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Woman tends garden at Potomac Towers

August 23, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Look for her in the Potomac flowers.

Jane White follows the tendrils of sunrise to her daily task of tending the blossoming bed at Potomac Towers in Hagerstown.

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The Hagerstown Housing Authority provides the plants and gardening supplies, but White, 78, maintains the garden free of charge, said Grace Weakly, program director for senior services.

Between 6-6:30 a.m. each day, White waters and weeds, plucks dead leaves, and watches with pride as her flowers flourish despite the drought.

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"I just enjoy it. It's something to pass the time away," White said. "If I didn't like it, I wouldn't do it."

The Hagerstown native nurtured the flower beds at her Howard Street home before moving in 1990 to the Hagerstown Housing Authority complex, where she began helping another resident care for the flower garden, she said.

White took over the task after her friend died about five years ago, she said.

It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

The Housing Authority saves money and White gets to use her green thumb, she said.

"It's a labor of love for her," Weakly said. "This kind of just grew over time - like the garden."

White said she lists her gardening needs and maintains the bed after the Housing Authority gives her the provisions. She used to lug pails of water uphill to the garden, but now uses a hand-pump installed at the corner of the bed.

Her good deed hasn't gone unnoticed by White's fellow Potomac Towers residents.

"When those lilies came up last week, they were beautiful," said Catherine Brown, 62.

"I come out about every day and look at them," said Ruth Bovey, 58. "But we don't touch those flowers."

They know better.

"I don't want anybody else messing around with the garden," White said.

She thrice re-planted one flower that had been yanked from the soil, and each day removes cigarette butts and other litter.

"I don't know why people do it," she said. "They throw cans and everything."

Such trash detracts from the floral artist's living canvas.

A bank of multi-colored mums back a broad splash of salmon-hued geraniums. Ornamental grasses spring from rings of violet blossoms, and a red-tinged rim of dianthus plants form a bold outer boundary.

White said she uses her eye for color and a trial and error approach to planting.

If a plant grows well one year, it'll likely grace the garden the next, she said.

The purple-tipped butterfly bushes that caught White's eye in front of a local hardware store several years ago have fared so well that she recently added two more to the garden, she said.

Although other residents have asked White for her gardening secrets, she said she doesn't have any.

"I just water 'em every day," she said.

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