Great Azalea Trial

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, left, and County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, right, will square off as prosecuting and defense attorneys, respectively, on Towson Garden Day for the "trial" of the azalea as Towson's official flower. (Photo by Lauren Byrd, Baltimore County / April 24, 2012)

Towson's official flower, the azalea, will go "on trial" on Thursday, May 3, at 12:15 p.m., following the awards ceremonies for Towson Garden Day, on the steps of the County Court House.

The "trial" — hosted by the Towson Chamber of Commerce — will feature Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger defending the azalea's place as Towson official flower, and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz serving as chief prosecutor.

According to a release from the chamber, the azalea is being, "charged with being a shrub instead of a flower, and with blooming only a measly two or three weeks a year."

According to the chamber's tongue in cheek release — "Rumor has it that Kamenetz has been pressured by special interests seeking to replace the azalea with the Knock Out Rose."


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Both Kamenetz and Shellenberger have made it clear their interest in the issue is professional, not floral.

According to the chamber, "Kamenetz ... requested a change of venue because nearly every property in Towson features at least one display of azaleas. But Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Justin King, who will preside over the trial, denied the request.

"So Kamenetz and Shellenberger will match their degrees from the University of Baltimore School of Law and duke it out in front of the Gardens Day crowd in Courthouse Fountain Plaza at about 12:15 p.m."

The great azalea trial is part of the daylong Towson Gardens Day festivities, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Events include a free tour of the historic Courthouse Gardens at 11 a.m.; a performance by students of the Anna Apicella School of Dance, at 11:30 a.m.; Music by the Towson High School Jazz Band, at 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; and awards at 12:15 p.m. announcing the recipients of the 2012 Towson Azalea House award.

After that, though, the trial will take center stage. Landscape designer Carol Oppenheimer, owner of WOCO Organic Gardens, will be "summoned" by both the prosecution and the defense, according to the chamber.

The trial is expected to last only 10 minutes before King announces a verdict.

Oppenheimer professes to value both flowers, but the chamber notes that she has indicated that she wasn't overly impressed with a public vote in 1996 that made the azalea Towson's official flower. The daffodil, the tulip and the standard American rose were among those considered back in 1996.

At the event, the azalea will be portrayed by former Gardens Day chairwoman Dorrie Wilfong, who — in the persona of the azalea — said, "I'm the one who tells you spring is coming. Yes, I'm a shrub, but I'm a flower too. Anything that blooms is a flower."

She also alluded to the "wicked thorns" of the Knock Out Rose. "Tend them at your own risk," she said.