Homelessness In Our Community

Helping Hands Lift the Homeless Back on Their Feet

BY JANICE F. BOOTH

NOV. 19, 2020

The information in this article was compiled before the emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the ensuing health crisis and economic uncertainty. The circumstances of homelessness have worsened drastically since March of 2020. “At our food pantry [Haven Ministries in Chester, Maryland] we are feeding 100 percent more people in July than we did in January,” says Director & Founder Krista Pettit.

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There’s Carl, moving from shelter to shelter during the long, winter months. He lost everything after his wife died of liver disease, leaving him with thousands of dollars in medical bills he couldn’t pay. 

There’s Devon, a professional painter, who broke his pelvis and ribs when he fell from a ladder. He is trying to learn a new trade, but meantime, he’s homeless. 

And then there’s Sam. He moved here from Texas with his wife and daughters to attend Johns Hopkins University School ofMedicine on a full scholarship. He had a Master’s Degree and a good job in Texas, but he knew he could do more, and medicine was his passion. During his second year of med school, Sam suffered an aneurysm and meningitis. He lost his scholarship, was left penniless, and unable to continue his studies. 

Eventually, he lost his wife and daughters, his home, and his future. While living in shelters, he has been studying to become a mental health worker and hopes to establish his own nonprofit to help other folks that have suffered. 

These are only a few of the people behind the label, “Homeless.” 

Steve Hays, coordinator for the Winter Relief Program at First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, has gotten to know some of the men and women who seek shelter through the program’s more than 60 Houses of Worship. He listens to the stories of the homeless and shares their stories with the community, encouraging all of us to appreciate how fragile the safety net is that keeps any of us from a cot in a shelter on a cold winter’s night. (Editor’s note: the names of the homeless mentioned in this article have been changed.)

“People who are struggling, who may be homeless or face losing their homes, want to be seen. They want the dignity of being acknowledged,” observes Sarah Ryan, Volunteer Programs Administrator at The Light House. Dignity is what many organizations and individuals are working hard to offer the men, women, and children in our community who are without a place to live. From the County level, to private and publicly funded organizations, many people in Anne Arundel and Eastern Shore counties are acknowledging those in need and recognizing their value to the community. 

There are three dimensions to homelessness; the unsheltered or chronically homeless, the homeless who are being housed temporarily or long-term, and those at risk of homelessness. For each group of homeless folks, there are ways to lend a hand. 

Just the Facts, Please

In 2017, (the most recent figures available) over 7,000 men, women, and children were homeless in Maryland on any given day. This number does not include those who were homeless and “couch surfing,” moving in with a friend or relative on a temporary basis; nor does it include the transient homeless who find shelter in hotel rooms and automobiles. Of our state’s 7000 homeless people, almost one-third or more than 2,100 were military veterans. We also know that 1,300 children in Maryland were without permanent shelter, a number large enough to fill two elementary schools. 

Anne Arundel County’s homeless population was 1,600-plus according to the 2017 survey. A “Point In Time” survey by the County’s Social Services on January 29, 2020, conducted by Social Services, counted 314 homeless people; of those, 48 were children. The eight counties that makeup the Eastern Shore counted almost 1,800 homeless citizens in 2016.Expand

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The struggle to house the homeless is the struggle to provide safe, affordable, long-term housing while residents overcome the circumstances that left them homeless initially. National and State agencies monitor programs, provide statistics, and support federal, state, and local approaches to helping the homeless. Among the organizations monitoring and fighting for the homeless are; the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which includes the Homelessness Research Institute (HRI) and the Center for Capacity Building (CCB), the Maryland Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), and the National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group of activists who were themselves formerly or are now homeless. These and other organizations keep statistics on issues facing the homeless and advocate for better regulations, laws, and programs to eliminate homelessness across the country. 

Affordable housing gets harder to find in America as property values and rental costs rise while hourly wages remain static in most regions of the country. According to The National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the 2017 Housing Wage (the hourly wage at full-time employment necessary for average housing costs that represent 30 percdent of one’s income) is estimated at $21.21 per hour in Maryland. The Housing Wage exceeds the $16.38 hourly wage earned by the average renter by almost $5.00 an hour, totally out of reach for low-income workers. In fact, the hourly wage needed for renters hoping to afford a two-bedroom rental home is $10.21 higher than Maryland’s minimum wage of $11.00 an hour.

What About Us? 

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has said, “Government should be measured by how it treats the most vulnerable people in the society.” So, how are we, residents of Anne Arundel and adjacent counties, to be judged? What are we doing to improve the circumstances for the poorest and most vulnerable among us? 

Anne Arundel County, for example, has instituted several new programs to make it easier to find long-term and permanent housing for homeless residents. The Anne Arundel Coalition to End Homelessness brings together representatives from 50 of the private, religious, and government entities who are trying to assist the homeless and end homelessness in our area. Justin Bieler, Social Services’ Homeless Coordinator, supervises “Access Housing” and “Street Outreach” programs. 

Access Housing works to move the homeless into housing and follow-up with the essential social services to help people stay in their homes. A “Vulnerability Index” has been devised to move folks off the streets and into apartments. This prioritized wait-list moves people up the list based on issues such as length of time homeless, health risks, mental health, and substance use. 

Street Outreach and Youth Outreach send social workers out into the community to locate the homeless, access their vulnerability, and help them get the financial and material help they need. 

Bieler meets with the AA Coalition to End Homelessness on a monthly basis. “Together we try to devise broader approaches or strategies,” Bieler points out. He recalls one of the encouraging stories, a couple, we’ll call them Dion and Marie, who had lived on the streets or our county since the mid-1990s. Access Housing brought them in, got them vouchers, helped them find an apartment they could afford, and helped them learn to budget and plan so they could continue to live in their own space. After 20 or more years on the streets, Marie and Dion have been in their own apartment for a year, and they’re going strong. 

