SHARING A VISION: Brooking offers insight into wildflower beautification efforts

Published 7:19 am Saturday, November 6, 2021

NATCHEZ — Walking along the concrete erosion guards on the bluff, St. Francisville mayor Bobee Leake intently listened to Natchezian Greg Brooking. The golf course superintendent , who has a degree in botany, explained his process for planting hundreds of wildflowers on the bluffs along Silver Street Tuesday morning.

Leake, who took office Jan. 1, has been working on several beautification projects in his town. 

He said they have hung large flower baskets which everyone loves, including the deer who eat from them. His next project is to spruce up the median on a section of U.S. 61, which runs through the town. 

“One of our biggest draws is tourism in St. Francisville,” Leake said. “I’m all about beautifying the town. When I saw this I said I have to talk to the guy in charge. When you beautify something it is amazing the amount of businesses that benefit from it.”

Hydie Wahlborg, a former St. Francisville resident and current Natchez resident, shared a post on Facebook thanking Brooking for his work. He said he had known the flowers were there for a while but never knew who was responsible for making them happen. 

Wahlborg gave him Brooking’s number and he called him. Their phone call lasted for an hour, he said. They set up a meeting for Tuesday morning to discuss the process for managing a garden area. 

Depending on the season, Brooking will target certain weeds. Summer annuals in the late fall are not much of a threat to flowers because they will die with the next frost. However, winter annuals such as Bur Clover, Chickweed and Henbit he has to attack so they do not take over wildflowers. 

Along one section of the bluff he sprayed the vegetation to get bare dirt before planting seeds. Those seeds are paid for out of his own pocket and planted in his own time. Natchez director of public works Justin Dollar helps Brooking out too. 

“Past directors used to mow down my flowers or spray them before they ever bloomed,” Brooking said. “He works with me on when he mows so the flowers can bloom and come to seed before he mows. I’m about to have these mowed so I can plant new flowers.” 

The mowing clears away flowers, which are already dying, and makes room for new wildflowers to bloom. He has to continuously fight a battle with the weeds and the vines in Natchez. 

Leake said his biggest takeaway from their visit was not how to keep weeds out or when to best plant wildflowers.

“I learned how much passion Greg has for this,” Leake said. “My mind is spinning with all the information he has given me. I don’t know how my mind is going to use his knowledge. I learned the other day who was responsible for the flowers in Natchez. Seeing it in person cemented what I thought. I learned I may have a new best friend too.”