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Gardening Downtown: Townsend

In my town’s original business district, pavement usually covers the short span between storefronts and street. This sterile milieu is relieved by the green, shady common — but about 20 years ago, inspired by a trip to Montreal, Pharmacist Terry McNabb decided we needed flowers.

His south-facing building reflects sun onto a blacktop sidewalk, which holds heat. ‘Wave’ petunia loves these conditions. This great plant flowers heavily, and doesn’t need deadheading or pruning. Not bushy, it grows low, creeping and trailing. In window boxes all along the front of McNabb’s, it drapes gloriously to the ground — more than three feet — and eventually even out over the blacktop.

Neighboring businesses were inspired, spreading ‘Wave’ down the street. The cultivar’s darker colors, especially deep pink and purple, stand out against the white-painted buildings. (Other easy-care groundcover petunias are also now available.)

Across the street, Anderson & Son Funeral Home has a bit of lawn deeply shaded by the grand old house. At the foot of green foundation shrubs, pink and white impatiens sparkle.

Stewart’s Florist, next door, has a greater setback, so the two planters at the sidewalk get just enough sun that proprietor Carolyn Sullivan can get “whatever tickles my fancy” at a nursery.

John Forest added brick planters along the front of the old general store building which is now Forest Appliance. They need plants that will thrive in the shadier east end as well as the southwest sun on the corner of Main and Elm Streets (Routes 119 and 13).

Last year the Townsend Business Association added more color to the common itself: recycled whisky barrels planted with a variety of flowers, including some ‘Wave.’ People were so enthusiastic that president Cal Robbins decided to open up the program: now anyone may sponsor a barrel.

Keith Hutchinson, of the Flower Hutch, will plant them for either sun or shade; he’s looking foward this year to using, in the shade mix, some of the double impatiens that look like precious little roses. Then he delivers them to the location the sponsor chooses from Robbins’ approved sites along Main Street. Finally, Robbins takes all responsibility for watering and maintenance.

The TBA contributes the proceeds to local charities, to preparations for Townsend’s 275th celebration, and to lighting the common at night.

However, not enough barrels have been sponsored yet this year. Robbins needs eleven more, by 8 pm April 30, for the program to go. Call him at (978) 833-8341.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 22 April 2005

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