Sherwood Gardens in bloom

Eight-year-old Katherine Giroux of Guilford, left, is embraced by her sister Sarah, 4, as they sit at lemonade and baked good stand in front of their house in Guilford. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / April 7, 2012)

Mount Washington resident Jim Macko, a professional contractor and amateur artist, painted a small picture of a tree with tulips behind it.

Macko was painting what he saw on a glorious Saturday morning at Sherwood Gardens, known as the most famous tulip garden in the U.S.

"It's called plein air painting, going out in nature and painting," Macko said as he finished his 8-by-8-inch painting on an art board and packed up his easel.

But why, when Mount Washington is known as a leafy neighborhood with its own parks and open spaces, would Macko come to Sherwood Gardens in Guilford to paint?

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"Just look at the sheer beauty of the place," Macko said, shaking his head in awe.

Historic, six-acre Sherwood Gardens - first planted in the 1920s by local petroleum pioneer and conservationist John Sherwood and now known for its 80,000 tulips annually - looked as pretty as a picture on a fine spring day.

Hundreds of people couldn't stay away.

Couples walked hand in hand. Mothers pushed strollers and families picnicked. A father and daughter played catch, and a couple walked their cat on a leash.

Paintings weren't the only pictures. Cameras were out in force, too. Professional photographer Dennis Drenner, of Hampden, snapped photo after photo of banker Jackie Tanenbaum, 34, of Canton, posing eight months pregnant under various flowering trees.

"It's a maternity shoot," said her husband, Drew, 32, an attorney.

"It's the thing to do, I guess, to commemorate this experience in our lives," said Jackie, who is expecting the couple's first child May 24.

"And you couldn't ask for a better day," Drew said.

Why Sherwood Gardens?

"Dennis's recommendation," Drew said.

A few yards away, Rebecca Dineen, of Radnor-Winston, sat cross-legged on the grass with her daughter, Alexandra, 5, playing patty cakes.

"I'm teaching her 'Miss Mary Mack,' Rebecca said. "Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black, with silver buttons all down her back, back, back."

Rebecca, husband Tom and their daughter walked from an Easter egg hunt at Second Presbyterian Church in Guilford to Sherwood Gardens, mostly for Alexandra's benefit.

"We come every year to take her picture," Rebecca said.

Amber Woytowitz, 4, of Rodgers Forge, took a picture of her family -her brother, Ulysses, 22 months, and parents May and Joseph.

Retired management consultant Richard Pyes, 76, of Cross Keys, took pictures of tulips in bloom, to be processed at a photo lab at the Community College of Baltimore County, where he works part-time.