Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The best things really are free!

I don't think that a lot of other cities have something like we have in Baltimore...it's called Sherwood Gardens, a free park that really is like the old shampoo claimed to be: a garden of earthly delights.

It's in the Guilford section of town, near Johns Hopkins University and the high-tone homes on North Charles Street. This is where the old money lives in Baltimore, friends, and the people are generous with nature's bounty.

A.S. Abell, who founded the Baltimore Sun newspaper, originally owned the property where the gardens bloom.  In his day, that part of the  
acreage was the location of a pond on his large estate, but as the property was sold off in lots with the plan to build houses (very large houses!) six acres, formerly the pond, were filled in with earth, for planting pretty things. 

Enter John W. Sherwood, the chairman of the Sinclair Oil Company, who first planted tulips imported from Holland in the 1920s.  Interesting local connection: Sherwood's father was the president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, a passenger ship line nicknamed the "Old Bay Line." Their ships took passengers down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Virginia. Our beloved local Old Bay crab and seafood seasoning was named for those boats. 

It was Sherwood's idea to have the public come down and stroll around the grounds, enjoying the amazing sights and smells.  When he died in 1965, he bequeathed enough money to the community to maintain the Gardens for a year.  Ever since, the Guilford Association has assumed the costs of keeping the Gardens pleasant for all and free for all.  There are no gates or entrances of any sort.

Today, Sherwood Gardens still flourishes.  There are 80,000 tulip bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs planted annually. Shade trees such as dogwoods, flowering cherries, wisteria and magnolias just happen to blossom all over at around the same time at the ground plants...including the beautifully colored azaleas.  They say that some of these plants date back to the 18th century and were brought up from old colonial estates in Southern Maryland.  

On the other hand, each of those 80,000 tulip bulbs is planted every single year.  Locals are allowed to come down and dig up bulbs after the season ends.

Peggy and I try to get down there every year in late April or early May.  I recommend going on a weekday if you like to avoid the big crowds.  People saunter along, enthralled by the sights. Frisbees fly, dogs on leashes gambol about, kids bring juice boxes and snacks, but you won't see discarded litter...just happy people having a free day enjoying nature.

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