Growing Old-Fashioned Charm

Published 8:52 am Tuesday, May 31, 2022

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith | Community Columnist

One of Clanton’s most noticeable features are the over-flowing flower arrangements located around the city’s downtown area. Whether its locals are enjoying the Peach Entertainment District and shopping Clanton’s storefront boutiques or out-of-towners passing through Clanton on Highway 31, chances are they have noticed the flower arrangements on the sidewalks or hanging on street corner posts. The arrangements are put together and cared for by the City of Clanton’s Beautification Crew. Clanton resident Gail Easterling has worked for the Beautification Department for 10 years and worked for the City of Clanton’s Park Department 10 years prior to that.  Her Southern grass-roots background and favorite pass-times all revolve around gardening and a love for simple living.

“My Mom and Dad, both had a great green thumb, and I grew up with a garden,” Easterling said. “We grew everything from seed mostly. My mother grew flowers and loved her roses. I was raised the old-fashioned way.”

Easterling, age 43, was born and raised in Clanton and now lives in her family home which also has a private flower garden.

“I like to start with a small plant and see how huge I can get it,” said Easterling. “My favorite plants are the bold and bright colors. I don’t like the white ones very much. I like seeing the color.”

Easterling’s love of colorful flowers and exotic plants is evident when viewing the city’s arrangements, which are eye-catching and visually stunning. Each day, Easterling, along with crew workers, Cindy Morris and Kody Easterling, rise early and begin watering the City of Clanton’s flower arrangements, which takes six hours for each of them to complete.

“My Mama always said ‘never put a flower to bed wet and never water them after the sun comes up — the sun will bleach out the leaves,” said Easterling. “To make sure everything is watered before the sun comes up, we begin watering at 4 a.m.”

Four times a year, Easterling collaborates with her grower, Holleywood Garden,s and plans out which plants she will need for the coming season.

“Growing arrangements in downtown Clanton can be challenging because not all plants can live around that much asphalt,” said Easterling. “The heat from the asphalt changes what we can successfully grow there. For example, many types of Petunias don’t do well. The Potato Vines (a purple, heart-shaped leafy plant) are growing so quickly, that only after a month we are going to have to cut them back soon.”

When Easterling is not gardening, she enjoys living “a country life and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I like to sit out on the porch, drink coffee and watch traffic go by,” said Easterling. “I like spending time with my family. We have a game room and we play pool, corn hole, and horse shoes.”

Gail Easterling is married to Benny. They are the proud parents of Kody and David.