Recycled holiday planters go up around downtown Milford

David Pickerell, a member of Downtown Milford Inc.’s Design Committee, who has taken the lead on putting up holiday planters in recent years, works with Doreen Bender to create a basket on South Walnut Street on Sunday. (Delaware State News/Noah Zucker)

MILFORD — Volunteers from across the city gathered on Walnut Street on Sunday morning to help beautify downtown for the holiday season.

A few dozen citizens were joined by members of the Parks & Recreation Department in filling planters placed around the Downtown Development District with recycled greenery gathered from local yards.

South Walnut Street’s Nancy’s Café provided those who gathered with coffee and pastries.

“I think we had 20 people sign up,” said David Pickerell, the member of Downtown Milford Inc.’s Design Committee, who has coordinated the planter-filling event for four years. “We’ll usually get through the project in less than two hours.”

He said the group is able to work quickly because “most of them are repeat artists.”

This year, Mr. Pickerell said the group was responsible for filling 42 round planters affixed to light posts around town, as well as numerous planters attached to the railings of some of Milford’s bridges and a few other locations.

“There’s some ground installations along the railings and things,” he said.
Milford’s Parks & Rec plays a big role in making the event happen every year.

“The greens are all donated from local residents,” Mr. Pickerell said. “Parks & Recreation helps us tremendously by accumulating them and delivering them to different spots.”

Ralph Skinner Jr., Milford’s parks superintendent, said he and his crew had been working all week to get Walnut Street ready.

“We prepped these poles throughout the week prior to putting the greenery in the planters,” Mr. Skinner said. “We gave up our time and came in to make sure we’re beautifying the city for Christmas as best as possible.”

Parks & Recreation begins the process when they “pull out the flowers that we plant in the springtime,” Mr. Skinner said.

“Then, we use this Aquafoam that we put down in the hanging basket, just to make it easier to protrude the greenery,” he said. “Then, it’s also easier when we clean up for the season. It’s just taken out of the basket and thrown away.”

Mr. Skinner said the greenery will stay in place through most of the winter.

“The greenery will come down about halfway through February, more or less, depending on the weather. If not, the first, second week of March,” he said. “My guys just come in as a unit and take them all down.”

But the planters aren’t empty for the rest of the year.

“They’re filled with spring flowers in the spring,” Mr. Pickerell said.

On Sunday, Mr. Skinner said he and his crew were there primarily to assist the volunteers.

“We’re more here just to guide and point people in the right direction and to make sure things are safe and the job is getting completed,” he said.

Art Alvarez, left, and John Jefferson, both of Milford’s Parks & Recreation Department, work with Milford Garden Club member Gloria Markowitz, on the ladder, to put together a basket. (Delaware State News/Noah Zucker)

Mr. Pickerell said DMI has been filling the planters every November for about a decade now.

“It’s a beautification process for downtown Milford, and it helps support and entertain the visitors,” Mr. Pickerell said.

Before the baskets, Milford native Kinde Baker said that Christmas lights were the main holiday spectacle on Walnut Street.

“They used to just string the lights up across the street, and I would make my mom drive down the street and show me it every night,” she said.

Ms. Baker said the baskets “definitely make it a lot prettier. I wish they had done this when I was little.”

Marcia Reed, Mr. Pickerell’s wife, who owns Gallery 37 on South Walnut Street, said there is a technique to setting up an attractive planter.

She said it’s important to have “a good mix of different kinds of greens. Kind of a contrast between the big leaves and the smaller ones. Red berries are always nice.”

Both Mr. Pickerell and Mr. Skinner described the event as a fun, easy way for locals to give back to the Milford community and get to know each other better.

“I’ve been doing this for seven years now, and every year, it gets easier and easier,” Mr. Skinner said.

Reach staff writer Noah Zucker at