Not too long ago the downtown streets were bleak and colorless; now hairdressers, restaurants, real estate offices, and bars are swaddled and bunted with flowers. Why did businesses decide to put out plants? To increase business? To celebrate beauty? Perhaps a bit of both. Burgeoning pots appeared during the flush days before the recession, and I'm glad to see they have not disappeared with the downturn.
Before the current fashion, a gardener in East Arlington delighted us with his dahlias, which are easy to grow if you have full sun but not easy to grow on for the next season. In cold New England they must be dug up before frost, making sure each stalk has at least one "eye," the incipient bud that will sprout the next year. The clumps must be allowed to dry, then separated and stored in a cool, dry place, in sand or vermiculite. Forty degrees fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for storage, not an easy climate to find in a suburban house.
Every spring for years the dahlia gardener puts out his wintered-over plants. They're in full bloom now. He maintains his place with ferocious order, but beyond the black asphalt driveway, tight lawn, and straight-edged beds close to the house, he lets the dahlias luxuriate against the chain link fence separating his property from the sidewalk. The flowers break through and reach us. I've never seen him.