Tag: gardening

Community Leader and Philanthropist Sidney Silber Dies at 95


Sidney Silber

Sidney Silber died on Tuesday, July 30 at the age of 95. In tribute to this lifelong Baltimorean, community leader and philanthropist, we re-publish today two previous Baltimore Fishbowl articles about him. The first is one in a series of profiles of vibrant Baltimoreans over 80, titled “8 over 80.” The second is from our garden blog: “How Does Your Garden Show?” Sidney Silber’s accomplishments in business and real estate were equaled by his accomplishment at home, where he and his wife Jean created one of the finest gardens in Maryland. We extend our deepest sympathy to Jean, their children Janet, Douglas and Paul and to their beloved grandchildren. – The Eds.

8 Over 80

Sidney Silber 

Originally published November 8, 2011 –
D.O.B: January 12, 1918, Baltimore, Maryland Education: Baltimore Polytechnic Institute ’35
M.I.T. ’39  (Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honorary Society) Service: Non-military, high-priority defense work as experimental flight test engineer for Boeing Aircraft Company, Seattle, Washington, 1939-1946 Career, Present and Past:
Sidney Silber, at 93, is still fully engaged in his art and horticulture, two of three passionate, long-running avocations. (Racing sailboats in Annapolis is the third, from which he now takes leave.) All have paralleled his three careers as engineer, bakery president and commercial real estate developer.Silber pursues drawing and painting with devotion — he drew well as a child and honed the skill in mechanical drawing courses at Poly, M.I.T., and at Boeing where he did flight analysis. There he flew on 50 test flights, including those of the B-17 and the first pressurized military airplane, the B-29, which was designed to carry the atom bomb.

After the death of his father and brother, Silber returned to Baltimore in 1946. Using engineering and increasing real estate acumen, he expanded the now-legendary family business, Silber Bakeries, to 25 shops. After leaving the business in 1962, he founded Commercial and Industrial Realty Corporation and for 27 years developed residential, commercial and industrial properties.

The proceeds from the sales of those properties created the Jean and Sidney Silber Foundation. Today cultural and educational institutions, as well as Baltimore non-profits focused on education and poverty, occupy much of his interest, philanthropy and time.

So does horticulture. “We had no garden on Monroe Street,” he says of the home where he and seven siblings grew up above the bakery.  In 1959 he and his wife Jean combined energy, intellect, artistic and engineering talent to begin a six-acre masterpiece in Lutherville. Fifty-two years later it is considered one the finest gardens in Maryland and the U.S.

While he officially retired in 1990, Silber never stopped working. In khaki pants and oxford cloth shirt, he is found early in the morning and late in the afternoon, with a folding pruning saw and clippers, tending his “living work of art” that draws visitors on private tours from all over the country to see the garden and hear its botanically expert owners lecture.

Among many sculptures in the garden are several of his own, all bronze. (His sculpture is also in the collections of M.I.T. and Goucher College.) Besides collecting art, his current passion is portrait painting. Many line the walls of his studio off the garden.

Key to longevity of engagement: “Shall I say, a young wife?” he laughs. “Jeannie keeps me going…. I think you should always be a student,” says the man, just back from a painting class, who studied law at Boeing, real estate and finance in the bakery business and art, horticulture and history for as long as he can remember. “Physical activity is important too.”

Current challenge: In the art: “Drawing it well, mixing the colors right… I draw. I paint. My eyesight is good, but I still can’t see what I’m supposed to see.” In the garden: “What to do with the garden in the future.” In philanthropy:  “How to make the decisions every year.”

Inspired Habitat: Creative Ideas for Gardens in Tiny Spaces



Start talking garden and most of us picture lush expanses of greenery, or maybe row upon row of planted vegetables. But what if you don’t have a big yard? Or your only outdoor space is a tiny balcony? Or there’s that awkward piece of dirt next to the driveway or garage. Whatever the reason, square footage doesn’t a garden make. Really, a garden is what you make it, and you can make it almost anywhere there’s enough sunlight to grow things. All you need is a little dirt, some organic seeds or plants, a way to water and a lot of creativity. The Urban Organic Gardener has an entire blog on managing a thriving vegetable garden – on a NYC fire escape!

This Is How My Garden Grows


From Mary Valle’s blog, Killing the Buddha

People have been asking me for years about my garden. Being a bit contrary, I refuse to answer. Frankly, I’ve been of the opinion that gardening is for jokers—but I was so wrong. Go ahead, ask me how my garden grows.

It grows like this:

1. Here’s a hell strip, bane of the urban gardener’s existence. Also known as the “parking strip” or “incredibly bad urban planning idea,” this shabby little plot of rocky soil is usually left to weed.


Nice one, planning masterminds.

