Rita Houska of Rita’s home décor, reclaimed furniture, custom tee shirts, jewelry and purses at 219 West Third St. in Yankton makes no claims as a gardener, but she likes attractive plants. She likes seeing them first thing when she enters her store.

“I think that flowers attract people, and then people think that they must have pretty things in their store,” Houska said.

We’re sitting outside at a small table she has placed near Rita’s entrance. She says it’s a respite for those waiting for others to shop inside. Under her two display windows are cattle watering tanks overflowing with multi-colored flowers.

“I watch HGTV home renovation shows and someone had a watering trough,” she said. “I said I’m going to do that for the store.” She measured the width of the display windows so that the planter wouldn’t be longer than the window. She estimated the height she wanted so the flowers didn’t block the displays.

“They’re water tanks for a farm. They have drains in back. I put plastic containers inside so it doesn’t require so much soil,” she said. She found the tanks at Tractor Supply in Yankton. They are shiny metal and reflect light in the shade of the locust tree nearby.

“Usually I match colors, but when I saw a basket of flowers and foliage I liked at Diane’s Greenhouse, I just liked it. There had to be two, so the tanks would match. I always buy my plants from Diane’s every spring. I know they’ll grow well. Diane fertilizes them well,” Houska said. She gets fertilizer from the greenhouse and re-plants them in Miracle-Gro potting soil in the tanks. Karen, a staff member, cares for the plants.

Rita and her staff commonly enter the store from the back alley.

“People ask me why I put plants at the alley entrance. I like plants at an entrance. When you walk into your job and you see something pretty, it affects your mood,” she said. A reclaimed bench with potted plants by the door, has this saying on it: “Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain. But I’d have had to miss the dance. In Loving Memory of My Mom.”

Houska is proud of her homey, hands-on store with a workroom in back. Staff member Mandy arranges artificial flowers and designs custom tee shirts in-house while she re-purposes and paints furniture and selects home décor items that are displayed on two floors. She likes her business neighbors. Up and down the block, other businesses also display planters by their entrances. These are in addition to the flowers tended by the city on each block of the Meridian District.

Share tips from your outdoor or indoor plant experience, give us a tour of your plant site, or tell us about other plant-related topics. Our focus is plants of our region and people who grow them. Contact news@yankton.net Attn: Brenda Johnson or write P&D, 319 Walnut St, Yankton, SD 57078, Attn: Brenda Johnson. See the Plant Exchange Blog at brendakjohnsonplantexchange.com or “Plant Exchange Blog” Facebook page for more plant topics.

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