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Plants, flowers bring relief to our torrid concrete jungle

TODAY would normally be a pretty late date on the garden calendar to chatter about summer gardens. But this has been one of those amazing Augusts when the grass remains unseasonably green and plants that would normally be burnt toast are fat and vigorous. I used to have a front sidewalk, but it's so overgrown with hedera helix I'm thinking of just renaming it Ivy Lane and posting caution signs warning of slippery moss and too much vegetation.

It's been a fairly wet Baltimore summer, one I'd like to recall when all the media screaming begins when we start our next drought. And it's been great fun watching the merry market shoppers reach for those super hefty peaches, tomatoes and corn ears we've been enjoying for the past weeks.

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I get a charge out of enthusiastic summer shoppers. And the crowds at both the Waverly and Downtown farmers' markets this summer seem positively jubilant over the juicy produce of the summer of 2003.

Being a Southern city, we're also blessed by plantings of crape myrtle, now in high season and often one of the only reasons to praise August.

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In my years in Baltimore, I've watched the city become a little less infatuated with concrete and so much masonry. For example, over this summer I've watched city crews rip up chunks of sidewalk to expose a little more room around tree wells. The idea is to put a little garden around the tree.

For so many years we were afraid to plant in pots. But someone invested in the concept of the container garden and there seems to be one at every intersection.

I'd also like to bless the people who came up with the flowers in the medians. I know we all love the stretches along Interstate 95. But what about the Martin Luther King Boulevard's, Goucher Boulevard's, Charles Street's in Woodbrook, I-83's at city police department headquarters? Those medians have got to be hot and unwatered, but they certainly thrive.

A corollary of the planted median strip is the successful window box. Those little tubs are tricky. They need constant, no-letup watering. I congratulate the people with the patience to pull this off. I equate a good window box with the talent of making a real Lady Baltimore cake, with a 1-inch-high boiled sugar icing or the ability to produce edible homemade ketchup. (Don't attempt either of these on a hot, humid day unless you want failed icing or the whole neighborhood to know you're making ketchup.)

But of all this summer's blessings, I think it's been the most considerate to the container people. As I walk around the city these early mornings, there are often so many depressing sights - the discarded drug needles, the careless dumping of trash, the vacant and abandoned houses. But so often, in the middle of the urban chaos, someone has carefully set out a big pot overflowing with purple petunias and indefatigable marigolds.


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