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Front Page » March 13, 2003 » Gardening » Suda Merriman fulfilling the American dream
Published 4,207 days ago

Suda Merriman fulfilling the American dream


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

Suda Merriman's life is blooming this time of the year as geraniums, begonias, and pansies reach a final step before they are transplanted into beautiful baskets, planters and parks throughout Price city. Pictured above and below is Merriman busy cutting, trimming, and watering her plants in the large city greenhouse.

Many of us take for granted the freedoms we have in America. But for Suda Merriman she is living the American dream. The 57-year-old mother of four, and grandmother of seven, came to America to change her life. She found life in America and "I have put my roots down in Carbon county. This is my home."

A native of Bangkok, Thailand, her father was in the military where she learned from him to love plants. He was a particularly good orchid grower, and in Thailand were orchids grow like weeds, he raised and bred beautiful orchids.

"I am who I am today because of my father," says Merriman, who has worked with the City of Price for the past 22 years.

Referring to her father she says, "He taught us how to work hard and how to survive in honest ways. He taught me patience and never to give up."

Merriman was selected by her fellow city employees and honored recently by Mayor Joe Piccolo as Employee of the Year. This is the second time she has received the honor, the first time was in 1987. She started working with the city as a part-timer in the parks back in 1980 and went full time three years later.

Suda Merriman isn't just a city supervisor and she isn't just another laborer. She is a unique individual who has carved out an incredible life in Price because of her love for people and her love for plants. One can find her out in the gardens at dusk or mixing dirt in the city greenhouse early in the morning dawn.

"When you work hard life flows," says Merriman, "and you will succeed in your goals through hard work and patience." Today, even as a supervisor she still works as hard as she ever has and says, "I take responsibility for the duties that are in front of me."

Nothing has changed, except maybe, more paper work," she explains.

"My favorite part of the job is seeing people and families come into our parks, watching them sit down at the picnic tables and admire the flowers because of their beauty," she says with pride. "That means we are doing our job."

After arriving from Thailand, Suda lived in Kansas for a short time, then later in Dallas and Amarillo, Texas, then moved north to Grand Junction, Colo., and finally to Carbon county.

"This is my home and this is where I have set my roots. I am part of this county and very proud."

Merriman says she works hard to be a professional and works hard to be a friend. And that she is, not only to many city employees, but to many community citizens.

For a woman who's not afraid to get her hands dirty mixing potting soil or scratched from hours of trimming roses, Merriman has another passion that fills her heart with love and joy. It might have little to do with raising plants but it has everything to do with making a difference. This job is helping young people.

In addition to working for the city, Suda also works with youth in the community through the justice system. For over 20 years she has taught kids, some who are in trouble with the justice system, some doing community service work. But all of them learn how to plant seedlings, pick weeds, mix soil and build work ethics. These kids are from the Seventh District Juvenile Court.

"I enjoy working with the kids because I can make a difference in their lives."

She says, adding, "Often, years later, one of these young people will stop by at the parks where I am working and thank me."

"This is what keeps me working and going," Merriman admits.

Merriman explains that although it helps the city save money, and by working with the courts, it also gives the kids a job they can be proud of and learn about gardening and landscaping. "It helps these young people learn self-esteem and self-confidence," she says.

But Merriman's job, day in and day out, is keeping the Price city parks and main street beautiful with flowers and plants. Not only does she do that well, but she does it on a shoestring budget. The last year the city purchased flowers for Washington Park and two other city parks was 1980 and that cost was in excess of $6000.

That was the year Suda started full time and began growing her own plants from seed. Now Suda has about a $250 budget for seeds. She purchases the peat moss and pearl light to make her own soil, all this over under $1000 a year.

About nine years ago Suda started growing her own plants in the new city greenhouse. It's not a simple process but Merriman makes it look easy.

In November she begins planting geraniums. It takes three or four weeks for the seeds to germinate in the big pans and then she transplants them in the 4-pack containers. And in late February or early March, right about this time of the year, she transplants them into larger containers, ones they stay in until they are put in the gardens around May 15.

Pansies, Dusty Millers, and geraniums can be planted in mid May. Merriman says that a lot of people will start planting all these flowers when she starts these early plantings. But her advice is to wait until June 1 to plant everything except maybe geraniums or pansies. Flowers and plants like Marigolds, Impatience and Petunias should not be planted until after June 1.

Merriman begins her gardening with over 8,000 seeds, in addition to hundreds of cuttings.

A large section of her greenhouse is where city employees bring their pots filled with mostly annuals that would otherwise die throughout the winter on their decks. Rather than throw them away they bring the plants to Suda and from just these alone, "I often get enough starts for many of the planters downtown."

Mayor Joe Piccolo presents Suda with the the Price city employee of the year award. Merriman has been a city employee for 22 years and her story is one of hope, courage and survival.

All winter, not only does Suda keep the plants alive, but she steals clippings from them and makes starts from the cuts. Then in the spring the employees return to get their pots and plants ready for another summer of flowering beauties and Suda has gathered hundreds of new baby plants now growing healthy from the cuts throughout the winter.

"I get at least four or five cuts from each plant before they get them," she says. If it benefits Price city then she takes it and stores it. One large section of her greenhouse contains hundreds of Begonias, all cuttings from these stored annuals.

Another process Merriman saves the city money is by mixing her own soil. It is an easy process of adding peat moss and pearl light with sand.

She demonstrated cross-pollination and explained how she creates new varieties of plants, with colors usually much more vivid that the original. Using geraniums as an example, she has learned the complicated process over the years by starting with a male and a female plant and taking pollen from each flower experimenting to create seeds. When she worked at the greenhouses in Texas and Colorado before moving to Utah she experimented a lot with cross-pollination.

In addition to the flower beds in all the city parks, she also provides the plants in the city hall and is responsible for the 53 flowerpots in downtown Price.

That is why Merriman is often seen downtown with her truck early in the morning or late in the evening filled with mixing soil, fertilizer, water and baby plants, because there isn't much traffic during these hours.

Merriman keeps going out in the field, doing labor jobs, and keeping healthy. She feels she is lucky getting paid to workout and keep fit. "I enjoy it and also keep physically fit at the same time," she explained.

Merriman works with five full-time people in parks and in addition to keeping the city beautiful they also are responsible for the Christmas decorations and putting out flags on holidays. They also are responsible to keep the weeds down along roadways and along the canals. The crew also takes care of five ball fields.

According to Kent Jones, a fellow parks employee, "She's the boss and we enjoy working with each other, that is why we have a good team."

Teams are important to Merriman who encourages the people who work with her to be loyal to the city and always remember that they are public servants. "Our department is much more visible that other departments because people see the flowers and plants, but that doesn't mean than other departments don't work just as hard in their efforts to keep the city running smooth."

Merriman concluded that the current mayor and city council not only really cares about the citizens and community but takes good care of the city employees. "We appreciate their work and their hard work really makes a difference."

"Their example helps all our teams work harder," she added.


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March 13, 2003
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