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Keep Hall Beautiful bringing budding life to the downtown square
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Carman Mathis, of Keep Hall Beautiful, adds new plants to planters in downtown Gainesville Thursday, Oct. 18, in recognition of National Planting Day. - photo by Scott Rogers

A budding program is helping to brighten downtown Gainesville.

Board members and volunteers with Keep Hall Beautiful, and even some code enforcement officers, hit the square in the morning chill of Oct. 18 to help make the downtown Gainesville square look a little livelier

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Gainesville Code Enforcement manager Sarah Wilson-Britt plants a large celosia plant into a planter in downtown Gainesville Thursday, Oct. 18, as she joins members of Keep Hall Beautiful adding new plants for the upcoming cooler months. - photo by Scott Rogers
“On Monday we came out and took out all the old stuff and put in some new dirt,” said Shanda Sexton, executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful. “And today we’re going to actually be planting the flowers.”

Keep Hall Beautiful hosted its first National Planting Day, an initiative put on by Keep America Beautiful, by bringing new life to the 36 planters around the square. Keep Hall Beautiful had to find a task to keep its affiliate status with the organization and Sexton decided to find the most beneficial project for visitors and those walking around the square.

Until being cleaned, the planters were filled dead or dying plants that had browned on the square.

“This is our first year doing it,” Sexton said. “I just love flowers and plants, so this is kind of one of those that hit home for me that I really wanted to do as a project.”

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Keep Hall Beautiful executive director Shanda Sexton prepares plants to be added to the downtown Gainesville planters around the square Thursday, Oct. 18. The new plants are more suited for the cooler weather happening as well as in recognition of National Planting Day. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sexton and program director Scott Broome got there at 7:15 a.m. to make sure everything was in order.

Broome distributed pansies to each planter around the square as other volunteers followed behind to break up the root ball and plant them in the dirt.

“I’ve been doing these things for eight or nine years,” Broome said. “But this is the first time Keep Hall Beautiful took the project on ourselves and took care of everything.”

For Anne Bishop, a board member with Keep Hall Beautiful, planting is in her DNA. She said her grandfather was a farmer, so her mother grew up learning all about planting, farming and growing. She passed that onto Bishop.

“I enjoy gardening and Keep Hall Beautiful has an excellent mission for our community, and it can’t complete that mission without help,” Bishop said. “So if I can volunteer an hour or so of my time to come up here and plant plants, that’s not a problem.”

She said she’s always noticed how nice the plants look downtown and was excited to be a part of bringing that beauty back to the square along other volunteers.

The planters were filled with dragon’s breath at the center and surrounded by pansies and snapdragons. The planters even have their own irrigation system, set to a timer, making sure they get enough water each week. Sexton said the city of Gainesville helped make sure everything was running properly once the planters were cleaned out.

Broome said he’s happy to see this happening and is excited it’s going to be a bi-annual event in the spring and fall.

“This is my hometown,” Broome said. “I grew up here. I love to see the square looking beautiful when I come up here … That’s kind of what it’s about to me; keeping my hometown looking beautiful.”

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Keep Hall Beautiful board member Anne Bishop adds new plants to downtown Gainesville planters Thursday, Oct. 18, along with other volunteers around the square. The project gets new plants more suited for the upcoming cooler months and also in recognition of National Planting Day. - photo by Scott Rogers
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