Petunia Time: Sapulpa’s pink Supertunias arrive this week

Sapulpa’s bubblegum pink Supertunias have arrived and are being planted this week, and residents and visitors to Sapulpa’s downtown can expect to see even more of the now-famous flowers this year.

Twenty additional 30-inch baskets were for expanding Sapulpa’s flower program beyond Dewey Avenue. In addition to the new color on Route 66, baskets and some pots will be installed on Main Street, Hobson Avenue, Lee Avenue, Water Street, and Park Street.

Sapulpa Chamber President Janet Birnie stands under a basket of the supertunias on East Dewey Avenue.

Kent Daniel has been offering landscaping services for over 30 years at this point, and he’s become the City’s unofficial chief botany expert for Sapulpa for the last several years. There’s nobody who understands the local climate better than him; “Downtown Sapulpa really has its own unique climate, outside of the rest of town, because of the way the sun hits these buildings, and the wind and everything else,” he told the Sapulpa Herald last year.

Daniel’s journey to see Sapulpa bloom began with the SeneGence office building on Main Street and later the Burnett Mansion, before he was called upon to help bring some summer color to downtown Sapulpa.

Kent Daniel sits at the garden near SeneGence offices on Main Street. Daniel has been caring for downtown Sapulpa’s flowers for years, but his landscaping experience goes back even further.

In 2020, he planted bubblegum and jazzberry petunias and as he learned more about caring for plants in downtown it just grew from there. Last summer, the introduction of large 30-inch hanging baskets made the pink petunias even more noticeable, to the point that other towns began to take notice. Pryor, Collinsville, Catoosa, and Jenks have all been to Sapulpa to see what’s being done. Each town is reportedly developing its own programs, according to what they’ve seen in Sapulpa.

The Brookside district in Tulsa also tried Supertunias last year, but they died in August due to the lengthy triple-digit days, Daniel said. “They said, ‘good job guys, because we lost ours.’” Sapulpa might’ve suffered the same fate had Kent Daniel not gotten up at 2am through the dog days of the summer to keep our flowers well-fed and watered.

Ivy Ruth Lawson, 3, sniffs one of the bubblegum pink supertunias in downtown Sapulpa.

Last year, Daniel’s flower program got some help from Oklahoma State University, first through our local Creek County extension office, who referred him to Carla Smith, who is the butterfly expert that operates out of the Pawnee County extension office. That partnership has led to the establishment of two butterfly sanctuary gardens, with a third on the way; One is at Waypoint Lounge and will take a couple of years to really attract the butterflies and other insects, and one is the Trolley and Rail Museum off Dewey Avenue near the railroad tracks. The third is coming in a couple of weeks and will be located at the “cemetery” adjacent to Diggum-Deep, Sapulpa’s only world-famous fake mortuary.

A full Route 66 planter shows off the pink supertunias in downtown Sapulpa.

Sapulpa Chamber organized a Petunia Fundraiser to help carry the burden of expense for Sapulpa’s famous flower extravaganza—because, as it happens, keeping Sapulpa beautiful throughout the summer isn’t cheap.

“It’s about $8,000 just for the petunias and the soil,” Daniel said. “And then the water and nutrients is probably another $1700 a month, over the course of five months.” He says the roughly $8900 he gets from Sapulpa Pride is gone before the flowers get into the ground. The rest of it, which this year would include the purchase of the new baskets, has to be privately funded.

Daniel says Sapulpa’s Supertunia program has already become the biggest draw to the town outside of Christmas Chute, because it’s active for five months in peak traveling season. He’d like to see it become even more popular, and to become a regular part of Sapulpa’s preservation efforts. “We need to show people we’re not just about brick and concrete,” he said. “Every time we tear something down, we should be thinking about how to use a portion of that space for naturally beautifying Sapulpa.”