2700 pansies, 200 pussy willows, and an eye for arranging

Patrick Brannif estimated the village spends $20,000 annually on flowers

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By Tom Holmes

When Patrick Brannif started arranging the flowers for the Forest Park Department of Public Works, he experienced some growing pains. 

"What I planted was kind of a hodge podge. I would pick anything that was colorful and throw it together," he said, laughing. "It looked like a kaleidoscope." 

Twenty five years later, with the assistance of other employees of the Department of Public Works, Brannif's polished green thumb can now be seen by all of Forest Park. Along Madison Street, Brannif is responsible for arranging 28 sets of flowers, in alternating sizes of small and large ceramic pots. Each large pots holds 72 pansies; the smaller ones 54. And that's not counting the arrangement of 150 plants surrounding the fountain in Constitution Court, or the perennial beds that run through the middle of Roosevelt Road. Brannif estimated the village spends about $20,000 annually on flowers. 

"I've learned a lot over the years," Brannif said. "What you are getting in me is a regular public works worker with a little skill and love, and it turns out nice."

Brannif resists the title of horticulture expert, preferring instead the description of "jack of all trades." He added that he's learned a lot from McAdam Landscaping Professionals, the Forest Park-based firm the village buys all of its flowers from. He said McAdam will sometimes give him a recipe for an arrangement, or offer advice on which species bloom best during certain seasons. 

Although the majority of the flowers supplied to the U.S. are grown in Colombia, Rob McAdam said that most of the flowers his firm supplies come from growers in the Midwest. He said these vendors provide quality flowers with a good root structure, which means they require less maintenance than cheaper plants that often aren't as healthy. Some of the tropical plants used at times in the center of arrangements on Madison Street are also grown in Florida.

"People don't often realize the relationship they have with plants," McAdam said. "The colorful pansies now growing along Madison Street have a positive effect on people's attitudes and moods."

Brannif will soon change the plants, and will replace the pansies with plants that thrive during the dog days of summer. In the fall, he will plant flowers that can tolerate cooler weather, like pansies, or mums, or possibly kale, snapdragons, chard or berry plants. In November Brannif will lay evergreen boughs and dogwood branches over the pots, which he says look really good with a little snow.  "Sometimes," he said with a chuckle, "we'll accent the evergreens with tinsel sticks called tings which are sticks with glitter with glitter on them."

Laurie Kokenes, the director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, said the flowers in the village present a polished image of the town. 

"Pat has a great eye for what looks good, and he takes pride in putting it all together and caring for them," Kokenes said.

Reader Comments

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Valerie Frederick from Flower Mound TX   

Posted: June 8th, 2018 9:28 PM

Your flowers are gorgeous and I'm sure bring happiness to many folks. Even if they haven't a yard if their own to grow flowers at, they're on Madison and Roosevelt for everyone's enjoyment. You're doing a good job! My mom was born in Forest Park and we three sisters lived there from infancy until our late teens or early twenties

Amber Ladeira from Forest Park IL  

Posted: June 7th, 2018 10:04 AM

Mr. Braniff Is very knowledgeable about the natural world as a whole, not just plant life. Sometime back we were on Madison when birds were circling high up, and he identified them with detail about their lives. Great job, Mr. B! You are an important asset to FP. Thanks to Mr. Holmes for this article.

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