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Sunny side of the street

Cheryl Jenkin (left) and Marge Lewis plant and label "Pride of Red Wing" baskets at Sargent's Nursery on March 26, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 7
Baskets at Sargent's hang ready to be moved to downtown Red Wing a week before Memorial Day. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 7
Flower baskets, grown by Hallstrom Florist and Sargent's Nursery, are hung in downtown Red Wing before dawn Wednesday, May 23, 2018, to help avoid traffic. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 7
Laurie Anderson holds a freshly planted basket of flowers on March 26, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 7
The flower plugs are planted and kept comfortable in a greenhouse at Sargent's, watered and fertilized through a spike. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 7
General Manager David Lewis is carrying his family's 90-year business into the future. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 7
A team of city staff, Sargent's staff and Noontime Kiwanis volunteers move the flowers from a greenhouse to the truck bed for delivery to downtown Red Wing. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 7

How does a weather-based business recover after the coldest April on record? With a good attitude.

Before the snow melted and warm weather broke, Sargent's Nursery general manager David Lewis said that sales had slowed and landscaping services were halted. Orders of trees and shrubs were put on hold until the danger of frost had past. People were coming in just to look at the plants and dream about having dirt under their nails.

For anyone else, being behind by five weeks would cast a long shadow, but for Lewis, it was just another opportunity to look on the bright side.

After being in business for 90 years, Sargent's is in it for the long haul, come rain or shine (or snow). And just as Lewis predicted, once the weather improved, business ramped up and many employee hours were needed to catch up on outdoor projects. He cautions they may not catch up fully on lost business due to snow, but today, the flowers are blooming, wind rustles in the leaves and his staff is as busy as ever. It's never really a bad time to be in the gardening business, when you consider all that.

'Pride of Red Wing'

While springing back into form, one thing both Sargent's and Hallstrom Florist & Greenhouse know is that they can count on selling 140 hanging baskets, apiece, for the Noontime Kiwanis hanging basket donation to the city of Red Wing.

The program is fully funded by Noontime Kiwanis, which covers costs of more than $26,000 each year. The money comes from donations, which can be sent to Red Wing Kiwanis Foundation, Box 271, Red Wing, MN 55066.

The plants are grown in greenhouses at Sargent's and Hallstrom for 10 weeks and transferred by staff and volunteers to large specialized truck beds for delivery to downtown. City staff hang baskets from 4-8 a.m., trying to avoid the traffic, to get these beautiful baskets, which help define the city, up by Memorial Day. Public Works also maintains the baskets and, just before they start to brown and discolor in September, they bring the baskets back down.

Last year, Red Wing installed new light posts and this year you can see an array of petunias, ivy geraniums and superbells dangling from those posts. The colors are decided each year by a group of representatives from Hallstrom, Sargent's, the city and Kiwanis. This year the colors are red, pink, violet and yellow.

Lewis said the original idea came from Phil Revoir who was inspired by a similar display in Victoria, British Columbia. He brought the idea to Sargent's and asked if they could recreate it. Bob Lewis, Dave's father, said, "Of course: and Bob designed the first basket.

Now, with the "Pride of Red Wing" baskets hanging in full bloom, it's hard to remember that the last snow is just six weeks behind us. Might be a good time to check out a local greenhouse to see what's "growing" on.