THE NOTE arrived in the mailbox of Richard and Betty Little with only a house number and an address on the front. No names.
Inside of the flowery card someone had written: "This is just a note to say how much I enjoy seeing your beautiful flowers every year. Thank you for bringing a taste of God's beauty to the earth, and joy to my heart!" It was signed, Sherry.
To Mr. and Mrs. Little of Littlestown Pike in Westminster, the note was like a reward a reason to continue to plant and care for the flowers that have decorated their yard for the past 43 years.
Since 1952, the Littles have planted their deep red, large blossomed cannas bulbs. "We built the house in 1951 and, in 1952, Betty's mother gave us some bulbs," Mr. Little said. "We planted them in two large round flower beds that year. Then we began to plant them along the fence in one row, then two rows, then three rows."
Each row of flowers is 150 feet long, so passing traffic gets to view 450 feet of rich, red, satiny blossoms each year from mid-June to the first heavy frost.
But that isn't all. Impatiens plants, 480 in all, annually sprinkle the ground in front of the canna plants, adding to the distinction of this remarkable floral display. The flowers have become a landmark along the Westminster-Union Mills corridor, one that folks remark about on a regular basis.
"Last year, we had a couple who wanted to have their wedding pictures taken with the flowers," said Mr. Little, who would have been happy to oblige had rain not interrupted the young newlyweds' plans.
"We see people stop to take pictures every year," Mrs. Little said with pride.
The flower beds that Mr. and Mrs. Little cultivate each year include several round beds of geraniums, a 60-foot-long bed of impatiens and the coxcombs that Mrs. Little grows from seed.
The house, the driveway, the sidewalks and the outbuildings are all lined with red geraniums, too. "We bought about 120 geraniums last year," Mrs. Little said.
Canna bulbs do not winter well, so they have to be dug each autumn, stored over the cold season and replanted each spring. The Littles plant their cannas the last week of April each year. By mid-June, the blossoms are thick and full. They bloom until the first heavy frost. That's when Mr. Little uses a bar mower and tractor to cut them down and haul them to the back pasture.
"My cows eat most of it," Mr. Little said of the cut plants. Although he is retired, Mr. Little continues to crop farm and raise about 25 head of beef cattle.
Those cows come in handy after the bulbs have been dug and stored in milk crates in the basement. That's when Mr. Little spreads more than a ton of manure on the beds.
"It ages over the winter, then I till it under in the spring before we plant again," he said.
Union Mills resident Betty Stonesifer said she watches for the flowers each year. "I look forward to seeing them out planting every spring," she said. "I like the way they put those little ones [the impatiens] beside the cannas. It looks so pretty along the fence."
For Mr. and Mrs. Little, the flowers are a passion something they say they will continue to do as long as they are able.
For as long as the tall red blossoms sway in the breeze dappled by red and white impatiens below, folks will stop and stare, take pictures and comment, for this kind of beauty does not go without notice.
Optimists give award
This month, Westminster Optimist Club honored McDonald's of Hampstead for its support of the annual Cartoon Show for children. For the past several years, McDonald's of Hampstead has provided all of the drinks for the children attending this free cartoon show that Westminster Optimist Club sponsors.
Last year, the cartoon show was held in March at Westminster Fire Department's social hall and not only included an hour cartoon show, but was followed by a 45-minute magic show with Ray-Mond the Magician.
Westminster Optimist Club Chairman Terry Crabbs presented Mary Riley of McDonald's with a plaque as an expression of gratitude from the Optimist Club.
Lois Syzmanski's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.