It's garden tour time, and Maryland's got some great ones, especially the houses and gardens that are presented as part of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage. That's a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and restoration of architecturally significant properties in Maryland - it's been doing that since 1930.
Starting next weekend and running through May is their multi-county spring tour, which gives us a peek at some extraordinary historic and contemporary sites while raising money for the cause. Here are the highlights of 2012 tours - highlights of the gardens, of course. Be sure to scroll down to Anne Arundel, a particularly promising county for gardens! Click the county name highlighted in green for more details.
Baltimore City - April 28
This tour showcases rowhouses with small city gardens. But next up, big gardens!
St. Mary's County - May 5
Summerswind features imaginative new landscaping and curving walkways offer a warm welcome to visitors.
In the gardens at Tudor Hall (built in 1756) you'll see the beautiful boxwood garden and arboretum of native trees that has been planted on the site, and the English yew, reported to be well over 200 years old and 36 feet tall. In 2001, Master Gardeners planted 244 dwarf English boxwoods taken from cuttings of English boxwoods at Tudor Hall. This boxwood garden has steadily grown, and with the addition of garden benches and a sundial, provides a wonderful respite.
Tudor Hall is a Maryland War of 1812 Site. It now serves as the research library for the St. Mary’s County Historical Society.
Talbot County - May 12
Visitors enter the Gardens of the Historical Society of Talbot County via a hand-wrought iron gate that was designed to complement the Charleston gate at the far end of the garden and incorporate the Society’s “star” logo. This charming garden was designed with the assistance of the famous garden designer Gordon Hayward to create a beautiful public entrance to the larger garden. It includes dwarf boxwood, spring and fall blooming camellias, oak leaf hydrangeas and native Sweet Bay magnolias. The adjoining picket fence was designed after the Chase-Lloyd House fence in Annapolis. The Nettie Jones Garden has rectangular beds and intersecting axes as is typical of classical garden design in the 17th and 18thCenturies. The recently renovated Alice D. Huxley Herb Garden in the right rear corner features plants that might have been used during the colonial period.
The Gardens of Joe Weems are unique. From the granite “Stonehenge” welcome at the driveway to the whimsical “bottle tree,” follies, and salvaged antique iron accents throughout the one-and-a-half-acre property the visitor is led through a horticulturalist’s dream. Passing from garden room to garden room, the mood changes from that of a country garden to an Oriental garden to a meadow and pond dominated by a giant dragonfly. The farm, orchard and dedicated gardens with old-fashioned flowers such as irises and peonies have given way to gardens filled with hellebores (yellows are a favorite here), camellias, hydrangeas, ferns and many unusual specimen plants. Wander over to the meadow by crossing the garden bridge, inspired by a garden pergola at the Japanese Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, in the same rosy color. Another garden room featuring a circular peony garden and towering crape myrtle whose dark trunks are silhouetted against the deep green leaves of an old American holly.
The Wilderness, located on a broad expanse of the Choptank River, was a small part of Lloyds Long Point, patented by Edward Lloyd in January 1660. Its 350-year history serves as a reflection of the early land expansion, gradual decline, and rebirth of Talbot County. Since 1967, the owners have carefully restored the Colonial and Federal period house, a large barn (once in danger of falling), a derelict slave cabin, as well as various smaller barns and dependencies. The property has been placed in a conservation easement with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. Visitors are urged to explore this timeless property where surprises are around every corner, including a swimming pool, a croquet court, a putting green, and two life-size 13th century Korean funeral sculptures.
Howard County - May 19
Spring Hill Quarters (photo above right) once served as the servants' quarters and later carriage house for historic Spring Hills. Of particular beauty is the walled garden set inside the foundations of the old barn. A small spring originally used to water the animals now feeds the garden. Note the espaliered fruit trees on the wall. Also charming is the small spring house bordered by the Romeo/Juliet fence entrance.
Anne Arundel County: May 20
Kinloch Circle was built in 1985 on a three-acre wooded lot. The garden gradually grew over the next 30 years with one and a half acres under cultivation and the rest remaining in woodland. The garden has five fountains, a waterfall, a Japanese-style bridge, a lotus pond, a water lily pond, rose and wisteria arbors, and many clematis, peonies, azaleas, dogwoods and perennials. There are blueberry, herb and vegetable gardens as well. The garden is a “work in progress” as the dream continues.
Topeg I is a 1970’s cedar home and established garden overlooking Cattail Creek in Severna Park. The informal garden is mostly shaded and features specimen plantings and many varieties of hydrangeas in a natural setting. Sloping down to the water is a mass planting of Hershey Red Azaleas as well as native azaleas and dogwoods. At water’s edge is a bulk-headed perennial garden with a stand of native Stagger-bushes (Lyonia mariana).
Topeg II on Cattail Creek was redesigned in 2005 to take full advantage of the water views and provide an open interior that allows for versatile use of space. Most notably, a storm water management system was incorporated into the design that depends entirely on rain gardens. The six rain gardens that surround the house contain over 30 different native plants. They include River Birch, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Iris pseudacorus as well as edible berry plants such as Low Bush Blueberry and Serviceberry. It was the first home in Anne Arundel County to have rain gardens approved for storm water management.