Baltimore’s Flower Mart returns to Mount Vernon Place this weekend after missing two years because of the pandemic. Ever the sentimental favorite, and a marker of the spring season, the restaged event never looked better. A visit there was like running into old friends who failed to age.
The scene around the base of the Washington Monument became something of an Impressionist painting come to life on Friday. Flowers in baskets, pots and market packs spilled out front and center. Artists paint away at their outdoor easels. The cobblestones underfoot spoke of a different era.
The music programs, less amplified and intense than in other years, seemed to fit the occasion. Who could resist operatic arias floating down Charles Street toward the Walters Art Museum. I also heard jazz, traditional folk and bluegrass and rhythm and blues.
People in line awaited their turn to secure a $3 peppermint stick attached to a lemon. It’s a Baltimore thing.
Visitors found places to sit in chairs set out under under light colored umbrellas.
The spring season cooperated nicely, and beds of tulips and bluebells in the four parks comprising the square bloomed just in time, as if on a cue.
The organizers of this year’s event promised that it would be less commercial, with fewer venders and caterers. I did not miss the cotton candy and hamburger stands, beer gardens and one too many scented candle sellers. So, if the event was somewhat reinterpreted, I liked it more than ever.
The homes of the 19th century merchants facing the square seemed all cleaned and ready for the grand occasion.
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Lance Humphries, director of the event’s sponsoring entity, the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, said his goal was to return the event to its 1911 origins of “encouraging the greening of the city.” He wanted to remind visitors of his group’s ongoing stewardship of Mount Vernon Place. He called the parks around the monument “Baltimore’s most historic green space.”
In addition to the greenhouses and florists who participate in the event, the Baltimore Tree Trust, UME Master Gardeners and the National Aquarium set up booths or held workshops. Presenters are giving talks on green topics. A class on flower arranging attracted far more listeners than I would have imagined.
Flower Mart was founded by the Women’s Civic League, an organization formed to advocate for better living conditions in the City of Baltimore. For decades, the mart was held on the first Wednesday in May, and it later moved to a weekend slot.
For years it was a huge draw and put the Mount Vernon neighborhood in the spotlight. Many first experienced this outdoor, genteel carnival in baby strollers pushed by their mothers or grandmothers. It was a rite of passage to hook school, or at least a last class, to take in the mart in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Flower Mart, if helped along by delightful weather, can be a real toast to old Baltimore. It’s a day when the neighborhood’s go-for-broke Victorian architecture, the square’s overhanging newly greened trees and the sightlines up and down Charles Street combine for some urban perfection.
It’s a day to think about the displays of geraniums and petunias and watch the infants being pushed in strollers. Every so often someone will appear really dressed up for the day and there’s the occasional well-bathed and well-combed dog on a leash. It’s where Old Baltimore comes out of the rafters for a thorough spring airing.
The Mount Vernon Place Flower Mart continues today from 11 a.m to 8 p.m.