Gardens were filled with tulips. Dogwood blossoms and tender new shoots were mulched. Windows glistened, tables glowed and chandeliers glittered in the April sun.
Guilford homeowners were ready for the visitors who would come during the Guilford edition of the 75th Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage on April 28 — the kickoff to the upscale community's year-long centennial celebration.
And come the visitors did — 1,973 tickets were sold. While they were admiring those houses and gardens, proceeds from the pilgrimage tour were helping to ensure another year of beauty in nearby Sherwood Gardens, where 80,000 tulips were in full bloom Sunday. All the tulips will be dug up during the Tulip Dig on Saturday, May 25, and new tulips will be planted in the fall.
Online sales for the tour were cut off on Friday when they totaled 900.
"An insanely fabulous turnout," said event chair Ann Giroux. "The tulips cooperated. The weather cooperated."
Proceeds from the sale of tour tickets and ad sales, as well as a box lunch and a gift shop at Second Presbyterian Church, will go toward the maintenance of Sherwood Gardens, said Giroux, who also chairs Guilford's centennial committee. Funds will go into a special Sherwood Gardens endowment, with an eye toward restoring trees in the privately owned gardens that are open to the public.
Giroux said a master plan and inventory have been drawn up, detailing the flower beds, trees and shrubs now in the garden — and comparing them with plat records from 1912, when Guilford was in the planning stages.
"We're interested in finding a nonprofit or business or person to work to restore the treescape," Giroux said. "We know what trees are missing. The tree canopy is very important to us."
Guilford was last featured on the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage in 2010, when proceeds totaled $22,000 and 632 people came.
"That was considered a very strong showing," Giroux said.
This year's tour featured 12 sites, including the newly renovated Second Presbyterian Church, where lunch and a shop were available, and the old Turnbull house, once the home of well-known artist Grace Turnbull.
The houses ranged from a cozy cottage to the former home of poet Ogden Nash to a stone mansion. None were open in the 2010 tour.
"We tried to showcase our neighborhood," Giroux said, noting that Guilford's housing stock ranges from bungalows, duplexes and row houses among the 800 in the community, she said.
"This is an example of city living," she said.
The tulips draw visitors every spring, but streets all over Guilford were filled with tourists who came to see the houses. Artist Ann Heaton was ready. She had positioned her grandchildren to lead the way through the living room and dining room of her house while she welcomed guests into the kitchen. Her own paintings covered the walls.
"I love to do it," said Heaton, who opened her 1929 English Tudor for the 1986 pilgrimage tour. "I put on my glasses and check, check, check everything."
On the other side of Guilford, Bari Fore, who bought the former Ogden Nash house with her husband, Tom, five years ago, considered it her duty to get the house ready in time for the pilgrimage.
"We did a tremendous amount of work on the house," she said, but stressed, "We saved as much of the house as possible."
Even original plantings were preserved, she said.
The Fores wanted to be sure the public knew that the house was once Nash's. They even named the house "Zoo" after one of his books of poetry.