Happy Birthday, Guilford


I am not a big fan of crowds, but I will go on the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, which kicks off the centennial celebration of Guilford, on Sunday, April 28. With houses never before open to the public on tour, I am sure the turnout will be a record-breaker. A good thing too, as a portion of the proceeds will benefit Guilford’s famous Sherwood Gardens.


The gardens should be radiant. Ninety-degree days earlier in the month pushed the bulbs along. Now cool temperatures the past two weeks have kept most blooms fresh, with later varieties just opening. The weather gods seem to have known that having the gardens near their peak in late April would be a perfect kick-off to a centennial celebration.


As with many Baltimoreans, the gardens for me hold memories of childhood visits. I am of an age when most visits then were in Sunday-best spring coats.  Not so with the next generation that enjoys the gardens all year long.


My sister raised her children on the edge of the gardens. My nephew learned to climb trees on a crabapple tree near the entrance.  A swing my niece and her father built still hangs on a nearby Bradford pear tree. Those trees always remind me of the late William Donald Schaefer who loved them. Now few plant Bradford pears, because they catch the wind and snap.


Sherwood Gardens is one of my favorite walking spots. Its open green space at the center, while more formal than Centennial Park or Stony Run, reminds me of my own neighborhood, Roland Park. The walk in Guilford is less hilly.  The Roland Park Company developed both communities, with design work by the Olmsted Brothers. Their father was the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; his sons took his landscape and planning work to new levels throughout the United States.


Much of the beauty and sense of community Guilford, Roland Park, Homeland and Original Northwood, enjoy now are a result of careful planning by the Olmsted Brothers and the Roland Park Company.


That Guilford almost lost Sherwood Gardens in the 1960’s, after the death of John Sherwood, is unimaginable today. Thanks to his heirs, the City of Baltimore and determined Guilford residents, the gardens survived.


While I know its story and have written a history, it is walking the gardens and experiencing them that I love most.


Last Monday, on a crisp late afternoon, a friend and I strolled the gardens. Some of Mr. Sherwood’s prized collection of conifers still stood, including statuesque deodar cedars. They give the gardens structure and year-round interest. Few azaleas were open, but the curvaceous beds of tulips created swales of color. An early yellow variety had passed it peak and looked line a border of can-can skirts. I always get a kick out of errant colors, a red tulip in a yellow bed, a yellow tulip in pink bed.


I can never pick a favorite bed, winter or summer when the gardens in recent years have been filled with masses of well-tended annuals. I am a sucker for pink, but a bed of citrine tulips stayed in my mind all week. They were just cracking open on Monday, so I am sure they will be in perfect bloom over weekend.


Even with the crowds on Sunday, I’ll walk the gardens, but I will also look forward to the coming weeks when the azalea backdrops are in full color.

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