressing not only elevation changes and material enclosures, but also their beauty in blooming.
There is just so much “Win!” in this gorgeous city block or two of life in Owensboro. Obviously, I consider it a rampant success, as my over-the-top praise often reveals. Yet, there is a reason for this. As someone who has constructed parks and playgrounds in the past, I have parlayed an excitement of owning an occasional child’s eye view of the world – my best trait – into converting that pleasure to the experience adults provide for a field of dreams. To my trained eye – deeply immersed in childishness!! – this is what a park is supposed to be.
I mean, this is bigger than me.