SPOTTED recently, a handbill for the younger...

Salmagundi

October 13, 1994

SPOTTED recently, a handbill for the younger set:

TEEN-AGERS!

Tired of stupid parents telling you what to do?

Move Out

Get a Job

Pay Your Own Bills

ACT NOW!

While you still know everything

* * *

AND now, some words for the older set:

"What a cunning and insidious thing, in its approach, is old age! How it steals upon you in the night! How carefully it looks you over before it strikes! Confronting you like a cunning antagonist, it fences cautiously until it sees where your guard is weak; it toys and feels with its point, for some opening where, in careless youth, you removed the shield of health and did not replace it; and then, when the spot is found, with quick and unerring thrust, it pinks you."

-- John Sargeant Wise

* * *

HERE'S a riddle for one of these splendid autumn days when you're out for a drive:

When are wildflowers not wild?

Answer: When they're planted by the State Highway Administration along interstate highways and other high-speed roads in Maryland.

Out for a spin last Saturday, we were particularly struck by the patches of pink and purple in the median of I-70 between Baltimore and Frederick. So we called the SHA and talked to Charlie Adams, director of environmental design.

They're cosmos, Mr. Adams said -- annuals sewn earlier this year so that their blooming would end the season along with the falling leaves. "The cosmos gets more positive response than anything else," said Mr. Adams. The SHA also plants the black-eyed Susan, oxeye (a sunflower-like perennial) and dame's rocket (a spring and early summer flower with white and purple blooms).

Mr. Adams said the state has about 250 acres in flower along I-70, I-795, U.S. 50, I-95 and Maryland Route 140 near Western Maryland College in Westminster. The plantings are designed to provide aesthetic pleasure to motorists, and though preparing the land and planting it costs as much as $1,000 per acre, the state is saving more than that by mowing much less frequently.

Not mowing, Mr. Adams said, not only allows for the acres planted by design; it also allows real native Maryland wildflowers -- daisies, black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne's lace -- to grow naturally along the highways.

Like the "1 percent for art" requirement in the construction of public buildings, the state's wildflower planting program is a pleasant affirmation of aesthetics for their own sake. This time the artist is Mother Nature, given an assist by state bureaucrats.

Who are not always blind to beauty.

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