But, government agencies can’t solve this chronic problem alone. In addition to the traditional social services organizations, there are three other significant approaches to addressing homelessness in Anne Arundel County: temporary assistance, long-term aid, and alternative solutions. Here are some of the solutions provided by agencies and organizations whose mission it is to help our region’s homeless:

Temporary Assistance:

(often providing long-term aid as well)

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Sarah’s House provides emergency housing, life skills training, and transitional housing for those in crisis as well as the chronically homeless. They also take on long-term interventions. Director Kelly Anderson points to the “holistic approach” used by Sarah’s House to help people find homes and work to figure out how best to keep those homes. Sarah’s House offer a “Coordinated Entry Program” that educates clients about budgets, home maintenance, and other skills that are necessary if you want to keep that apartment or room. Sarah’s House has clients as young as 18 and as old as 87, veterans, mentally and physically disabled, recovering addicts, and multi-generational families. “When they finish our 12-week program, we’ve done our best to prepare each person to live safely in an apartment or house,” Anderson observes.

SCAR Foundation (Second Chances After Rehabilitation): Established by Willie and Delores Bullock of the Blessed In Tech Ministries, SCAR Foundation goes into the streets and parks looking out for vulnerable teens and folks recently released from jails and prisons. The Bullocks work to establish trust relationships with these homeless young people, as young as 7 and through their mid-20s. SCAR provides them with temporary shelter and counseling; the Bullocks also help these vulnerable folks connect with other agencies that can provide assistance. To do that, Delores Bullock is Co-Chair, along with Kelly Anderson, of the AA Coalition to End Homelessness. 

During the winter of 2019–2020 for the first time, SCAR took on Winter Relief at the Stanton Center. They’re also instituting the “Hip-Hop Program” where they’ll offer a group home for homeless teens between the ages of 16–24. Delores Bullock recalls a quiet pair of kids, Jay and Paula, 16 and 18. She’d been molested by her father; he’d been kicked out of his home. Jay, 16, was too young for Winter Relief, so they slept in unlocked cars or in all-night restaurants. Through Bullock’s connections with the AA Coalition, the young lovers were taken into Sarah’s House, where they were counseled and safe. 

Bullock says, “They come to us broken, but we work to make them whole.” 

House of Hope’s Winter Relief is one of the outstanding success stories for aiding the homeless. In 1992, the Glen Burnie United Methodist Church, under the leadership of Reverend Olin Herndon, brought together leaders from area churches to establish a sustainable program to help the homeless during the winter months, from October through April. For 28 years, the program has remained an invaluable source of comfort to our region’s homeless with over 60 faith-based organizations participating. Each of the 60-plus organizations houses, feeds, and looks out for the homeless for one week, transporting them to the church’s facility and on to the next sheltering location when their week is done. Usually, two or three organizations are housing groups simultaneously, and some of the 60 organizations volunteer for two weeks. Based on the statistics collected by Winter Relief, during 2017–2018 from October to April, more than 250 homeless men, women, and children received temporary, safe shelter, food, and encouragement. One-third of those homeless guests self-reported as suffering from some form of mental illness. The guests, over 70 percent of whom are men, also reported suffering from physical disabilities, domestic violence, drug abuse, and other significant health conditions. 

Light House’s Safe Harbour Resource Center, Emergency Aid and Intervention offers immediate assistance with clothing, food, showers, and laundry as well as counseling and shelter placements. Director Karen Williams sees Safe Harbour as a place where “we meet people where they are, without a time frame [to accomplish a goal and move people on]…Sometimes folks will just come in to be warm, have a cup of coffee, sit where they’re safe. Then, eventually, they’ll want to talk to me, tell me what’s going on. That’s when I can sometimes help. It might be a woman with an eviction notice. In addition to providing resources such as eviction and utility aid, we also sit down and unravel the pieces, get help for the issues, connect her with resources. Hopefully, we can help her overcome the cause,” Williams says. In 2019, over 600 households were “stabilized” by Safe Harbour’s intervention.

Haven Ministries, in Chester, Maryland, on Kent Island, began as a faith-based temporary winter-housing resource 16 years ago, and has grown to serve those in need through two food pantries per month, a retail thrift store, resource centers, an emergency homeless shelter, a street outreach program, an art program, and a retail warehouse with job training and employment opportunities. Haven Ministries is in the process of launching a Housing Assistance Program, which will help provide affordable housing in Queen Anne’s County. Two single family homes will be built for residential use and will transform lives; offering stability, safety, and reliability to those who quite often go without. Long-term assistance is on the way.

Long-term Aid:

Arundel House of Hope, founded in 1992, is an ecumenical organization that has developed and manages a variety of programs and services to aid the homeless. The first and most successful, long running of their programs is Winter Relief. House of Hope also manages job training programs, a medical clinic, substance abuse intervention, and permanent housing. House of Hope currently manages four long-term residences and are preparing to open The Patriot House, a permanent residence for Veterans. 

The Light House: A Homeless Prevention Support Center provides emergency aid through the Safe Harbour, as well as a shelter program for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. The Light House mission states, “Our vision is to be a national model for how a community cares for its neighbors experiencing homelessness. We strive to break the cycle of homelessness by providing a place of belonging, life-changing programs, and a broad continuum of support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The Light House intervenes to ‘break the cycle of homelessness.’” The Light House provides transitional housing in a variety of properties and locations around the city. There are also job training programs and supportive counseling. In 2019, the Light House provided housing for over 250 people, 15 families with 26 children. With a view to the long-term, since 2012 The Light House B.E.S.T. workforce development program has trained 350 people for jobs in trades, and particularly the food industry through their very successful Light House Bistro. 

Tameka is one of the many success stories from the Light House’s hands-on employment training. As a homeless mother of small children, she came to the Mission from “a lifetime of trauma, addiction, homelessness, abuse, and a criminal record,” notes Associate Director Lara Ippolito. With help from the Light House, Tameka expunged her criminal record, completed GED classes, and is working full-time in a management position with plans to attend community college. “The Light House was there to lift me up. I’m now able to support myself, spend time with my beautiful children, and plan for a stable future,” Tameka says.

Arundel Community Development Services (ACDS) oversees a variety of programs in the county that are working to provide more housing and aid for low-income people to find permanent homes. ACDS provides services that include homeownership counseling, foreclosure prevention counseling, down payment and closing cost assistance, accessibility modifications, property rehabilitation, and affordable rental units to County residents. Among the signature accomplishments of ACDS was the redevelopment of the Wiley Bates High School into the Wiley Bates Heritage Park, with affordable housing units for seniors, a senior activities center, and a Boys & Girls Club.

