PRATT — They are not the only flowers visible along Pratt’s busy First Street (also known as US-54/400 highways), but as a group, the vivid display at 414 East First causes many to look more than once.
The wide variety of colorful blooms belongs to Casey Chambers, a longtime former custodian at Pratt’s Unified School District 382.
When he was a boy growing up in rural Cairo east of Pratt, Casey Chambers joined his siblings and parents in tending the large vegetable garden that helped provide income for the family. His love of growing things continued throughout his life, and now, for the past five years, Chambers has focused his horticultural attention on flowers.
Chambers’ south-facing front-yard garden teems with a host of plants from towering red cannas with spikey-looking red blooms to tiny baby‘s breath. The combinations of colors and sizes regularly catch the attention of passersby.
“Almost everybody looks at it,” Chambers said of his living floral display.
Chambers said he switched from vegetables to flowers when he moved into the home half a decade ago because he wanted something pretty to look at in the front yard.
“I’m still learning this flower business,” the 63-year-old gardener said. “I’ve had lots of failures, along with successes.”
Retired from a 29-year custodial career with USD 382, Chambers used his extra hours to plan and grow his front yard flower garden, adding spots of color in the side yards as well.
“I’ve got a lot of roses. They’re all hybrid, meaning they have very little scent so they don’t attract pollinators and they’re not always true to color,” Chambers said.
He also likes sunflowers, which seem to have been contributed to the array by nature.
“The sunflowers just came up and they spread,” Chambers said.
Not so with other varieties.
Chambers estimated that he spends at least $800 a year to make his flower garden grow. He buys from area nurseries and other retailers selling plants and also online.
“This year I spent about $100 on seeds that either didn’t come up or didn’t bloom. That was really disappointing,” Chambers said.
The avid gardener doesn’t let that disappointment overshadow the glories of the flowers that do bloom, from snapdragons to zinnias, vinca and petunias, plus paintbrushes, marigolds, cone flowers, crepe myrtles and hydrangeas, and others already mentioned.
One of his secrets to keeping his flowers blooming throughout the season, Chambers said, is treating the soil with Miracle Grow. Another is to deadhead the plants, which he does by snapping off blossoms.
“They’ll grow back in a week and keep a yard colorful,” Chambers said.
Another tip concerns watering.
“Flowers love rain,” the gardener said Friday morning as he checked his range gauge. “Overnight we got three-tenths of an inch.”
Between rains, Chambers said he rises at 4 a.m. to water his flowers.
To keep his brick walkway looking picture perfect, Chambers said he relies on a power weed-eater.
Chambers, who was named after New York Yankee’s legendary right-fielder Casey Stengel, said he plans to keep his garden growing for as long as his grandchildren continue to make frequent visits to see it and him.
“I have four beautiful granddaughters and they all love flowers,” Chambers said. "I do it for them."