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In Baltimore County, interest in gardening keeps growing during COVID-19 crisis

Nathan Boliek is the design and sales manager with TDH Landscaping in Monkton, and Laura Mohler is personal assistant to the owner.
Nathan Boliek is the design and sales manager with TDH Landscaping in Monkton, and Laura Mohler is personal assistant to the owner. (Kyle J. Andrews)

Those into gardening and landscaping usually are pretty much on auto-pilot when spring and summer roll in, weeding, planting, watering, etc., but this year, with the coronavirus pandemic, their hobby may have taken on an even more important role. It’s a way to relieve stress while expressing creativity.

Even with many businesses locked down for months, gardening and nursery centers have remained open and thrived to meet those needs of customers and clients.

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“We’ve actually seen an increase in business,” said Nathan Boliek, sales manager at TDH Landscaping on Hess Road in Monkton.

“We’re finding that people are investing money in their properties now with the attitude that, ‘Hey, we canceled our summer vacation, we may not even travel next year.’ So, beautifying and even going so far as to build pools and things of that nature has been on the uptick.”

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TDH Landscaping, an arm of TDH Design, has undertaken a number unique projects for clients during the course of the pandemic. Some involve creating stumperies, in which a decomposed tree stump is incorporated into a garden design.

In Pasadena, James Revere, with a big assist from his wife, Erika, decided to turn a furlough that hit one week into the pandemic shutdown into something positive, nurturing a garden. Erika began the process back in November with small indoor plants coaxed into sprouting by a heat lamp.

“My wife had kind of picked it up about two summers ago now, but last year was our first one where we had a crop that yielded anything,” James Revere said. "Then, lo and behold, once the pandemic started and I lost my job, I just found myself going, ‘Woah, I need something to do,’ and she taps me on the shoulder and goes, ‘Remember that garden that I’ve been asking you for since November?'

"I thought, ‘The ground has thawed, it’s time to start building.’ I don’t know, through all of that hard work and seeing what’s come up so far, I’ve slowly but surely taken an interest in it myself.”

His wife started growing flower bulbs during the winter. The two planted squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, spices, onions and bell peppers in the spring.

Revere has used Home Depot for potting soil and planters. And, he’s garnered his seeds from farmers markets, online exchanges and leftovers that his wife saved last season.

In Glyndon, Chris “C-Mo” Molloy and his wife, Rachel, have been through a great deal before and since the pandemic. They have been raising their infant son, even as C-Mo was laid off from a job last August. He was hired by Giant Food as a brand manager on March 20, just as the pandemic was kicking into high gear. And, the family recently moved into a new home.

The one constant has been gardening.

“I actually grew up on a farm; I’m originally from Westminster and my dad had an 180-plus acre hay farm out in Frederick County in the Rocky Ridge area,” Chris Molloy said. "I spent all of my summers bailing hay and helping to do that kind of stuff.

“We’ve always kept a garden and that kind of thing growing up. In the last couple of years, I had been living in Mount Vernon [in Baltimore City] and there wasn’t nearly enough space to do anything like that.”

In the city, the family basically had a window box to stay in contact with nature. "When we moved back up, that’s when we got the yard back,” he said.

Rachel and husband C-Mo Molloy have built a garden in their backyard in Glyndon.
Rachel and husband C-Mo Molloy have built a garden in their backyard in Glyndon.

The Molloys have gardened both inside and outside of their house. Inside, they have an AeroGarden, where they grow herbs — parsley, basil and cilantro. Outside, they are growing pumpkins, zucchinis, cucumbers and a couple of tomato plants.

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Possibly as a result of the recent turmoil, Chris Molloy has become interested in wartime “victory” gardens, which were created when food supply chains were stressed.

“Basically, it was put out there as a patriot act, and if you grow a garden, you can supply your own food and take some of the strain off of grocery stores,” he said.

“I thought that it was a modern way of doing it with a lot of people looking to gardening now to ensure that they have some of their own supply for things like that.”

Dr. Susie Lipton, a Parkton resident and the only pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, also has taken solace in gardening in these turbulent times.

And the emphasis is on “turbulent.” During the COVID-19 crisis, she has seen a multitude of sick children, some of whom have dealt with recurrences of their cancer. And, she has had to stay after her adult colleagues. As she put it, she “nipped at their heels like a Jack Russell Terrier” from January through March to get staff to wipe down computers, mousepads and other items in the hospital to protect everyone.

“It began to explode,” said Lipton of COVID-19. “My typical day from mid-March to about probably the last two weeks, when we’ve been sort of scaling back, has been somewhere between two and five major crazy meetings a day.” Then there are the telemedicine and teleconferencing calls, which she said, “I really hate.”

For Lipton, gardening was an old standby that gained new importance in the form of a therapeutic activity.

“We moved in here in 2001 and just about the first thing that for Mother’s Day the spring after, I got all sorts of trees and started beginning an orchard,” she said. “Then, every year I mostly grow vegetables because I really love to bring in vegetables and share them at work and meet people.

“I like giving them to my patients because I’d have a lot of patients in the city that would tell me that their kids didn’t like vegetables and fruits.”

Lipton would bring in a bunch of cherry tomatoes, apples and other produce. And they would get eaten.

“I didn’t have to lecture very much, which was nice," she said. "I guess in the last year or two, I’ve gotten into planting pretty things. It’s just fun to give people flowers and things like that.”

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