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Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) in Easton, Maryland, was founded in 2009 by Julie Lowe in an effort to offer long-term support and services to homeless citizens who were willing to work to acquire and maintain a stable home. TIS is built on the “S4 Principles:” Shelter, Stability, Support, and Success. Partnering with government and faith-based sources, the program offers immediate shelter for up to 35 clients at a time in Eaton’s Promise, a former bed & breakfast. The residents commit to working with members of the TIS staff to acquire the skills necessary to manage their expenses while living an increasingly more independent life. 

Alternative Solutions:

ACDS oversees a variety of federal and state agencies that encourage and fund programs devised to aid the homeless. Among these supervising agencies are:

HOME Investment: An Investment Partnership Program which approves and oversees Block Grants to programs and nonprofits that plan to provide decent, affordable housing for the poor and homeless. 

Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) distributes and oversees grants to states, cities, and counties with plans to develop “viable urban communities,” with decent housing, suitable living environments, as well as programs to expand economic opportunities for low and moderate-income people. 

Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) are overseen by HUD to fund plans that develop rapid re-housing and engage homeless individuals and families living on the street, as well as plans to improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for the homeless. 

Habitat for Humanity collaborates with local organizations to find locations and build new homes that are affordable for low-income residents. As of 2019, Habitat for Humanity had constructed 127 homes in Anne Arundel County. Accordingly, there are 18 more homes that presently in the works. The program allows interested homebuyers to qualify based on desire to own, income limits, and willingness to work helping to restore an existing house or construct their new home. Mortgages with zero percent interest are arranged, and new homeowners pay no more than 30 percent of their income to satisfy their mortgage. 

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As this story was researched, I was struck by the increasing numbers of seniors who are homeless, as observed by both volunteers and professionals. Sometimes the cause of homelessness for people 60 or older is the catastrophic illness of a loved one or oneself. Medical bills leave them destitute and lead to the loss of their homes. Chronic unemployment or a working life spent as a homemaker leaves women without Social Security or pension benefits. Elders are being asked to care for grandchildren, a responsibility that drains physical and financial resources. The County is working through the Department of Aging to provide services, including adequate, affordable housing for Seniors before they lose their savings and their homes and are reduced to homelessness.

One final story of despair transformed to hope. The Light House shares the story of Faith and Cody and their two children. Though the couple was holding down full-time jobs, they were facing eviction, unable to pay the rent on their apartment. They came to the Light House where they were housed in one of the family apartments. Cody and Faith worked with their Light House Case Manager to learn how to manage their meager resources. They applied for healthcare, public assistance, and debt repayment support. Both parents participated in the Nurturing Parenting Program as well. The family eventually was able to move into a home of their own again, this time with essential skills and a plan in place to help them remain independent and secure as a family. 

Light House Safe Harbour Director Karen Williams shares this adage with us all, “The healing happens in relationships, and relationships take time.” 

Contact List for Organizations Mentioned within this Article

Access Housing: Anne Arundel County:

410-222-6200 

Arundel Community Development Services: 410-222-7600

Arundel House of Hope: Winter Relief Program: (Winter only) 410-222-7600 

Community Development Block Grant Program: Contact, Cindy Stone Director, Community Development Programs, Div. of Neighborhood Revitalization, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, 7800 Harkins Road Lanham, 301-429-7519 or 1-800-543-4505 

Habitat For Humanity: HFH of the Chesapeake: 3741 Commerce Drive, Ste. 309, Baltimore, http://www.habitatchesapeake.org, 410- 366-1250 

Haven Ministries: 608 Church Hill Road, Centreville, Sandi, Case Manager, 410-739-7859 

Home Investment Partnership Program: Anne Arundel County Single Family Housing Programs: Contact: Community Development Administration, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, 7800 Harkins Road, Lanham, 301-429-7797

Homelessness Solutions Program: Contact

Steve Holt, Asst. Director, Homelessness

Solutions Program, Div. of Neighborhood Revitalization, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, 7800 Harkins Road, Lanham, 410-209-5847

Lighthouse’s Safe Harbour Resource Center: 10 Hudson Street, Annapolis, 410-263-1835 

Sarah’s House: Anne Arundel County:

410-551-7722

SCAR Foundation: www.facebook.com/SecondChancesAfterRehabilitationFoundation

Street Outreach & Youth Outreach: Annapolis

& Anne Arundel County, Delores

Bullock, 410-831-7030

Talbot Interfaith Shelter: Easton, Fran at 410-253-5414 or frandoran@talbotinterfaithshelter.org 

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November’s garden column: Influential Garden Designers

Inspiration from Landscaping’s Greatest Hits

BY JANICE F. BOOTH

NOV. 10, 2020

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I suspect you’re sitting somewhere cozy, reflecting on the innumerable garden tasks you’ve completed, and you’re ready to dive head-long into preparations for the Holidays. This may be a perfect moment to cast your thoughts to a broader range of gardening ideas. And, with that in mind, I have gathered the names of gardeners and landscape designers who have left their marks on our vision of what is a beautiful garden.

Before wandering among these now-famous, perhaps familiar names, let me review the history, the evolution of gardens, beginning with the colonists, setting up their first dwellings in the new world: 

• They were looking for a practical approach to planting a garden. 18th Century “dooryard gardens,” as they were called, allowed the colonists to keep a close eye on the small patch of vegetables and herbs planted there. A quick step outside the door allowed for harvesting whatever was needed for the cooking pot, without too much danger from predators or weather. 

• By the early 19th Century, gardens were expanded to “kitchen gardens.” Fruit trees, veggies, herbs, and a few grape vines were cultivated, climate permitting. Such a garden was still focused on sustenance, though a few flowers, which could earn their keep, were introduced. Sunflowers, Marigolds, Echinacea, and Lavender were useful beauties.

