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Charles Village garden at Village Learning Place is a 'hidden little gem,' volunteers say

Volunteers, from left, Beverly Fink, Suzie Manger and Patricia Owens, weed and clean up the community garden at the Village Learning Place in Charles Village on Sunday, July 22.
Volunteers, from left, Beverly Fink, Suzie Manger and Patricia Owens, weed and clean up the community garden at the Village Learning Place in Charles Village on Sunday, July 22. (Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs / Baltimore Sun)

From under a dark green hat, Phyllis Jaslow stood in the Village Learning Place garden on Sunday morning and rattled off ideas.

The vegetable garden would look great with a canopy of vines for children to walk under, she said. Someone should sit by the flower beds every afternoon and teach visitors about the plants. More neighborhood residents might come to events in the garden if a volunteer picked them up. Oh, and the seating area needs an awning.

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“I have lots of visions about the garden,” Jaslow said, standing between purple coneflowers, parsley sprouts and a gurgling fountain.

Patricia Owens, a Towson resident who volunteers at the garden, poked fun at Jaslow for being a “dreamer,” but the Sunday morning volunteers know the Village Learning Place probably wouldn’t exist without optimistic people like her.

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When the Enoch Pratt Free Library closed its branch on St. Paul Street in Charles Village in 1997, a determined group of activists raised money and built the current community library.

“Those of us who worked on this project from the beginning never doubted it,” Jaslow’s husband, Lee Jaslow, said in 1998 when the group had raised $600,000.

The garden is a community space that represents the mission of the library, say the volunteers who come every third Sunday and devote three hours to tidy up the place.

The space used to be a parking lot. It was built with the support of local grants and the sweat of Charles Village residents. The flora itself comes from nearby sources, such as a crepe myrtle tree that has leaped toward the clouds since Jaslow got it from a neighbor and planted it in the garden.

Beverly Fink, of Charles Village, said she wants more people to read and relax in the garden, which is open during library hours from Monday through Thursday, and on Saturday.

“It’s like a hidden secret garden, a hidden little gem,” Fink said during a break from weeding.

The garden also is the site of talks, concerts and events held 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. The gatherings frequently feature food and drink.

Even though she moved out of Charles Village several years ago, Owens rarely misses a garden volunteer day. She said she makes the trip from Towson because she misses having her own garden.

She also makes the trip, she says, pointing with a gardening-gloved hand toward her friends, “because they’re here.”

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