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Margaret Wenzler is the gardening wizard behind the landscape at Central United Methodist. The church property borders Sixth Avenue, Jackson Street and Grant Street Southeast. An array of shrubs like azaleas and trees, including cypress, weeping cherry and crepe myrtles, are eye-catching.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Margaret Wenzler is the gardening wizard behind the landscape at Central United Methodist. The church property borders Sixth Avenue, Jackson Street and Grant Street Southeast. An array of shrubs like azaleas and trees, including cypress, weeping cherry and crepe myrtles, are eye-catching.

Cut unkind for downtown beauty
Morgan courthouse crepe myrtles in stark contrast to nearby churches’ landscapes

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

Butchered crepe myrtles and sparse grass blemish the islands in the overflow parking lot on the south side of the Morgan County Courthouse.

At nearby churches such as Central United Methodist, First Baptist and St. John’s Episcopal, the scenic landscaping paints a stark contrast.

Wayne Lindley, the county’s maintenance supervisor, accepts the blame for the “crepe murder” and said he will do his part to make the county’s landscaped turfs more attractive.

“We cut them back from the top, and I’m told that that’s not the proper way,” Lindley said of the crepe myrtles. “The city of Decatur has a class for gardening, and we plan to attend it next year. They’ve already done it this year.

“We’re all for keeping our grounds in good shape, and we are willing to learn how to do it the right way.”

He said the islands have bare spots and that’s because the irrigation system is partial.

“I plan to talk with the commission to see if we can get sprinkler systems to cover the entire areas,” Lindley said. “Then, we can plant more grass and put flowers there, too.”

District 1 Commissioner and Chairman Pro Tem Jeff Clark said he’ll do his share in beautifying the county property. Decatur is in his district.

“It would be good to put some kind of trees in those areas,” said Clark. “That way we wouldn’t have to put a bunch of flowers there that won’t live. I don’t have the answers, but I would be willing to look at anything that would be better than what we’ve got.”

He said funds are provided in the maintenance budget for landscaping.

“We cut them back from the top, and I’m told that that’s not the proper way,” said Wayne Lindley, the county’s maintenance supervisor, of the crepe myrtles on the south side of the Morgan County Courthouse. “The city of Decatur has a class for gardening, and we plan to attend it next year. They’ve already done it this year.”
“We cut them back from the top, and I’m told that that’s not the proper way,” said Wayne Lindley, the county’s maintenance supervisor, of the crepe myrtles on the south side of the Morgan County Courthouse. “The city of Decatur has a class for gardening, and we plan to attend it next year. They’ve already done it this year.”
“Maybe we could get Calhoun Community College to help us with design and layout for our landscaping,” Clark said. “We just want it to look nice and be done properly.”

If the county needs direction, it could turn to the churches in its neighborhood.

Margaret Wenzler is the gardening wizard behind the landscape at Central United Methodist. The church property borders Sixth Avenue, Jackson Street and Grant Street Southeast.

An array of shrubs like azaleas and trees including cypress, weeping cherry and crepe myrtles are eye-catching.

As a church member, Wenzler devotes time to overseeing landscape maintenance that a company provides, and she does seasonal planting and pruning of most of the trees.

“I do spring and fall seasonal annuals and the fertilizing,” Wenzler said.

She said seasonal planting averages about $500 each season.

A flower garden at St. John’s that faces Jackson Street is captivating. Jimmy Adams, a church member involved in maintenance of the grounds, said the garden is a creation of D.D. Martin of Courtland.

“She has it designed so that there is something pretty in that garden each month of the year,” said Adams. “Right now tulips are in bloom and when they go out something else will come up.”

Adams said that except for the flower garden, the landscape will be green.

“The courtyard is an all-green garden. We’re not using any color at all,” said Adams. “We’re in the middle of redoing it and will make it primarily green. We have the boxwoods from the Wheeler Plantation, Japanese maples and crepe myrtles. We’re getting ready to remove all the old, overgrown shrubbery and make it look like the church is coming from the ground, like an extension from the earth. What we’re trying to do is keep it green, soothing and restful.”

Jimmy Byrd, who is in charge of buildings and grounds at First Baptist, said volunteers are to credit for the landscape there.

He said the church members keep the grounds filled with seasonal plants and keep them groomed.

“We have a lot of church volunteers who help with pulling weeds and maintaining the flowers,” said Byrd. “We have like a work day on Saturday.”

The church has crepe myrtles, an assortment of flowers and other shrubs.

Linda Eubanks, Decatur’s landscaping/beautification coordinator, acknowledged the problem with crepe myrtles at the courthouse.

“Those crepe myrtles have been pruned back so many times they need to be replaced,” said Eubanks. “I’m not criticizing them. They have a nice area started over there with the big bed they have in front of the courthouse. It looks great. They are on the right track.

“They’ve got the islands to work with across from the court-house, and they could be really beautiful.”

Eubanks said she will have another class next year on pruning crepe myrtles, but in the meantime, “If they need our advice now, we certainly will work with them.

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