It's going to get wild along highways with flowers

June 03, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

The flowers are just wild.

They're blue, red, pink, yellow, white, orange and purple. They're mixed together, blowing in the wind, sweetening the air and attracting birds and butterflies.

They're wildflowers, and they're blooming in more and more Carroll fields and yards.

At Neil and Debbie Ridgely's Finksburg home, a wildflower bed with plants up to 3 feet tall curves along one side of the driveway.

Red poppies, blue cornflowers, yellow black-eyed Susans, white baby's breath, orange Mexican hats and other brilliant varieties will be blooming through the summer.

Mr. Ridgely is happy. He sees brightly colored flowers when he comes home, he doesn't have to mow the quarter-acre plot and neighbors often stop to admire his work.

"It's a very economical way to liven up the landscape," said Tom Ford, an agriculture adviser at the Cooperative Extension Service.

Carroll residents will see more wildflowers along state roads next year, said Bruce Knott, a State Highway Administration landscape specialist.

The state has been planting wildflowers on roadsides for about six years and has increased its efforts this year, he said. Its goal is to plant 220 acres in wildflowers this year and next from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland, he said.

"Mainly it's done for aesthetics and to improve relations with the public. We get a lot of favorable comments from the public," Mr. Knott said.

"We have a policy -- 'Grow, don't mow.' "

The state saves about $150 per acre each year on mowing costs on land planted in wildflowers, Mr. Knott said.

State workers will plant a mixture of wildflowers at five places in Carroll this fall, he said:

* On Route 140 just north of Baugher Road, on the right side on the way to Taneytown.

* On Route 140 near the interchange with Route 97, near the Western Maryland College golf course.

* At Route 140 and the interchange for Route 27 near Cranberry Mall.

* On Route 140 just west of Finksburg, near Todd Village Trailer Park.

G; * Near Winfield, between Route 26 and Old Liberty Road.

When butterflies appear

Two county parks also have wildflower beds. Flowers have been growing at Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center in a fenced area of less than an acre since 1989.

At Piney Run Park, volunteers and students sowed about 500 plants near a trail on May 22, naturalist Deanna Hofmann said. Some of the flowers should bloom this summer.

"Eventually, it will be real showy," she said.

When the blossoms attract butterflies, the area will be used for educational programs, Ms. Hofmann said.

Mr. Ridgely's garden has attracted hummingbirds and finches, he said.

"I do it [plant wildflowers] for beauty, and I do it for habitat as well," he said.

4( He said he spent $250 for the seeds.

Ask neighbors first

Gardeners should ask their neighbors before they plant a wildflower garden, Mr. Ridgely and Mr. Ford advised.

Some people consider wildflowers a nuisance, especially when they're not blooming, said Mr. Ridgely, who is program manager for the county division of landscape and forest conservation.

He keeps his wildflower bed in check by mowing around it. He clears a 10-foot border of grass along the wildflower bed near the driveway and keeps the flowers six feet from his neighbor's property line on the other side.

"It gives it [the bed] something of a neat and planned appearance," Mr. Ridgely said.

Wildflower gardens also can become a health hazard, Mr. Ford said. Rodents that carry ticks and Lyme disease can take up residence among the flowers, he said.

Gardeners also could be cited under the county's weed ordinance if a neighbor complains about an unsightly garden, said Richard B. Isaac, director of the county Environmental Health Bureau. Any lawn or Weeds that grow more than a foot high may be considered a nuisance, and the landowner could be made to mow the area or pay a fine.

Mr. Isaac said he has planted a 60-foot-by-10-foot wildflower bed at his Upperco home: "I'm trying it."

Mr. Knott said state highway workers will have to watch roadside flower beds for signs of weeds, especially thistle, which is considered a noxious weed in Maryland.

He said he hasn't seen problems with rodents or insects in the state's wildflower beds.

"Sometimes we have problems with people out there trying to dig [plants] up," Mr. Knott said.

The state doesn't mind if residents pick a flower or two, but they shouldn't dig up the plants, he said.

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