Werbelow’s petunias catch motorists’ eyes

by marlys good

George Werbelow has created an oasis of color at his home on Emblem Bench. If you’re driving to or from Cody you can’t miss it. First you’ll spot the long windbreak that extends from the east to the west end of George and Joyce’s yard. Their brick home is nestled just in front of the wind break, and lining the fence on the south side, are 25 “petunia trees” filled with trailing petunias of every color you can think of – purple, pink, white, red, blue, violet, cream. A sea of color.

Fifteen of the “trees” hold 16 pots each; 10 of the trees hold 10 pots each. That’s a total of 25 trees and 340 pots. Multiply that by five, the number of petunias in each pot, and you have a grand total of 1,700 seedlings transplanted every year.

Werbelow purchased the first two of the 25 “trees,” got the pattern from them, bought the material and welded his own. The rings for the pots “were made for us by an outfit in Powell,” he explained.

Werbelow said one time “a guy came and asked me about the trees. He ordered one and it cost him $600.” It definitely paid for Werbelow to make his own.

The majority of the plants needed to fill the pots (he raises only trailing petunias) are started from seed in his greenhouse; the rest are purchased. “I usually raise about 1,500 plants. I was kind of sick this winter, so I had to buy quite a few more this year.”

Werbelow’s sister, Becky Henderson, is indispensable in the process. She does the majority of the transplanting. The same potting soil is used year after year. After being “worked up” in the spring, Rose & Flower Care is added. Manufactured by Bayer, Rose & Flower Care not only fertilizes the plants, it also controls both insects and disease.

“I never deadhead them. Once they’re in the pot and blooming, they are on their own,” he laughs.

This year his plants got set back a bit. “The little guy doing my lawn cut the line before he realized it. They got a little dry.” But they are as beautiful as ever now.

Werbelow isn’t sure how many years he has had the petunia trees and when asked why he continues to fill them with trailing petunias year after year, he said, “I don’t know. I guess I just like flowers. It’s an old Werbelow tradition. My Grandpa Werbelow always raised stuff like that – trees and such. My daughter Brenda (Cotter who lives in Windsor, Colo.) loves gardening too.”

It’s not just flowers for Werbelow. He raises pear, peach, cherry and apple trees, a huge garden, and keeps Cody and Powell markets supplied with big, juicy tomatoes.

But it is the petunias that catch the attention of travelers.

“Last Sunday after church we went to Greybull to have breakfast in the cafe and a woman came up and asked me if I was George Werbelow. When I said yes, she said, ‘Your flowers make my day when I go to Cody.’”