PANORAMA - Festive flowers mix with the expected hodgepodge in Walla Walla's alleyways

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In some ways, alleys are the opposite of sidewalks.

Even in an outwardly upscale neighborhood, a walk down the alley is often a study in rundown outbuildings, invasive weeds, garbage, rusting lawn furniture and more invasive weeds. That's half the fun of walking down alleys, of course.

Besides the less favorable sights, alleys are also a treasure trove of beautiful flowers, many of which appear to be volunteers whose seeds blew in from points unknown.

Others, like irises and daffodils, must have been planted by someone, though from the look of it, most have been left to their own devices. These overgrown clumps cry out to the passing gardener for a return visit in the fall to divide bulbs, but although most people pay no mind to people walking down their alleys, visitors with shovels and rakes might not be so welcome.

Over the spring and summer, you can see a whole flower shop's worth of blooms in the city's back alleys. Tulips, daffodils and crocuses all peek out in early spring. Irises, lunaria - purple or white flowers in spring, silver dollar-like seed pods in summer - bachelor buttons, columbine and roses all are in full swing now. Lilies and Johnny jump-ups come and go, and hollyhocks and black-eyed Susans soon will be in full swing.

The flowers grow in nooks and crannies, out of holes in fences, between neighboring garages, even from cracks in the pavement. In some cases, especially from cracks in the pavement or broken asphalt.

A walk through these accidental gardens isn't the same as a stroll through an arboretum, but traffic tends to be light.

And aside from cold, wet noses snuffling through holes in fences and the occasional barking fit, not too many individuals will be interested in interacting with you. Which works out just fine if what you want is a nice, quiet stroll to admire the flowers.

Alasdair Stewart can be reached at alasdairstewart@wwub.com or 526-8311.

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