• By mid-century, there were bustling markets and folks had enough leisure and space to cultivate ornamental gardens. The mid-1800s saw rise to a fascination with horticulture, and the development of new varieties of plants as well as methods of disease and pest controls. One such development that has had a lasting impact on gardening, was the development of Pyrethrum, a natural pest control made from dried Chrysanthemum petals.

• The 20th century’s expansion of urban living produced gardens in small towns and cities that were softer and sometimes grander. Ladies Garden Clubs became popular, as did  professional landscapers and gardeners. English gardens were influencing American gardens, with huge lawns, border beds, shrubbery borders, and ornamental water features.

• Mid-20th century’s two World Wars led American gardeners to return to feeding the family from one’s own garden. In 1943 there were 20 million “Victory Gardens,” where families grew vegetables, fruit, and herbs. These Victory Gardens were estimated to supply 40 percent of America’s produce requirements. 

• The second half of the 20th century saw gardening undergo major changes and upheaval. The 1950s and ’60s “improved” gardening by introducing toxins developed to alleviate pests and diseases in plants, both in the garden and on the farm. The long-term results were disastrous. In 1962, Rachel Carson shook the nation with her book Silent Spring. Dire warnings of the destruction of wildlife, and the eventual impact on the planet were heeded, and the first “Earth Day” was held in 1970. Organic gardening became the fashion. 

• The 21st century has something old, the return of edible gardening. According to the National Garden Association, 1/3 of American households report growing food in their gardens. And there’s plenty of something new. Landscape Architect, Anoushka Feiler lists these qualities of 21st century garden design as:Expand

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1. Healthy-sustainable-ethical design. 2.Adaptive and flexible usefulness. 3. Responsible disaster mitigation, such as permeable surfaces for drainage and irrigation. 4. Recycling and upcycling through the use of sustainable materials. 5. Encouraging an emotional connection with the garden. 6. Socially responsive design that encourages spontaneous interactions with family, friends, and neighbors. 7. Digital accessibility, allowing connectivity in its many forms, in the garden. 8. Immersion, providing both quiet isolation and space for group activities.

So, now we have a simple overview of the development of gardens from Colonial days to the present. But, to see the development of the aesthetics of gardening, I think it’s helpful to consider some of the people who have left their mark on Western or European gardens.

John Tradescant, the Elder and the Younger, were late 16th and early 17th century English adventurers and botanists, collecting rare and exotic specimens from the New World and Europe. In the case of Tradescant, The Younger, gardening and garden design were also his passions. Both father and son made excursions to the Colonies to collect seeds and plant specimens from the New World. The Elder devised a collection of artifacts from his travels, “The Ark,” which later became the first museum open to the public. The Younger gained renown for his garden designs, which included exotic flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables from the Colonies. 

French landscape architect, André Le Nôtre (1613–1700) may be familiar to you from Alan Rickman’s 2015 movie A Little Chaos. (Like me, you may be one of the 300 people who wanted to see Kate Winslet as a rough-and-tumble gardener.) Le Nôtre, the landscape architect to Louis the XIV, designed the gardens for Versailles, Fontainebleau, and the Tuileries, among others. His designs were based on Classical theories of order, balance, and symmetry. Expand

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Englishman, Lancelot “Capability” Brown (1716–1783) is almost a “household word,” at least among gardeners. His philosophy of garden design—Romanticism—reflected the wildness of nature. Though dead for over 200 years, Capability Brown gained recognition and even fame as a historical figure in the Tom Stoppard 1993 play, Arcadia, wherein Capability Brown’s landscape design plays a significant role. He was known by the nickname “Capability” both for his own abilities and his turn of phrase, “…of course, this property has capability for improvement.” And that argument must have worked; he is recognized for the creation of more than 190 English parks. Brown’s designs used the flowing vistas of English meadows, naturalistic ponds and streams, and copses or clumps of perfectly situated trees. His designs still flourish in several castle and palace gardens, including Blenheim Palace and Harewood House. 

Humphry Repton, (1752–1818) is considered Brown’s successor. Repton began his career polishing and upholding the work Brown had made famous, but later in Repton’s career, his own mark on landscape design was the addition of “Vistas,” or views of distant steeples, hillsides, or buildings. He introduced meandering parkways or carriage roads, focusing on the pleasure ride. Repton was interested in the picturesque. Perhaps Repton’s most permanent mark on landscape design is his “Red Book.” Named for the binding, these books contained detailed drawings and watercolor renderings of Repton’s vision for a particular project. He added “overlays” to show the garden or park’s growth over time. Not only did the Red Book help his business; the idea of a presentation book was soon picked up and used by landscape designers on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Frederick Law Olmstead (1822–1903) is perhaps the most famous American landscape architect. His parks and garden designs are distinguished by his eye for the natural and recognition of the relationship between the visitor and nature. His designs, which stand the test of time, are too numerous to list here, but New York City’s Prospect and Central Parks are among them. He worked on the creation of Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, New York, the oldest national park, as well as a gem-like string of public parks and parkways along the East Coast. Olmstead worked tirelessly caring for the sick and wounded during the Civil War as Secretary of the Sanitary Commission, later to become the American Red Cross. You may have read Erik Larson’s book, The Devil In the White City, about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Olmstead provided the landscaping of the Fair. Perhaps most vital of his accomplishments was his early championing of environmentalism and the protection of our nation’s exceptional natural beauty and bounty. Expand

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Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932) designed over 400 notable gardens in England and abroad. She wrote more than 1,000 articles on gardening and garden design. She was also a renowned painter and photographer. Her approach to landscape design reflected her artist’s eye and her admiration for the Arts and Crafts movement. The Romantic spirit and detailed craftsmanship were hallmarks of her work. Her influence was felt in both American and Britain, as impressionistic and vibrant flowers and arrangements gained in popularity. Perhaps Jekyll’s most renowned garden was the one she created for her sister, Caroline, in Venice in the mid-1880s. Named the Eden Garden for Caroline’s husband Frederic Eden, it was recognized for its exceptional beauty. Journalists Peter Parker and James Fenton wrote, “The garden featured a large number of willow pergolas covered in roses, and extensive plantings of Madonna lily as well as other English flowers. Paths around the garden were surfaced with local seashells. There were lawns, courts, and a walk lined with cypresses.”

