Tag: gardens

Exquisite Outdoor Living from Brenton Landscape Architecture


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catch of the day fish (2)

For those who treasure time spent outdoors (particularly in our own backyards), this can either be the best time of year or the worst. Worst, of course, because just as the little crocuses and daffodils start popping their heads out of the ground, here comes yet another snow storm. Right? But on the other hand, spring and summer really are right around the corner, and full of promise and potential. And before you know it, we’ll be lounging on the porch and eating home grown tomatoes by the basketful. I promise. And so it’s right around this time that the demand for talented landscape designers peaks. Particularly those with the (well deserved) reputation of Brenton Landscape Architecture.

On The Market: Tyrconnell, Iconic Baltimore Estate With Magnificent Vistas and Formal Gardens


Hot House: 120 Woodbrook Lane, Baltimore County, MD 21212


Grand English-style Georgian country house, in stone with slate roof and copper trim. Original structure, 1826, rebuilt in 1924. Ten bedrooms, 9 full bathrooms, 11 fireplaces, with extraordinary millwork, 13’ ceilings, Lake Roland views, wine cellar, state-of-the art systems. Architect-designed formal gardens, manicured lawns, plantings, tenant house, barn, extensive bluestone hardscaping, emergency whole-house generator, sophisticated security systems, elevator, central air. 22.5 acre property, with private frontage on Lake Roland, stream, pond: $4,950,000


What: Tyrconnell means Land of Connal, the last kingdom of Ireland, ruled for over a thousand years by the O’Donnell family, and now referred to as County Donegal. (Tyrconnell was also an Irish horse that won a famous race at 100-1 odds.) It is a once-in-a-lifetime house, an iconic East Coast estate property that ranks with great American houses from Newport to Palm Beach. Owned and loved by generations of Baltimore’s most prominent and civic minded families, the original Georgian stone house was built in 1826 by John O’Donnell, captain in the East India Company and Baltimore merchant, whose statue stands in Canton. That house was incorporated into the new house that Baltimore businessman John Sears Gibbs (Gibbs Canning Company) built in 1924 with Baltimore architect Walter White. The magnificent gardens, designed by noted landscape architect Arthur Folson Paul, were installed in the late 1920’s, inspired by the gardens at Villa d’Este on Lake Como. They have been beautifully maintained, and virtually every window in the house overlooks tall specimen trees, wide lawns,  stone walls and terraces with mature plantings. Ground floor rooms are largely designed for entertaining,  richly appointed with 13’ ceilings, moldings, carvings, parquet floors and crystal chandeliers. The kitchen has Sub-Zero fridge and Thermador ovens. A library and sitting room offer smaller, more intimate spaces on the ground floor. Upstairs, the master suite is as luxurious as expected – walk in closets, fireplace, dressing rooms, large bathrooms with separate shower and tub. There are several big sunny bedrooms on the second floor, all with views, and a laundry room with  fireplace.(!) A cozy sitting room offers a place to go and pat yourself on the back in private…

The Elements of Period Gardens

p172.2_Old-fashionedGardenSundial_Tracy Di Sabato-Aust, DiSabato-Aust Design
From “American Home Landscapes”. Photo by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.

This is a big week at Cylburn Arboretum. Located off of Northern Parkway, this green oasis is increasingly enjoyed by both city and county residents. In recent years, the Cylburn Arboretum Association  has connected nature with art through exhibitions in the Vollmer Center, programs for adults and children and an artist-in-residence program.

Cylburn’s first artist-in-residence, Patricia Bennett opens her exhibit of paintings done during her past year there. Well-known as an event painter, Bennett has also produced an impressive series of Impressionistic paintings of the gardens.  An opening reception takes place Friday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. The show continues through the weekend, then November 5-7.

A new effort begins Sunday, November 3 at 2 p.m. with the Arboretum’s first book talk and signing. In cooperation with the Ivy Bookshop  and Timber Press, author Laura Burchfield will speak and show excerpts from her newly released book American Home Landscapes, A Design Guide to Creating Period Garden Styles


I’ve been working to replant the gardens around the 1922 Roland Park house where I grew up and live. Not until I saw the Timber Press book did I realize what a period garden we still have.  Essential elements of American, Colonial Revival gardens from 1900-1930 include:  symmetry, balance and a central axis, geometric beds, a picket fence, old-fashioned flowers.


In Roland Park, fences were originally permitted only in limited form, never in the front yard, because of the Olmsted design principal of low hedges instead of fences. At our house, however, the second owner was granted an exception to the architectural restrictions, because he thought Cold Spring Lane was too busy. If only he could see it now. Boxwoods were used for the front border, but along the sides and back, he installed brick pillars with sections of square, white spindles in between.

American Landscape pic 2

No flower garden was in front or along the sides, just more boxwoods and a long lilac border on the east side and privet hedge on the west.

At Marders in The Hamptons



I am an unlikely Hamptons-goer. I am behind the times, not a trendsetter. I eschew crowds and expensive cars. I do not travel in the fast lane, yet every summer, I find myself in the Hamptons.

