Pretty in pink: Say it with petunias

One man's beautification project

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  • Patch of pink: Petunias grace the roadside on West Mountain Road Photos by Rose Sgarlato

  • This is the fourth year of beautification via petunia

  • Russell McCarrick smiles on the flowers and on passers-by

  • Can you say 'Supertunia Vista Bubble Gum Petunias' before driving past?

By Rose Sgarlato

— “ I smile at them.”

That's what Russell McCarrick replied to a driver who stopped her car on West Mountain Road to ask McCarrick what his trick is for keeping over 400 roadside petunias pretty in pink.

The retired construction worker and Sparta resident, father of Sparta Police Detective Jeff McCarrick and Sparta DPW Road Supervisor Mike McCarrick, has a passion for planting petunias every year in front of his house and his property across the road at the top of West Mountain before it reaches Route 94 at the Homestrad Rest restaurant and bar.

The floral extravaganza is an ongoing tradition for four years now. McCarrick does not consider himself a farmer or gardener. He was born in Hardyston and grew up around farming and at one point used to plant and sell tomatoes. But those days are over.

“I just do it to make Sparta look beautiful. People honk when they come by,” he said.

This year’s crop totaling 409 Supertunia Vista Bubble Gum Petunias, which hail from Quicktown, Pennsylvania, were planted in May.

“It’s expensive –that there is $2,930,” Mccarrick said, pointing to the pink spray that brightens up the bend in the road. “ I make sure that I source them from a good place. Each year I research and find the best place.”

McCarrick picks up the plants every year with his truck and does all the work on his own, including watering them on a regular basis. Mother Nature, of course, plays a big role.

“It’s a toss-up with the watering. If I know it’s going to rain, I don’t water them. If I do water them, I do it around 5 pm or else there are too many bugs.”

It’s a two-hour process when McCarrick waters his pink patches every other day when there is a dry spell.

But what about the notorious flower-devouring deer?

“I get out about 50 lbs. of corn every year and dump it in the field,” McCarrick said, indicating the spot. “Then, when the deer are feasting on the corn, I have a talk with them.”

McCarrick smiled on this reporter similarly, it is assumed, to how he smiles on the flowers. Then he got serious and explained that deer do not like petunias.

"In fact, they spit them out right away."

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