Contemporary “Greats” are a bit harder to identify; however, three names are always included in the short list. Their influences, long-term, are still being measured.

Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994) was a Brazilian landscape architect and ecologist. He was the first notable voice to champion the protection of the rain forests. He worked in tropical garden design, offering the visitor the lavish beauty of Birds of Paradise, papaya, ferns, and orchids. Marx’s designs often included water gardens. 

Piet Oudolf (1944-present) embraces a naturalistic and ecologically sustainable approach to landscape and garden designs. He is noted for creating the High Line in New York City. “My biggest inspiration is nature. I do not want to copy it, but to recreate the emotion.” Other renowned gardens bearing Oudolf’s distinctive touch are the Lurie Garden in Chicago and the Oudolf Garden, Belle Isle, Detroit. In addition, Oudolf has completed gardens throughout Europe.

Thomas “Tommy” Church (1902–1978) championed the Modernist or California-style in garden design. Outdoor living and the outdoor room were his hallmark innovations. Four characteristics of his work were: (1) function as well as beauty, (2) unity of house and garden, (3) simplicity, and (4) scale, by means of engaging the structure(s) with the surroundings. His legacy comes through his books on garden design rather than specific gardens, Gardens Are for People (1955) and Your Private World: A Study of Intimate Gardens (1969).Expand

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We are fortunate to have many famous public and private gardens along the Eastern seaboard, particularly in the Brandywine Valley region of Pennsylvania and Delaware. I’m compiling a personal list of gardens I can drive to in our region. I plan to see for myself some of the brilliant, timeless beauty created by these landscape and garden designers.

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Sept. Garden Column: Autumnal Cleanup

Autumn Refreshers for the House & Garden

BY JANICE F. BOOTH

SEP. 14, 2020

from What’s Up? Magazine and e-zine

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With summer waning and fall arriving, perhaps we will want to expend some of our pent-up energy freshening up our long-suffering homes. 

We can each repay our houses and gardens for the countless hours, days, weeks, and months of shelter and comfort they have afforded us by dedicating some time and energy to sprucing up our surroundings. If we’re still sticking pretty close to home, (I’m writing this while still quarantined) we might be able to enlist the aid of other family members or housemates. But, perhaps not. This might be a project you’d rather tackle on your own—a quiet, contemplative work detail for one. And, I suspect, you’ll find that those less-enthused by the idea of a household spruce-up will stay out of your way, give you lots of time to yourself while you putter in the garden and tidy that closet. 

So, without further ado, let’s get started. Always a good idea to begin any project, it seems to me, with a bit of planning—the judicious making of lists, notes, drawings, recorded messages to self. I like to make lists. To focus your list-making, begin by take some photos of the areas where you’re thinking about making some changes. I seem to see my room with a more critical eye when I’m looking at a photo rather than staring at that room I’ve walked through countless times. 

So, that’s what I’ll do. First, a list and some photos of potential household projects to freshen up my tired house, and then, the tasks I want to tackle. Expand

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Indoors

First Decisions 

What is the scope of your project(s)? Do you want to do one area? One room? Or, do you want to plan several projects—the bedrooms, or the baths, or the home-office space(s)? 

Do you want to spend money—is there a budget, or will you do what you can with the resources at hand? 

Based on the budget question, how much of the work do you want to do yourself? What will you put your hand to? 

Can you hire professionals for some or most of the project(s)? If so, you may want to get several estimates or go with your reliable painter, electrician, or handy-person. (Here too, having those “before” snapshots will be helpful.)

Suggestions: Here are Four Potential Indoor Refreshers 

First Impressions: Look at those photos of your front door, front stoop or porch, front entry, or the front of your house. You might decide to paint the front door a color that “pops,” add a dramatic doorknocker, replace or polish the faceplate and door knob, and check handrails for wiggles. Perhaps there’s room for a tall, slender planter or interesting sculpture or statue to personalize the entryway.Expand

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Kitchen Catch-up: Your kitchen may have been getting far more use than ever before and need a little pick-me-up. Look at those photos; something may leap out at you: a simple project like getting the clutter off the counters. Are there places to stash that seldom-used toaster or the waffle maker? What about those recipes, crumpled and stained from countless references? How about organizing them? Maybe a scrapbook or an old-fashioned recipe box with indexes? Or, if you are really done with those paper recipes cut out of newspapers and magazines, and you want to toss most of them in the recycle, do it! If you’re really ambitious, you may want to plan a redo of your cabinets. That could mean taking out everything from the drawers and shelves and totally reorganizing them. Or, that might be replacing the pull-knobs or painting the cabinets a fresh color that brightens up the room. And, speaking of bright, why not look for a new or previously-owned light fixture? Sometimes, simply replacing old bulbs with bright, new LED bulbs makes a huge difference. 

Lighten Up Those Living Spaces: Those rooms where everyone congregates—that is, after the kitchen—may be crying for some freshening. The living room, family room, den, sunroom, or deck, wherever the fun takes place and the TV reigns, look over those pictures. Maybe you want to clean the couches, chairs, and drapes. How about giving a fresh coat of paint to the walls, woodwork, and ceiling? Sometimes it’s fun to take everything off the walls—all the art work and family photos—and then move them around. You’ll look at that painting differently if it’s placed across from your favorite chair. And, speaking of moving, consider moving furniture too. The couch might move from one side of the room to the other, or from the family room to the den. Those end tables may look like new pieces if you settle them beside the easy chairs in the living room. With cooler weather setting in, add some texture to the room—baskets for the magazines or toys, nubby pillows for the couch, a velvety throw across the arm of a well-used chair. You might find a small rug that will jazz up the area in front of the television, where the kids love to gather. And, while you’re adding a bit of splash with that area rug, how about changing the window treatments? Where you’ve had curtains, replace them with Roman blinds; get rid of those dusty vinyl blinds and install some chic, louvered shutters. Keeping the focus on the rooms light, look at the lamps in your room. Do the shades look a bit shabby? Replace them. Are there areas where there’s insufficient light for reading or playing board games? Add a floor or table lamp. As the days grow shorter, you’ll feel better in well-lit rooms.

