Green Thumbs with Decades of Experience

Summer is right around the corner, so be sure to get out and enjoy flower gardens now. Or delve deeper into your passion for blossoms and greenery as Vince Koester and Ed Pawlowski have done. As the owner of Koester Landscape Management, Vince has turned his love of gardening into his livelihood. He is responsible for the Des Moines campus’ beautiful landscaping. We often see his black SUV and work trucks emblazoned with giant adhesive bandages on the sides, an unexpected symbol for his business that he’s only used for the last three or four years. Vince has a long history with Wesley Homes. “I’ve been landscaping Wesley Homes for 25 years,” he said. “There isn’t a planting bed here that I haven’t re-done. I designed the landscape for the Lea Hill campus, and I’m still mowing the same lawn I mowed when I was in first grade. That lawn belongs to Rita Rice, who retired from Wesley.” With 32 years of experience, Vince is well-known on campus. Residents and staff often ask his advice on the best way to care for their flowers and lawns. One of the secrets to Vince’s success at Wesley Homes is the approximately 5,000 sprinkler heads on campus. “All of the Wesley Homes sprinklers are controlled by computers on top of The Terrace,” revealed Vince, “but I control the computers!” Vince was a featured speaker [along with Master Gardener and Des Moines resident Sue Horton] at the Lunch and Garden Tour at Wesley Homes Des Moines in June. Ed is a frequent judge at the Puyallup Fair, a Wesley Homes Lea Hill resident and a Master Rosarian. He originated the Emerald Downs Rose Garden. He has judged national competitions since 1972 and averaged two or three trophy wins every year. His hallway on the Lea Hill campus was known as Rose Alley because Ed would hand-deliver a rose to every lady on his floor. In 1986, he gave up serious exhibitions but has recently started growing roses again. “I used to have 450 prize exhibition blooms. I got tired of trying to keep up with everything, so I gave them away. It made me happy to give. Another time after I started growing roses at Lea Hill a harsh winter wiped out my blooms. There was just too much water,” said Ed. But Ed missed growing roses, a tie to some of his fondest memories of his mother who “grew the best roses in the world.” He noticed he was sitting around moping, an odd thing for an outgoing guy like Ed. He knew he wanted to contribute and play his part on the Lea Hill campus, so he got eight blooms and is enthusiastically tending his roses. “There’s no secret to why my roses have won competitions,” said Ed. “Get a really good compost; Seattle Sawdust Supply puts out a really good compost. Then you feed ‘em and weed ‘em. Everybody uses NPK [nitrogen, phosphorous and potash (potassium)]; it’s the mixture that matters. You don’t want more than 20 percent nitro or too much potassium chloride [salt]. And for our area, you have to watch out for red spider mites, mildew and black spots.” Anything else? Ed laughed. “Well, I guess I do have a few secrets!”