Opinion

French city sets example for a flowering MI Town Center

Jane Meyer Brahm
Island Forum

Take time to smell the flowers. We don’t mean to spend more time with your family and less time at work — although that’s a great idea. We want you to smell the flowers, literally.

They’ll be blooming soon in pots in front of shops and businesses around downtown Mercer Island — presuming that we’ll get some sunshine and warm weather soon.

Thirty pots have been planted by Island business owners as part of the “Color MI Beautiful” project co-sponsored by the Mercer Island Arts Council, the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce and the Mercer Island Sister City Association.

The pots were provided to the businesses by a grant from the Mercer Island Arts Council. The organization and logistics were provided by the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce. The dirt and delivery labor were provided by the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department and the inspiration was provided by Thonon les Bains, France, Mercer Island’s sister city.

Participating Island merchants chose the blossoms and planted the pots. Their creativity and ingenuity — not to mention the size and beauty of their flowers — will be rewarded when judges evaluate their work at Summer Celebration.

The judges are: Bill Rodgers from the Chamber of Commerce; Sue Sherwood from the Mercer Island Sister City Association; Kevin Curry from the Mercer Island Arts Council; Joel Wachs, community representative; and Mayor Jim Pearman.

Prizes will be offered in four categories: Edible Flowers and Herbs; Simply Sustainable; Beaucoup Bouquet; and Creative & Colorful. There will also be a “People’s Choice” award.

The idea of a community flower project blossomed as a result of the official delegation trip to Mercer Island’s sister city, Thonon les Bains, France, last August.

The 17 Islanders who went to Thonon enjoyed a wonderful trip — and they were all amazed by all the flowers in the town.

Everywhere you looked, there were dazzling floral displays: 15-foot cascades of petunias in the middle of a roundabout planted with numerous flowers; big floral plantings that spelled out “Thonon les Bains”; block after block of window boxes cascading with ivy-leafed geraniums. It is no wonder that Thonon les Bains is a “four-flower city” among the “Villes et Villages Fleuris de France.”

This national competition began in France in 1959 to encourage towns to enhance their parks, gardens, buildings and public spaces with flowers. Towns are rated from one flower to four flowers, with four being the highest. Today, more than 12,000 towns and cities in France participate. To be a four-flower city is a very big deal ­— the French take their food and their flowers seriously.

We hope it will continue and grow in years to come, to help foster pride in our downtown. We want to thank the people who have worked on the project — there are too many to name here, but they know who they are.

We encourage everyone to come downtown and check out the Color MI Beautiful pots. Don’t forget to thank the merchant or shopkeeper for adding some floral beauty to the community. And don’t forget to smell the flowers.

Jane Meyer-Brahm and Sue Sherwood are with the Sister City Association. Terry Moreman is the chair of the Island’s Chamber of Commerce and Helen Martin is a member of the Senior Commission.

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