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Urban Gardener

Articles: Urban Gardener

Even as a young child, I was drawn to two extremes: the excitement of the big city and the wonder of nature. Back in the early 1950s, Detroit was a big city, and I thrilled to the crowds of people, the cacophony of automobiles and streetcars, grand movie palaces, J. L. Hudson’s giant department store, Sanders chocolate shops, and those wonderfully tall buildings spearing the sky.

Yet I was equally fascinated by the trees, flowers, birds, and bugs that could be found throughout the residential neighborhoods. My parents maintained a small vegetable garden and charged me (at age five) with monitoring the climbing beans. I watched them every day, making sure that their rapidly elongating shoots always found a string to grab, and was thrilled to harvest edible beans as the season progressed. The two nurses who lived next door introduced me to their much more elaborate garden. Maxine, in particular, spent hours with me after school and on weekends, teaching me about plants and gardens.

On my eighth birthday, we moved to the far eastside suburbs, to a tract home with a larger yard than we had had in the city. By the age of nine, I was given charge of the entire garden—but with the m...

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