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Hanging baskets spilling with deep pink and purple petunias, large sidewalk pots filled with a Crayon box of plant colors and — what's this? — more plants rising from the sidewalks themselves, positioned in so-called "tree pits."

Once again, the Downtown Davenport Partnership has prettied up the city with 700 hanging baskets, 150 sidewalk containers and 30 plantings around trees. Money to pay for the project comes from what's called the SSMID, a self-supporting municipal improvement district, Tony Behncke, the partnership's manager of operations, said.

The goal is to make the downtown more beautiful and welcoming. The plantings also show that someone cares.

Flowers provide the same qualities in a home setting, which is why a look at what was planted in the city — in an area roughly from 5th Street south to East and West River Drive and from the Talbot (Centennial) Bridge east to the Quad-City Times — can provide good tips.

Meyer Landscape & Design, Moline, received the bid to design and supply the plants, which were grown by Hilltop Greenhouse, Illinois City.

The hanging baskets contain two colors of Easy Wave petunias, "Neon Rose" and "Violet." Last year's baskets also included a lavender with a purple veining, but that was dropped this year as not sufficiently showy. Nothing like something called "neon" to stand out.

In the sidewalk pots, where the design follows the "thriller, filler and spiller" format — that is, something tall, many things to fill in and something to spill over the edge — Meyer switched out last year's tall millet with two kinds of purple fountain grass.

One of these grasses is the standard annual, while the other is a variation called "Prince" that has a much wider blade, Maria McCalley, owner of Hilltop, said. This plant's botanical name is pennisetum purpuream.

A third tall plant in the sidewalk pots is papyrus, "Prince Tut" and "King Tut," the same as last year.

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For the spiller, the pots are planted with bright green sweet potato vine. This year's choice is "Solar Power Lime," which has finer-cut leaves than many varieties, McCalley said.

Filler plants, in the sidewalk pots and tree pits, include coleus, blue salvia, lantana (pink-and-yellow blooms), sun impatiens, petunias and verbena. There also is alteranthera, a foliage plant known for its purple and purple-and-green variegation, and juncus, a type of grass.

All flowers self-deaddhead — that is, fall off by themselves after blooming and do not require a gardener to come by and do that task by hand. That reduces maintenance and is one of the requirements Meyer's sets in choosing materials.

Another requirement is that the selections do well in this area.

All the plants are annuals, which means they bloom, or are showy, all season long, but need to be replanted every year.

The baskets are lined with a brown moisture mat that McCalley likens to a diaper to help retain moisture. Inside the liner, she uses a soilless mix.

Once the plants are installed, a crew hired by the partnership takes over with daily watering (except Sundays) and fertilizing on every Wednesday, Behncke said.

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