Brighten Up the Bath: Unless you’re planning a total make-over for this important room, you’ll want to think about some TLC here. Like the living areas, the bath will benefit from a fresh coat of paint and new window treatments. There’s always the replacement of those tired, thin towels with some delicious, plump towels in some new color. Then, add a new bath mat and rug. You might want to install another mirror, perhaps a full-length or a mirror dramatically framed. If you have the floor space, the bath is a great place for some greenery. Maybe there’s a window where you can set a plant on the sill. A fern is pretty tolerant of low light and lots of moisture, and it adds a bit of drama to the room. If you can’t bear thinking about a live plant dropping leaves or someone knocking over the pot, create a pretty arrangement of silk leaves in a basket or bowl. 

Outdoors 

Whether you work in your garden or work with your gardeners, you’re probably pretty familiar with the drill—preparing your garden for the winter ahead. Whether you’re dealing with your planters and pots on the patio or your extensive flowerbeds, early autumn is a great time to tidy up and freshen your garden.

Suggestions: Here are Four Potential Outdoor Refreshers 

Food for Thought: Are you thinking it might be fun to eat what you’ve grown? There are a variety of vegetables that you can plant now and harvest in the early winter. Repurpose some of your planters, if you’re going to limit your edible garden to the patio. Or, choose a flowerbed close to the house that you can be transformed into a winter vegetable garden. Among the winter edibles are: lettuce, kale, cabbage, broccoli, fava beans, radishes, beets, Brussels sprouts, and garlic. You may be able to pick up the starter plants from local farmers at one of the farmers’ markets.

Keep an Eye to the Future: In addition to the satisfying task of clearing the debris that’s settled in your garden over the last three months, you can also see opportunities to increase your number of favorite plants, the ones that really thrive in your garden. There are ways to do that, dividing plants, collecting seeds, and planting divided bulbs. To divide your hostas, daylilies, asters, and creeping phlox you’ll want to be sure to first soak the soil around the plants so you can get your spade in and lift the large plant root ball. The exposed root ball will have to be cut with some sharp garden tool. Relocate the divided plants around the garden. Don’t worry too much about the clumsy process; your plants, if they’re a bit overgrown and unwieldy, will appreciate the trimming and bounce back lovelier in the spring—plus, you’ll have twice as many. Collecting seeds is quite a bit easier. And, if you miss some seeds, your backyard birds will thank you and enjoy the dropped seeds throughout the winter. Foxgloves, morning glories, sweet Williams, and marigolds are generous with their seeds and will even reseed themselves if you don’t disturb the soil beneath the adult plant in the fall. Finally, once you’ve divided old favorites and seeded lovely flowers, you may still have the energy to separate bulbs and replant tulip, daffodil, and hyacinth bulbs for those wonderful early-spring bursts of color. 

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October’s garden column: Winterizing

Winter Gardens

BY JANICE F. BOOTH

OCT. 24, 2020

What’s Up? Magazine & e-zine

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With winter approaching, our gardens, whatever their sizes, remind us that summer has ended. That pretty, red geranium won’t last past the first frost; our Hellebores will droop and wither.  And what about that cheery, red tomato plant brightening the patio and our salads?  It too is at the end of its season.  

But, don’t be too downhearted.  I have a few suggestions that may lift your spirits and give you a chance to continue gardening all winter long. 

How about bringing just a bit of your summer garden indoors for the cold months ahead?  Or, start a fresh, indoor garden—maybe a few vegetables and herbs.  It might be fun seeing if you can coax some carrots and radishes to flourish on your window ledge and brighten your winter salads. 

So, first let’s talk about bringing some of your favorite plants indoors, and then I’ll go over some of the vegetables and herbs that can be fun to raise indoors.

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Relocating Annuals Indoors

Perennial plants are equipped to survive winter and actually need that dormant “cool down” for their roots and bulbs to regenerate and gather energy for spring growth.  Annuals can’t tolerate the cold. But, with a bit of preparation, annuals will keep growing and, in some cases, even bloom indoors throughout the bleak months of winter. 

There are two ways to bring your pretty annuals inside:

#1 Dig up the healthiest specimens of each annual.

• Be careful to dig a few inches away from the plant’s stem, lifting out a pot-size root ball. 

• Check your plant for bugs. Look for things like tiny white aphids on the underside of the leaves and where the leaf meets the stem. If you see any suspicious little specks or crawlies, hose off the plant with a gentle but firm spray of water. Another method, which I prefer to insure I’ve gotten the bugs, is to fill a pail with water and a few drops of dish soap.  Submerge the plant in the water for 10–15 minutes. That will get rid of insects on the plant and among the roots – another hiding place for those pests.

• Using fresh potting soil, situate your specimens in clean pots or bowls, pitchers, or whatever you think will be an attractive container. Be sure there is drainage. You may need to add vermiculite to the soil and/or line the bottom of the pot or bowl with small pebbles so the roots won’t sit in water. 

• When choosing the containers, keep in mind where you plan to place the plants.  If you have narrow windowsills, you’ll want to choose containers that will sit on those narrow surfaces. Or, you might want to buy windowsill extensions or plant stands.

• Thoroughly water the old plants in their new soil nests. You’ll want the soil to settle around the roots to avoid air pockets among the roots.

• Most plants are light sensitive. Some prefer diffused light, others bright sunshine. You’ll know where to place your annuals based on where they flourished outdoors. Try to find steady light for your flowering friends, as they acclimate to being indoors. If they’re happy and you’re lucky, you may get pretty blooms in December and January.

• Speaking of acclimating: After you’ve potted your plants, you may want to help them adjust to their new homes gradually by setting them outdoors, on the deck or porch during the day for a week or so. Be sure to bring them in at night; you don’t want them to get too cold.  The gradual change in climate will make it easier for your plants to feel at home in their indoor surroundings.

• Don’t be alarmed if, at first, the plants drop some or many of their leaves. As long as little leaf buds begin to appear along the stems, they’ll be okay. Expand

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#2 Start new plants by using cuttings from your outdoor annuals.  

