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Anyone passing Lincoln Avenue just west of Napa High School can’t miss the fantastic display of sunflowers currently sprouting along nearly 400 feet of the city sidewalk.

Once a scene of peeling paint, a lackluster walkway and weedy sidewalk, today, yellow flowers with brown-eyed centers line the edge of the street.

In addition, lavender, crepe myrtle trees and ornamental grasses also now dot the passage on the 1600 block of Lincoln Avenue.

During two work days back in April and May, a group of more than 20 Napa Valley Unified School District staff volunteered to work on the plantings. In addition, the staff also learned about irrigation, drainage, soil and other skills, said Mike Pearson, assistant superintendent of operational services.

Known as professional growth training, staff who complete enough units receive a small increase in pay, he explained.

Pearson brought up the idea to improve the view of the block.

Before the planting project, “It used to look dark and dreary,” said Pearson of the block. “It was run down.”

After talking with others in the department, “it got momentum.”

For a team responsible for making NVUSD school grounds look good, it wasn’t right that their own home base looked so unkempt, said Dave Gevas, NVUSD maintenance and operations groundskeeper.

“It wasn’t presentable,” said Gevas. It’s important to have pride in the place where you work, he added.

Gevas, the current NCOE maintenance, operations and facilities employee of the year, helped organize the landscaping project.

After staffers in the office requested flowers, Gevas decided sunflowers were a good solution.

“They’re easy,” he said. And, “they come in every height,” which makes for a nice display.

The sunflowers were grown from seed varieties with names such as Sunrich Lemon, Waooh, Mircosun, Ring of Fire, Teddy Bear and Floristan.

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Once the blooms began to flower, “it started getting better and better and better,” said Gevas.

Gevas has been gardening and planting things for more than 50 years, he said. His own home garden is 50 feet by 50 feet and includes about 50 zinnia plants, 100 sunflowers, mixed vegetables and other plants. “It’s a hodgepodge.”

Pearson said the project cost less than $3,000.

The results seem to be much appreciated.

“I love it,” said NVUSD staffer Mike Reiken. The sunflowers are “big and bold, and I like that there are different varieties. It brightens your day.”

“It was a bland thoroughfare, and now it’s ‘wow.’”

“I love them,” said Julie Hogan, an NVUSD office assistant.

Before the planting, the outside “was terrible to look at.” Today, “It’s a cheerful and happy place.”

“They just make a huge difference in our building,” Hogan said.

The sunflowers peaked a few weeks ago, said Gevas. But because the team planted a variety of sunflowers, there are still plenty of blooms to admire.

People are enjoying the flowers, said Pearson. “And I like that.”

Gevas said the staff has already started trimming the spent flowers and by the beginning of September, more and more will be cut down.

Next, they plan to plant a long row of Flanders poppies. The drought tolerant red poppies will grow to about 24 inches tall, said Gevas.

“It will be perfect,” he said.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.