A crop grows downtown, but it’s not corn

A nonedible millet variety on Main Avenue planters is getting some attention

Millet grows downtown in front of the Main Mall. The ornamental, nonedible plants, which resemble corn, are a unique addition to Main Avenue planters this year. Enlarge photo

ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald

Millet grows downtown in front of the Main Mall. The ornamental, nonedible plants, which resemble corn, are a unique addition to Main Avenue planters this year.

Durango is known for the rugged beauty of the La Plata Mountains and a Wild West past.

So it might seem strange that the downtown would sport a Midwestern look with big green stalks sprouting out of a hundred flower barrels on the sidewalks.

At least a dozen or so pedestrians interviewed by The Durango Herald thought the crop was corn. So there’s no disappointment that the city is not planning on a corn cob-eating party later this summer.

“There’s not going to be a harvest,” said Pam Glasco, community relations manager for the Durango Business Improvement District.

She has been getting an earful.

“Everybody thinks we’re going to eat them,” she said.

The stalks actually are a nonedible variety of millet and not to be confused with the kind of millet used for bird feed or beer and porridge in many parts of the world.

Because of its appearance, Heath McGee, a tourist from Tucson, said, “I think it’s a very educated guess to think it’s corn.”

Al Schultz, a tourist from Nevada City, Calif., said, “I’ve never seen millet before. I didn’t know what it is. I mean, I know what it is, but I’ve never seen it grow.”

“Put a sign there, ‘Millet,’” said Schultz outside Pine Needle Mountaineering at 835 Main Ave.

Sisters Taylor Harrison, 18, and Jordyn Harrison, 17, from Bayfield appreciated the oddity.

“It’s different, so it makes it look cool,” said Jordyn Harrison,

“Pretty clever, if it is corn,” Taylor Harrison said.

As a summer beautification project of the city of Durango and the Business Improvement District, the stalks are intended to give the flower barrels some height and beauty, Glasco said.

“It will get pinker as we go through the summer,” Glasco said.

Alysha Carmien, a horticulturist at Durango Nursery and Supply, did not think decorative millet was unusual because there are decorative and nonedible varieties of pears and apples, too. People like the foliage of the plants.

The city’s contractor, Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery in Cortez, selected millet as the upright centerpiece for the flower barrels.

In the lingo of flower decoration, “you need a thriller, a spiller and a filler,” said Suzan Clifford, the perennials manager. “Millet is the thriller.”

It will be up to downtown business sponsors to replace the millet in their barrels should they wilt or become uprooted.

McGee hopes the businesses stick with a crop decoration.

“Cabbage is very decorative; so is asparagus,” McGee said. “I see nothing wrong with it. I think it’s great. Vegetables are a great ornament, I’ve always thought.”

Jhaug@durangoherald.com