The Sunflower 150 Project has been a blooming success as folks are noticing as they walk and drive around Johnson City. It’s hard to miss the beautiful sunflowers and other pollinator flowers beautifying parks, the library, schools, churches, homes and greenways. Spearheaded by What’s the Buzz in conjunction with Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock and Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola, “The sunflower 150 project has brought excitement, beauty and a fun way to celebrate the City’s Sesquicentennial” Brock said.
She added, “From a functional standpoint, it increased the number of pollinator gardens through the City and has been a catalyst for us to plan a bigger strategy to celebrate the City’s Sesquicentennial.”
Pindzola said the City assisted Dr. Judith Hammond of What’s the Buzz and Catherine Murray in locating and planting 17 sunflower sites in Johnson City. The City also assisted with the markers designating the sites as part of the “What’s the Buzz” campaign.
”Johnson City has through recent years expanded its efforts to beautify our city, so this project was part of that overall effort. The City Commission has as well expressed its desire to see more beautification efforts, ranging from right-of-way enhancements to quality of new construction. Based on public input, we are confident these efforts have contributed to locations of new businesses,” Pindzola said. He added that
The Commission is committed to city services focused on environmental stewardship.
“These type programs have received significant support in the community. Therefore, it is highly likely that over the next several years the City will expand this program and initiate other new environmental programs,” he said.
Brock agreed that the city is increasing efforts toward environmental protections combined with beautification. “The sunflower project was a BIG hit. I received so many comment from citizens who enjoyed the beauty of the sunflowers. One citizen told me she was sitting at a traffic light next to one of the gardens and she just sat there smiling. If the sunflowers made our City smile and provided a rich habitat for butterflies and bees— then it was worth it. We hope for more next year,” Brock said.
“The city did a terrific job and we are really grateful that we have some city leaders who ‘get it,’ that this kind of project provides a huge bang for the buck… pollinators and beautification! Now a precedent has been set. If you appreciate these lovely pollinator beds, please email Mayor Brock and let her know that you would like to see them again next year,” Hammond said.
The collaboration between What’s the Buzz, the City of Johnson City and local businesses, churches and organizations is something Hammond hopes will become an annual tradition. As Johnson City’s resident “Bee Lady” Hammond has been instrumental in encouraging pollinator protections and habitat. In 2017 she introduced an initiative for zoning change to allow beekeeping within city limits. “In 2017 and 2018, it’s estimated that between 70% and 90% of registered hives in Tennessee did not survive the winter,” Hammond said. “As a result, the mission of What’s the Buzz has evolved into planting pollinator supporting gardens in pubic places.”
New garden projects in recent years have brought together the ETSU Department of Art and Graphic Design, the ETSU Office of Sustainability and Johnson City Public Library to increase the availability of pollinator forage. The Library garden was expanded this spring to include native plant landscaping and a pollinator sculpture created by ETSU Professor Emeritus Dr. Catherine Murray. A Children’s Pollinator Garden has received funding from What’s the Buzz, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Hands on Museum at the Gray Fossil site. The planned outdoor classroom at Jacob’s Nature Park will also be planted with additional pollinator friendly native plant landscaping.
Hammond said the sunflower symbolizes the growth and continuity of Johnson City for the past 150 years. “Planting sunflowers together brings a unity to our city as businesses, local government, the university, communities of faith and non-profit organizations work together to improve our agricultural environment and beautify our city at the same time.. There will be many visitors to Johnson City for sesquicentennial events, and what better way to dress up our beautiful city.”
Brock, Pindzola and Hammond all pointed out how many people are posting sunflowers on social media. “It’s already having a very positive impact in Johnson City,” Hammond said.