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The thrill, fill, and spill of perfecting Missoula's downtown flower baskets

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Posted at 9:50 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 10:23:57-04

MISSOULA — If you found yourself in downtown Missoula on Tuesday, you may have noticed something new lining the streets. From Hellgate High School all the way to the Xs, 110 flower baskets have been hung on the sidewalks.

It almost seems like they’ve appeared overnight, but rest assured, this process is nearly a year in the making, and it’s been that way for 40 years. In total, 110 baskets are planned and planted each year, and every basket requires two to five gallons of water each day.

“It’s a big operation,” affirmed Shane Clouse, basket organizer and owner of Pink Grizzly.

These baskets are more than just petunias and potato vines -- they’re a labor of love.

MDA Flowers

“In July of 2020, I ordered all of these different plants that we would need for this year, those plants start to ship the end of February, in the beginning of March, and we start to try to get them all planted by the end of March so that they're ready by the second week of May, but not overly grown.”

For almost 20 years, Pink Grizzly has brought the blooming baskets to Missoula’s downtown district, sprucing up the sidewalks each spring. As a member of the Missoula Downtown Association, this is a responsibility Clouse takes very seriously, and one he’s practically mastered.

“Over the years, we've learned what works well in the basket, what works well downtown...downtown is a lot of asphalt, a lot of concrete, a lot of brick buildings, so it's hotter downtown,” said Clouse. “We’ve found some things that work really well in that environment and will look good from the day we put them up till the day they take him down sometime in October.”

The rule of green thumb? You have to use what Clouse calls the trifecta.

“You have to have the thrill, the fill, and the spill,” said Clouse. “The thrill is your color, your brightly colored things. The fill is all the green stuff, and then the spill are these Petunia plants that are going to hang over the edge.”

MDA Flowers

It’s a task that’s taken nearly 20 years for Pink Grizzly to perfect -- from learning what kind of flower to plant when to plant, and how to keep them growing. Even with this science mastered -- the fate of the baskets is ultimately up to one lady.

“We’re totally restricted to what Mother Nature will allow us to do," said Clouse.

Once those baskets are up downtown, it's summer making an entrance. “Out to Lunch is going to be starting soon and we're gonna have events at Caras Park, and that's kind of fun to be part of that tradition.”

The Missoula Downtown Association has a special team that spent all day on Tuesday hanging up the baskets.

If you want to replicate the look at your own home, Pink Grizzly sells their downtown-style baskets at their greenhouse in Missoula.