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Blooming community pride: Housing Authority residents plant flowers to beautify area

They're improving their community one seed at a time.

Some residents of the Thomson Housing Authority planted flower seeds around their government subsidized houses, not only to bring pleasure to themselves and their neighbors, but to improve the image of the neighborhood.

"I'm just trying to build the image up from a typical 'project,' because that's what everybody calls it, so we need to get rid of that bad image," said Willow Street resident Linda Teague. "Because really, this is a good place to live. It really is."

Carolyn Andrews, Housing Authority occupancy clerk, said the idea to spruce up the yards started about five years ago when a large number of shrubs were donated to the Housing Authority. Also, Ms. Andrews said former Officer Jessie Bowman used to raffle off flowers to the residents and encourage them to beautify their neighborhood and take pride in it.

The idea grew like wild flowers...

Linda Teague, Willow Street

Sitting on her front porch surrounded by zinnias, marigolds, asters, roses, hydrangeas, begonias, petunias, and more, Ms. Teague credits the beauty of her flower garden to her grandchildren.

"My grandchildren and I totally went berserk," she said as she tried to list all the flowers planted. "The soil is the key to a good garden. The kids had a ball breaking up the big clods of dirt."

Assisted by her grandchildren, Trey, 9, Beth, 8, Dixie, 6 and JoDon, 3, Stevenson, all of Thomson, and Chase LaBrache, 6, of Pendleton, S.C., Ms. Teague used a shovel to till and work the soil in January to plant seeds in March.

Ms. Teague said she asked Bob Flanders, the Housing Authority executive director, for some landscaping timbers to mark the garden boundaries, and proceeded from there. The flowers adorn the front, side and back of Ms. Teague's side of the quadplex. JoDon even planted four or five corn kernels around the bird feeder.

"When I suggested we save the corn for a vegetable garden, he said, 'but grandma, you might forget to feed the birds and this way they'll have something to eat,'" Ms. Tillman said with a laugh. "And every one of them actually came up, so I left it there."

Willie Mae Few, Spruce Street

Ms. Few's small garden in front of her house is a garden of love. Today, it abundantly grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and sweet peppers. But earlier in the spring, it bloomed profusely with begonias and periwinkles, a few of which are still blooming there.

"I made baskets of flowers in the spring and gave them to everybody for Mother's Day," Ms. Few said. "I surprised Miss Carolyn (Andrews) with a basket at Mother's Day, and she got this big ole smile on her face."

The vegetables allow her to keep spreading the love throughout the summer. Not only does Ms. Few share her tomatoes and peppers with her neighbors, but she makes cucumber and vinegar salad and "gives it to anybody."

Ms. Few said she likes to watch her garden grow every day, but she likes sharing it even more.

"When people are down, I just give them a flower and it brings cheer to their heart and that makes me happy," she said.

Ocie Lee Mayes, Pecan Court

When she was seven years old, Ms. Mayes vividly remembers her mother having a beautiful flower garden. Whenever she was complimented on it, she would tell people the flowers did so well because her children helped her.

"So, I've been liking them and growing them ever since I was seven, and I'm 80 now," Ms. Mayes said, adding that she has planted flowers every where she has ever lived.

Not only are people amazed because her flowers bloom so heartily, but they are amazed because Ms. Mayes is able to grow them even though she is a double amputee and confined to a wheelchair. Ms. Mayes said she works her garden a little bit at the time, and then when she gets tired, she goes inside to cool off.

"Everybody wants to know how I do it, and I just turn myself sideways in my chair and I just do it," she said. "You can find ways to do whatever it is you want to do."

In addition to zinnias, moss roses, daylilies, touch-me-nots, hibiscus, roses, "and a few I don't know the names of," Ms. Mayes also has tomatoes, blackberries, peppers and watermelons growing around her house.

She has hanging baskets in the tree behind her house, potted plants on the picnic table, hanging baskets on both sides of the house, and flowers in the front, on the side and in the back, plus across her neighbors side of the duplex.

"We have the beautifullest flowers on Pecan Court," said her next-door neighbor, Betty Thomas, who also has a leg amputated and is in a wheelchair. "I don't have a green thumb, I have a rusty thumb. I helped her hold them, but I don't do nothing to them, she's the one that makes 'em grow."

Ms. Mayes said she has no secret to her floral success. She said she has put 10-10 fertilizer on the flowers twice since she planted them.

Laura Adams, Pecan Avenue

Ms. Adams plants flowers every year. And she not only plants for herself, but she's willing to help any one of her neighbors who wants flowers, also.

"It's beautiful scenery, and I didn't do anything, I just sat out here and watched her put them in," said Ms. Adams' neighbor, Annie Denson. "She asked if she could put them on my side, too, and I said she could."

But this year's scenery isn't as beautiful as years past, Ms. Adams said. She first purchased seeds from a catalog, but they didn't grow after she planted them.

"So, I had to plant some more, and I was later getting these in the ground," she said from her seat behind the zinnias, sunflowers, moss roses and petunias

Web posted on Thursday, July 30, 2009

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