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Sherwood Gardens: Pretty as a picture

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?

"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.

"I do close-ups and look for flowers that are interesting," Pyes said.

Last year, he enlarged photos from Sherwood Gardens and made posters for his own enjoyment.

Pyes' dog, Fred, a miniature daschund simply sniffed at the flowers.

Physical therapist Stephanie Berger, 36, of Catonsville, packed a picnic and her children into the car and headed for the gardens. Why?

"The tulips and the flower and it' a gorgeous day," Berger said as her son, Xavier, 2, toddled round with a football.

"I want to go get lunch," said her daughter, Katherine, 5.

"We're going to get lunch in the car," her mom said.

They could have had a cookie across the street. Katherine Giroux, 8, sat at a table in her family's driveway, selling lemonade and her own home-baked brownies and cookies.

The oatmeal cookies were blue ribbon winners for her age group at the Maryland State Fair. She hawked them as "my award-winning cookies."

Everything was 25 cents, too good a deal for people to pass up as they parked their cars and walked to the gardens.

"They're pouring in," marveled Katherine, who made a sign for her table that said, "The baker is in."

Another sign said, "For Sherwood Gardens," which was the point - to raise money for the upkeep of the gardens, said Katherine's mom, Ann Giroux, who's organizing the 2013 Guilford centennial celebration.

Money poured in, too, from Katherine's friends, Caroline, and Nicholas Miller, who live in Sherwood Mansion, and strangers like Margaret Snapp, 67, of Towson.

"I didn't expect treats here," Snapp said.

More money will come from the annual Tulip Dig on May 26, from 7-11 a.m., when people can bring buckets, shovels and bags and take home tulips for 30 cents per bulb.

Proceeds will go to Stratford Green, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that maintains the Guilford Association-owned gardens.

But for now, people are enjoying Sherwood Gardens at the height of its glory, and, pardon the pun, digging the tulips.

"It's been a weird spring," Ann Giroux observed. "It's been cold. It's been hot. But people are still coming out."

To see a Sherwood Gardens photo gallery, go to http://www.explorebaltimorecounty.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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