(This technique is lots of fun, and may make a great project to share with children—your own, your neighbors, and grandchildren. It could even serve as a science experiment if you and your little assistant take photos and keep records of watering, fertilizing, and growth. Think about it as a remote project to share with little ones who are far away. They can participate with the coaxing of the cuttings and watching the plants grow and flourish via the internet.)

• Some of the sure-fire annuals that respond well to reproduction by cutting include: Lantana, Coleus, Fuchsia, Wax Begonia, and Sweet Potato Vine.  If none of those are growing in your garden, there are others, of course, which you can research on-line.

• Take your cutting sheers, a basket or flat box lined with wet paper towels, and wander through your flower beds looking for healthy, happy annuals.  Look for the newish growth and snip a cutting that’s about 6” long; you may want to take 3–4 cuttings of each type of plant. Avoid cutting a section that has a flower or bud on it; the plant will have used its energy producing the flower. If you can only find a piece with a bud or flower, snip off the flower. Carefully lay your cuttings on the damp towel. (If you think you’ll forget which cutting is from which variety of annual, devise some way to make notes. For example, take a picture of the plant with your cutting(s) next to it so you can refer back to the pictures later if you forget which little, sprouting cutting will become a begonia, which a Sweet Potato Vine.  You’ll need to keep track somehow, since the amount of light required by each species will dictate each little plant’s location.) 

• Once you have your cuttings, place the cuttings of a single type of plant in each jar, and add water up to about 2–3” from the base of the cuttings.  You might have one jar with all the begonia cuttings, another jar with all the coleus.  Be careful to submerge only about 1/3 of each piece. You don’t want the cuttings to drown, only to send out shoots/roots to absorb the water and nutrients. 

• Set the jars in windows that have good light but not harsh sunlight. Within two weeks you’ll begin to see delicate tendrils emerging from the cuttings’ bases. (Don’t forget to take photos if you’re sharing the progress with children.)  Over the next week these delicate roots will fill-in and become stronger. 

• When you see a network of these rootlets, it’s time to plant the cuttings in their winter home.  You may want to put several cuttings in one pot, which encourages a fuller plant. Or, you might want to put each cutting in its own pot.  Like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, each little plant will want a home that is not too big or too small.  You can usually pick up tiny clay pots that will hold these new plants. But, any small container could work.

• Once the cuttings are planted in fresh potting soil and settled in their new homes, water each pot so the soil is moist but not soggy, perhaps adding some light fertilizer. Be sure to give them enough water to settle plant roots.

• Move the new plants to the locations you’ve chosen for them—with just the right amount of light, and plan to water them as needed, usually once a week.  If you’re working with a budding scientist, be sure to keep a record of watering amounts, hours of sunlight, and plant growth.Expand

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Setting Up a Winter Vegetable and Herb Garden Indoors

While I don’t recommend you give up trips to the grocer for fresh vegetables and fruit, you may want to experiment with raising a variety of vegetables in your own window garden. Again, this might be a great activity to undertake with young people. You’ll only need a few things to get started:

Location: For most herbs and vegetables, you need windows that provide sunlight 5–6 hours most days. (Failing this, you can invest in grow lights. Some companies produce grow lights that will fit in regular light sockets.)

Equipment: Purchase high-quality vegetable and herb starter plants and seeds, pots that breathe; terracotta, for example, and non-permeable trays to hold the pots and any drainage. You may also want to devise some shelves or cases to hold your garden.

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Watering: Obviously, water and fertilizer will be essential. Different herbs and vegetables require different amounts of water, so you may want to prepare some sort of chart or calendar for watering and fertilizing.

Once you have prepared your resources, the fun begins.  Among the herbs and vegetables that lend themselves to indoor gardens are:

Arugula: adds a bit of zing to winter salads and can be “harvested” several times since it grows back after cutting.

Carrots: short varieties such as Little Fingers: be careful to plant the seeds in containers deep enough to allow the root plant to grow.

Culantro (similar to Cilantro): a sweet, not bitter, herb that adds zest for cooking.

Kale: adds color as well as flavor to winter meals. Gardener Tiffany Davis advises you harvest the outer kale leaves as the inner leaves continue to mature outward. 

Leaf celery: (not stalk celery) adds color to a salad; Leaf celery can be pink or lime green.

Lemon grass: a distinctive herb; the plant will grow quite large, so choose a big pot, and keep it in a warm location, away from drafts.

Potatoes: while it’s fun to harvest and eat your own winter potatoes, you may want to buy specially designed bags in which potatoes can be grown. These bags come with rich soil and the seed potatoes ready to be planted. You won’t be raising these potatoes for a quantity harvest. 

Radishes: fun root vegetables that are easy to grow and tasty.

Sprouts: those familiar, nutty little veggies that will grow almost anywhere in almost any substance. They can be bought as sprout kits.

Tomatoes: Ah, how lovely to have some plump, little Cherry Tomatoes to pluck from your own vine. They’ll require patience, but they’ll be worth the wait.

Whatever you decide to grow in your indoor, winter garden, you will have some frustrations, but you’ll also have some triumphs and fun.  Winter is a perfect time for expanding your gardening expertise and enjoying the small, easy challenges of a window garden or veggies and herbs under grow lights. Who knows; you might find it’s almost as satisfying to garden in winter as it is in summer.

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August’s Gardening column from What’s Up? Media

Gardening’s For the Birds

BY JANICE F. BOOTH

AUG. 19, 2020

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As summer draws to a close, we can look ahead to autumn’s delights. One of fall’s pleasures may be enjoying your fall garden. The little joys—the unremitting blooms of the Black-eyed Susans, the tender roots of that Boxwood twig you planted, and, hopefully, the call of the Canada geese winging their way south. I hope, dear reader, that you and I can hold onto some of the insights we gained from our months of self-isolation and apply those insights now and in the future—how satisfying it became to simply watch the trees bud and leaves emerge. What a simple pleasure, having the time to watch the squirrels scamper across the telephone wires and the birds nibble at your feeder. 

Let me propose an easy and satisfying project based on our reawakened enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures. Why not devise adaptations to our gardens, patios, or decks to make these areas even more welcoming to those songbirds, bees, and butterflies that have entertained us during our long sequestration? Some of those little, feathered balls of energy may winter over here in Maryland while others can be enticed to return next spring to our welcoming gardens. Expand

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Why garden with birds, bees, and butterflies in mind? 