2. This “bed” is also subject to dog presents, salt in the winter, and the occasional red Solo cup. Weeds truly are the broken windows on the sidewalks of life. A few months ago, I decided to do something about my hell strip.  I put in a bunch of plants, not knowing which were going to take. Turns out: they all did.


Welcome to the jungle, babies. We’ve got fun and games.

3. The microgarden needed a pinch of pizzazz in the form of a few miniscule tchotchkes. I like the idea of a St. Francis or Buddha, but neither of them in particular. Here’s what I did:

A. Acquired small plastic Joan of Arc.
B. Broke a takeout chopstick in half, and,
C. Hot-glued it to the bottom of the Maid.

This patch isn’t a mere curbside getaway. It’s the Joan of Arc Victory Garden. Greet my patroness:


La pucelle.

Wild Gardening: Learning From Something Toxic

Photo by Cynthia Zanti Jabs
The author’s beautiful, but deadly, Poison Hemlock. Photo by Cynthia Zanti Jabs

When I leave my gardens behind for summer adventures, I try not to think too much about what I’ll find when I get back. This year that’s going to be hard to do. Because I never planned to grow what grew in my garden last year. Really.

That spring when I was clearing weeds to make way for this year’s vegetables, there was one I couldn’t bring myself to yank out. It was a neat little tuft of parsley shaped leaves. Very different from all the familiar vines I was pulling. I thought it might be from one of last year’s carrots. I decided to let it grow and find out.

There are lots of weeds that look like carrots, my elder sister warned. I didn’t care. I always have loved wildflowers. I started learning their names before I could read.

This one kept on growing and so did my attachment to it. I loved the symmetrical whorl of its stems, the vivid green its leaves held onto through weeks of drought. I started to imagine I might harvest some kind of lovage or ligusticum for an herbal decoction. Or, at least, some salad greens.

Then, in late spring, we got one of those phone calls that rearranges the landscape. My wonderful father-in-law had just died. A massive heart attack. Totally unexpected. Doctor told him his heart was just fine the day before it happened.

We were away most of the next two weeks. And when we were home we weren’t paying attention to the garden.

When I finally got round to it, the little plant I’d spared had shot up eight feet and blossomed. Bunches of little white flowers hovered over a massive clump of feathery leaves. It was just stunning and I loved it.

It wasn’t til I peered deep into the thick of it that I noticed blood colored blotches on its stems. That’s when I knew this had to be Poison Hemlock. The stuff Socrates was famously sentenced to drink for “corrupting the youth” with his mind-bending questions. My favorite part of that story was how he supposedly kept conversing with his students while the toxins slowly killed him. I couldn’t stop staring at those spots, as if staring might make them disappear.

Signs of Spring: The Ladew Gardens Lecture Series

Ladew Topiary Gardens

Get into the spring spirit (just ignore the snow outside) with the Ladew Spring Lecture Series: 2013. Held in Harvey Ladew’s Studio every Wednesday until April 17, the engaging lectures address gardens, landscaping, plant species and more, and they’re equally instructive for the neophyte, novice or knowledgable.  Ladew is one of those Baltimore institutions we too often take for granted, so make one of the lectures your reason to head there this season. It’s the prettiest time of year in the garden!

Spring lecture dates and descriptions below.

Bringing Awesome To Your Garden with Lloyd Traven

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2710:30am in the Ladew Studio

In a time when it seems every place has exactly the same plant selections, we all need fresh ideas, new choices, different methods and a whole new design concept. Water-friendly, edibles, foliage, container combinations—the rules have changed and a new world awaits. Come along with Lloyd as he shows some of the best new ideas you can take home and use this spring! Lloyd Traven and his wife Candy own Peace Tree Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a respected operation among international horticulturists. Lloyd is an advocate for small growers, with a passion for growing quality plants matched only by his commitment to using advanced technology combined with sustainable and organic growing techniques. For more information, please visitwww.peacetreefarm.com.

How Does Your Garden Show: Wilmer Eye Institute


Gardens at hospitals soften the experience for patients and staff. The gardens around the Johns Hopkins Hospital are as impressive as the size of that city within a city.

For various reasons my husband and I have become frequent fliers at the Wilmer Eye Institute there.

How Does Your Garden Show: Washington, D.C.


A long overdue trip to see the outstanding George Bellows show at the National Gallery of Art http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/bellowsinfo.shtm also reminded me of how gardens enhance any outing.

Bethany Beach Blooms Create Instant Good Will



Every year public gardening efforts at nearby beaches seem to increase.  Bethany Beach was so colorful the week I stayed nearby, surely it was most floriferous of  the Maryland/Delaware seaside resorts.

Pigtown Design: Pumpkins Update


It’s just amazing what a few rainy evenings will do for plants! I think the “big” pumpkin has doubled in size in the past week.

Pigtown Design: Pumpkin Patch


I’ve been keeping a close eye on my pumpkins in the last few weeks.