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Musings of an urban gardener.

Black raspberries are king in my garden; red raspberries are queen. I've been a bit of a fanatic about raspberries since I picked them as a boy along a railroad bed near here. Mom used them for pies and jams, and I was hooked.

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The only problem was I lived, and still live, in a row home in a small Pennsylvania city. Something had to go, and that something was the grass. I pounded wooden stakes into the ground, attached wires at several heights and planted raspberries. I preferred the black ones; Mom liked red raspberries better. Both were planted.

Now 30 years later, my parents are gone, but the raspberries remain. Other small fruits have joined them. On a trip to Austria, I met red currants. Soon several plants of both red and black varieties joined the raspberries. Then I discovered a thornless blackberry. Several plants moved in at the end of the lot.

The house already had an arbor of white Niagara grapes; a previous owner had used them to make wine during Prohibition. When that venerable vine died of old age, I planted a tasty blue Steuben in its place. Now five years later, it covers the old arbor and provides delicious grapes. The birds also love them.

With such limited room, I can't have much of any one thing. I have managed to find room for several elderberry shrubs, and now I'm trying my hand at blueberries and yellow raspberries. So far I get just enough blueberries for my morning cereal.

More than a hobby, I find gardening to be a link to the past and to loved ones. I find comfort in the blue periwinkles that were a gift from a former fiancee. Virginia bluebells remind me of a favorite uncle. Mom always thought of her mother when she saw the white lilies-of-the valley each April. Now I think of her. My father was hopeless in the garden, but he loved his tomatoes, and I honor his memory by growing several plants each summer. Poppies remind me of the Great War veterans I've known.

My garden is now certified as a wildlife sanctuary through a program sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. (Rules and applications may be found at their Web site at www.NWF.org, click on "Outside in Nature.")

I expect I'll continue gardening in the city until retirement, when I hope to move to a home in the country with more land. Until then, friends will continue to chuckle at my urban wilderness. Others will refuse to accept gifts of the young plants that result when I thin the garden. But I know they really appreciate it when I give them a jar of black currant jam from my garden.

DAN LARUE

Lebanon, Pennsylvania

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Title Annotation:Mail Call
Author:Larue, Dan
Publication:Grit
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Words:464
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