There are at least five solid reasons for encouraging these tiny creatures to visit your garden. 

• Birds and butterflies entertain and delight us. (Honey bees, too, can prove entertaining—at a safe distance, of course.) There is the simple pleasure of watching them zoom in to rest on a railing or perch on your feeder. What are they thinking as they select the perfect seed, cooperating with one another or pushing each other out of the way—not unlike kids on the playground. How does that delicate splash of color emerge from its dull cocoon? The minor-key song of the Chickadee, the melodic chirrups of the Song sparrow, the hearty songs of the Robins fill the day. There’s also the particular pleasure of learning to identify the birds that visit our feeders. Is that a House finch or a Purple finch? Am I listening to the Cardinal’s song, or is that a Robin? How does that Nuthatch hang on as he skitters, head down the trunk of that oak? It always takes my breath away, watching a tiny Goldfinch undulate like a yellow snake across the sky. As we learned during our forced confinement, there is a great deal to be observed, if we have the time and the patience. 

• Another compelling reason to provide for the birds, bees, and butterflies is the work they do in our gardens. They are the seeders and pollinators. They carry the potential for new plants and the magic dust that allows plants to flower and reproduce. Without the pollinators our mums and asters would never bloom, our fruit trees would bear no fruit. 

• Tired of swatting at those pesky flies and mosquitoes? Avoiding those smelly sprays and noisy bug-zappers? Well, leave it up to the birds! Their favorite meal may be a juicy fly or a crinkly mosquito! Birds dine on those nasty aphids and mites that can plague our plants. Woodpeckers, finches, chickadees, and (here’s an easy one) flycatchers eat oodles of insects every day; picking off a fly on the wing is a favorite pastime for a swallow. Barn swallows will eat over 1,000 insects per day! But they’re light eaters when compared to the Purple martins which eat 2,000 mosquitoes per day. No wonder folks put up those pretty apartment-birdhouses designed specifically for Purple martins! 

• Birds can also save you some work in the flowerbeds. Ground feeders, like finches, towhees, and sparrows eat the seeds of future weeds, eliminating or at least diminishing the number of weeds you’ll do battle with in your flowerbeds. 

• Finally, some of those more impressive raptors—hawks, owls, and kestrel—will help keep down the rodent population. These sharp-eyed hunters eat mice, voles, squirrels, and snakes. (Sorry about the squirrels.) A nesting pair of Barn owls eats over 3,000 rodents during their mating season. A hawk eats one or two large rodents each day. And for all of us struggling with voles beneath our lawns and in our gardens, hear this! Kestrels eat 4–8 voles each day, depending on the season! (They’re welcome to all the voles in my lawn.) Expand

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How can I encourage the birds, butterflies, and bees to visit my garden?

There are only four essentials for making your garden, patio, or terrace a welcoming habitat for these visitors.

Food: You can, of course, set up bird feeders and buy bags of birdseed. This is a great way to draw birds in, so you can get a closer look at them. A few cautions, however: If you are successful, buying seed to keep your hungry guests well fed can get expensive. Also, if you begin supplying a feeder, you need to continue refilling it. The birds that visit will come to rely on your largesse. If your feeder goes empty for too long, your feathered friends might suffer. And, prepare for clean-up duty. The birds will be a bit cavalier in their exploring of your feeder, tossing seeds hither and yon. You’ll have to keep a broom and dust pan handy or your patio floor will look like the floor in a saloon that offers free peanuts—unshelled. Bees and butterflies need only flowers—trumpet vines, sunflowers, petunias, and roses. No clean-up necessary.

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Water: A reliable water source will be a valued gift for your visitors. A few plastic flowerpot saucers will do—you’ll have to dump and refill them often. A birdbath is a charming, old-fashioned solution. They’re usually a bit larger and will hold enough water for a few days. Either choice must be shallow. The birds need to be able to stand on the rim or a rock in the birdbath. A major project that offers a lovely solution is adding a pond to your garden. A pond provides essential water for all the small creatures that share your neighborhood—birds, butterflies, foxes, raccoons, and rabbits. 

Shelter: Here’s the excuse for all of us who are lazy gardeners. Resist a too-tidy garden or flowerbed. Birds, bees, and butterflies need places to hide and shelter from predators and weather. You’ll provide essential shelter if you leave a few forsythia to run wild or create a small wood pile with those fallen branches you collect. There are plans on-line for clever insect apartment buildings you can create and install in your garden. 

Safety: Whether you’re figuring out where to hang the feeder or locate the birdbath, consider the safety of the birds as they rest. If there are cats and dogs in your household or neighborhood, you will need to consider height—how tall a base will be needed to keep the cat from jumping into the birdbath? If you hang the birdfeeder from a tree, how far out on a branch should you go to keep squirrels from easily jumping into the feeder? 

And, speaking of squirrels, as we gardeners face the unremitting struggle to keep squirrels out of our flowerpots, birdfeeders, and bulbs, let me offer a few suggestions for squirrel-repellants. 

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Nature’s solution: Try planting some or all of the following flowers in your garden. Squirrels are repelled by: 

  • Allium 
  • Geraniums 
  • Hyacinths
  • Lilies of the Valley
  • Snowdrops 

Kitchen concoctions: 

1. Hot stuff: Mix 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of Cayenne pepper, and 2 tablespoons of powdered mustard. Sprinkle the powder around birdbaths and feeders. The birds won’t be bothered, but the squirrels may! 2. Wet stuff: Mix equal quantities of water and vinegar. Spray areas where you wish to repel the squirrels. You can also try adding peppermint oil or garlic. 

With over 400 species of birds sighted in Maryland, and almost 300 of them fairly common, what are we waiting for? Hold onto those quiet hours when you can sit and observe the world around you—feed the birds, watch the bees move delicately from flower to flower, catch your breath as a golden Monarch butterfly visits your purple asters. And when winter comes, you’ll still find a few old friends looking to you for seeds when snow and ice blanket the earth.

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August 2020

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