ELYRIA — Five years ago, a seasoned landscape professional predicted the rose bushes and perennials planted along state Route 57 would not survive long with the hot, blazing summers and cold, brutal winters of this region.
This week, that prediction became reality as city crews cut away many of the plants, which cost upwards of $500,000 of the total $22 million Route 57 reconstruction project.
Nearly 95 percent of the plants have died since they were planted in 2009.
Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the clearing was done under the advisement of a landscape professional and Street Department Manager Scott Payne, who has a horticulture degree from Ohio State University.
The big cut started with a plan to clear the massive overgrowth of weeds that choked the life out of the plants.
“We had Schill Grounds Management (with offices in North Ridgeville, Sheffield and Strongsville) professionally apply weed retardant in mid-July to kill the thistle weed,” Siwierka said. “Our crews only went in after that was done.”
Thistle weed is an aggressive plant that can grow 15 feet deep into the ground and waist high. Its pink flowers with prickly leaves are a dead giveaway that it has taken root. The only way to get rid of it is an aggressive treatment with a chemical weed killer, she said.
Jerry Schill, president of Schill Grounds Management, said in an email to the city that the perennials were not going to survive.
“It is obvious after the cleanup that the roses and juniper are not worth saving,” he said in the correspondence dated July 3. “We recommend brush cutting or flush cut and chipping. The grasses and daylilies have pushed back out nicely.”
Siwierka said 95 percent of the juniper plants and roses died from salt exposure.
“These were not plants that should have been put there in the first place,” she said. “It was a combination of plant material, how the beds were prepared and the harsh weather that did this. Maybe now we can give what is left the best chance of survival.”
There are a few rose bushes and daylilies left along the thoroughfare. The city will see in early spring whether any of the landscaping will come back, Siwierka said.
For now, city crews will continue to mow the grass as needed.
“We chose the most methodical approach to getting rid of the weeds and making the medians look better at minimal cost,” Siwierka said.
When the Route 57 project was wrapping up in 2009, the main consultant, CT Consultants, of Mentor, defended the plant choices. At that time, consultants said they were reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration and Ohio Department of Transportation, which has guidelines on where plants and trees can be placed along a road.
The federal and state agencies provided the bulk of funding for the reconstruction project.