More than a decade ago my college roommate, a scientist, rehabbed a house in East Hampton to be near good kayaking on Three Mile Harbor. Another close college friend has a house in Bridgehampton, where she rides in The Hampton Classic.  This year a third college friend from England was going out, so how could I resist?

While I prefer off-season visits, the peak of summer brings a profusion of plants. The light (reflected off surrounding bodies of water), sandy soil, the absence of humidity and the regular rainfall create ideal growing conditions.

Nurseries do a booming business. A must for me each summer is Bridgehampton at Marders,  a spectacular nursery and garden center, where even mature beech trees are in burlap balls ready to plant.

This year’s discoveries were annual purple laurentia  and a big-leafed plant that looked like lambs’ ears on steroids.


Of the same family, perennial silver sage made a showy appearance in containers and beneath a tree, next to purple petunias.


Kalanchoe ‘Flap Jack’ was a star in troughs and pots.


I’d like to find a few in Baltimore for my unused trough. I also want a spot in my garden for fluffy, native Joe Pye weed.

How Does Your Garden Show: Hydrangeas



A cool spring and abundant rain have brought a bumper crop of hydrangeas this summer. Hydrangea blooms are many and huge, and the bushes themselves have grown substantially over the last few months.
On July Fourth we walked into our friends’ Roland Park garden, and it was hard to believe that one year ago a derecho had devastated the trees, knocked out power for days, and covered this garden with massive fallen limbs. This year, with tree removal, pruning, and light and plentiful rain, the same space is bejeweled with hydrangeas.

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.

The Glorious Rhododendrons of Baltimore’s 2013 Spring


DSC04703It was a banner spring in area gardens and perhaps the most spectacular in recent memory for rhododendrons.  From my own garden in Roland Park to fine gardens in Baltimore and Harford counties, rhododendrons produced huge, almost florescent blossoms and many on each bush.


Our ‘Catawba Album’ rhododendrons went in three springs ago. Three seems to be the magic number of years for plants to become established. This third cool, long spring, complete with a shot of warm weather, produced the best season of growth and blooms we have had.



This is the same hybrid that is a favorite of Jean and Sidney Silber, horticulturalists extraordinaire. Their 50-year old shrubs produce magical pink-to-white blooms that look like lanterns glowing down their long driveway.

Events of the Weekend: Flower Mart, Kinetic Sculpture Race, Ladew Garden Festival and more!


The first weekend in May is always busy in Baltimore.  This weekend, there are too many great events to mention in one post, so we’ve added links to the many that caught our eye. You’ll wish, as we do, that you could go to them all. Happy Spring! – The Eds.

From the Baltimore Fishbowl events page…

Kinetic Sculpture Race

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

9:00am – 7:00pm
American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Highway

From THE AMERICAN VISIONARY ART MUSEUM–a race of wacky, imaginative, TOTALLY HUMAN-POWERED WORKS OF ART, DESIGNED TO TRAVEL ON LAND, THROUGH MUD, AND OVER DEEP HARBOR WATERS, constructed out of used bicycles, gears, and parts, created by a lunatic genius who tinkers around in the garage or backyard (do you know this person?)! The machines can be simple, small crafts, piloted by only one brave soul, or they can be over 50 feet long, extremely well-engineered, sophisticated vehicles powered by a team of pilots. Pilots (“Kinetinauts”) compete for the most coveted award, THE GRAND EAST COAST NATIONAL MEDIOCRE CHAMPION (awarded to the vehicle that finishes right in the middle), and the highly prized NEXT TO THE LAST AWARD (finishes, well, next-to-last), and other serious trophies including ART, ENGINEERING, and more. Race starts at 10am at the American Visionary Art Museum (arrive early to take part in Opening Ceremony and Blessing of De Feet!). Other great spots to see the vehicles are the 1st checkpoint atop Federal Hill; the water entry at the Korean War Memorial Park in Canton; the uphill mud-pit in Patterson Park; the not-so-quick-sand pit in Patterson Park; and, of course, anywhere along the 15-mile route through Baltimore. For more information–including past race photos, inspiration, and a handy Spectator’s Guide–visit http://kineticbaltimore.com.


Flower Mart 2013 – Friday and Saturday, May 3 & 4

Ladew Garden Festival, Saturday, May 4

Donate Used Books at Books for Kids Day, Saturday, May 4

Free Comic Book Day!, Saturday, May 4

Damn Yankees, Gilman School Musical, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 3, 4 & 5

Meet Me in St. Louis, Memorial Players Musical, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 3, 4 & 5

How Does Your Garden Show: Orchids



Two days before a heat wave hit the east coast and gave Baltimore the highest temperature in the country at 96 degrees, I was in New York. In a turtleneck, fleece and quilted jacket I visited the New York Botanical Garden as part of my sister’s birthday weekend. On a chilly tram ride we toured some of the garden’s 250 acres and enjoyed an overview of the varied terrain and many gardens within the garden founded in 1891.

Only scilla, daffodils, pansies and early cherry trees bloomed outdoors.


A Host of Golden Daffodils


DSC04270Cool Spring temperatures are bringing the gradual appearance of color. Color seems to emerge from the ground up, beginning with white snowdrops. Next come the crocuses, chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and blue flowers on vinca, the delicate ground cover many use after tearing out English ivy.