Beautify Pullman began as a small group of motivated people brainstorming ways to give Pullman a much needed makeover at the corner of 56th and 109th. Luck brought Beautify Pullman and me together one day in 2018 when I stopped in at Pullman for a pizza. I was asked if I was interested in creating a landscape design, and that was the beginning of a three-year creative collaboration.
My name is Christopher Hart and I am a landscape designer and MSU alumni in horticulture. I am currently the Head Horticulturalist and Landscape Supervisor at Inisfree Farm in Pullman, which dates back to 1893. I am working to restore native Michigan plant species to the historic property. I also work with the Allegan Conservation District.
The prominent southeast corner of 56th street & 109th avenue where the Frontier building is located was my first design. A new, expanded walkway was designed to create a small patio as a gathering place for community events. A formal design was chosen here using straight lines of shrubs and perennials, symbolic of a train track. Pullman was an important train stop for local industry in its earlier days, and incorporating the history of Pullman in the designs was requested by the Beautify Pullman group. Lack of irrigation at this corner was the major factor in plant selection. Therefore, drought tolerant species were chosen. Ornamental onion, blue fescue grass, and Lavender require no irrigation. They are planted formally but they have enough wild appeal that they will still give a country feel. Creating a low-maintenance area was important to the design also. The perennials need one quick fall clean-up and that is all. The shrubs chosen are not tall enough to hinder visibility of traffic, and need little, if any, pruning. The red/purple leaves on the Ginger Wine Ninebark ground the area with their rich color. Shrubs can be used as an excellent lighting scaffold for winter decorating. Small stone was chosen as the base for the planting because it is permanent. A bench, trash receptacle, and a large concrete planter embossed with the words “Welcome to Pullman” will complete the landscape.
The next space designed was the original gas station building across the intersection, which is now a small history museum. The goal was to make the space feel more welcoming. The guard rail will be partially or completely removed to allow easier access for pedestrians. The same factors for plant selection at the Frontier property were applied here. Some of the same species are in this design as well to create cohesiveness. A small paver walkway is planned. Hot pink, fragrant butterfly bush will add sweet scent along with Lavender. A small ornamental dogwood tree will bring spring flowers, purple summer fruit, and red fall color. Whimsical, yellow/green hostas, with corkscrew leaves, enhance the dogwood. Again, there are some formal elements to this design but the plants are bouncy and have wild characteristics. The shrubs and trees can be used for holiday decorating in this location as well.
Lastly, a landscape design for the Pullman Post Office was conceived. It is a very simple design with hedges on the north and south side of the building. On the south side, Fothergilla offers fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers in spring before leaves emerge, followed by orange/red/purple fall color. As a groundcover beneath, Sweet Alyssum gives white, pink, and purple color all season. It is a sweetly fragrant plant to enjoy for pedestrians as they walk by. On the north side of the building, Oakleaf Hydrangea was selected for summer blooms after Fothergilla has stopped flowering. The large cone-shaped flowers open white and transform into dark pink by late summer. They can remain dried and brown all winter for interest. Burgundy leaves in autumn really shine on this species. The hedges will make excellent additional lighting to the large Spruce nearby during the holiday season.
Altogether, these designs work in unison to provide a new feel to Pullman while maintaining a rural aesthetic. If all the shrubs were decorated for winter, downtown Pullman would glow. Planters have been chosen to line 109th where there is no greenspace. This is only the beginning for this group’s intentions. The empty lot across from Frontier is a blank palette at this time. What would you like to see there? A sidewalk? Some modern businesses? A park? With your help, it can be anything!
More information on these designs and plants can be found at www.beautifypullman.org/projects.