Flowermart heralds spring with lemon sticks, straw hats and, of course, beautiful blooms

Flowermart, the official start of spring in Baltimore, is as much about food as it is about flowers. So it makes sense that among the women wearing hats covered in blooms there would be a guy dressed as a slice of pizza.

Antoine Hays of Baltimore — he was a slice of pepperoni — was at Mount Vernon on Friday to promote an online food delivery service, as another edition of the century-old city tradition got under way.

Even the plants eat at Flowermart. Carnivorous Plant Nursery, located inf Derwood in Montgomery County, was featuring a hanging basket of tropical pitcher plants that are guaranteed to attract, trap and eat your stink bugs.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, dressed in a black suit and wearing a yellow straw hat ringed in huge black-eyed Susans, launched the two days of festivities with a shout-out to her mother, Dr. Nina Rawlings, who was in the crowd.

"And I saw a couple of things that I want for Mother's Day," the mayor told her mother from the stage at the foot of the Washington Monument.

That's also what Flowermart is about, of course. Shopping.

Artist Larry Stewart was offering his colorful watercolor posters for sale, celebrating not only Flowermart but some of Baltimore's neighborhoods, including Fells Point, Canton and Mount Vernon.

"We need a different way to look at our city," said Stewart, who also serves as Flowermart's artistic director. "A fun and colorful place. That's my Baltimore."

There always seems to be something for everybody at Flowermart. Pit bulls and pit beef. Poodles and women wearing poodle skirts. Flower baskets and shrimp baskets. Antique cars and artisan pasta. French linens and African baskets.

And ladies looking for a little police attention.

Julia Johnson of Elkridge and her friend and co-worker, Laura Touhey of Annapolis, dress up for Flowermart every year and find an accommodating police officer to arrest them.

"We just ask him nicely," said Touhey. They take a picture and put it online.

This year, Johnson unveiled a new costume. She was a human lemon stick, the Flowermart's signature treat. She wore red shoes, red-striped tights and a red-striped T-shirt. Over it all, she wore a yellow sundress. And her hat? Yellow straw with a red-and-white peppermint stick protruding from the top like a unicorn's horn.

Across the way, Regina Minniss and others from the Friends of Mount Vernon Place were selling the real thing for $2. They expect to go through 2,000 lemons over two days.

Even the guys were wearing flowers and hats at Flowermart, including a preppy teen guy whose straw fedora was adorned with a blue crab, a mallet and a tin of Old Bay.

And young Hailey and Hannah Gardner of Elkridge, 9 and 7 years old, arrived looking like they stepped out of a Flowermart poster. Wearing matching blue-and-white sundresses, their faces decorated with little stick-on jewels, the girls said they spent Thursday decorating their hats with plastic flowers and little birds.

"That's what you do for Flowermart," Hannah explained.

If you go

The 2012 Flowermart runs Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. in Mount Vernon in the Washington Monument area at Monument and North Charles streets. Admission is free. For more information, go to flowermart. org

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