For 51 weeks out of the year, West Towson resident Glen Gutierrez and his employees at European Landscape & Design are charged with taking a customer's vision and effectively making it appear in their back yard.
But in the week leading up to the Maryland Home & Garden Show each year, Gutierrez and his staff revel in an assignment that challenges their own creative vision and pushes them physically to bring that vision to fruition for the annual garden competition.
"It's a good exercise for our crews," Gutierrez, founder of the Lutherville-based European Landscape, said as they worked on his company's display for the spring 2013 show, which begins Saturday,March 2 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium and runs weekends through Sunday, March 10.
"It's the most challenging week of the whole year, and in that way, a lot of the guys look forward to it because it forces them to really produce in a structured time frame," Gutierrez said.
This year, the show's theme is "Films in Flowers," and Gutierrez has created a landscape based on Pink Floyd's "The Wall."
"The theory of the wall is that it divides and brings together, it separates but brings things again, together," Gutierrez said. "You could see the level of our craftsmanship, the skill, the capstones, then fitting it into a natural setting. … To have the experience of going between the walls is what we're trying to achieve here."
The two centerpiece walls are curved toward each other, an effect Gutierrez said added both a level of complexity and a headache. The walls, tight and structured at their centers, deteriorate into a large boulder at each end. On the far sides of each exhibit, grassy knolls and perennial plants will surround the base of a pair of specimen Japanese maples Gutierrez said his firm salvaged from a work site and have been waiting to find a home for.
"We know that we wanted to display some level of craftsmanship, and some of the guys on my team had never — myself include — we'd never done a wall at the show," he said. "This year was our opportunity to do a wall, so it morphed into this kind of situation."
In the spring 2012 show, European Landscape, based in Lutherville, was the featured garden, an honor reserved for the previous year's winner. European Landscape was the runner-up in 2011, but the winner declined to return to create the feature garden. They earned best in show in 1993 and 2009 as well, Gutierrez said, and he hopes to perhaps, return to the featured spot again next year.
However, that's not to say his competition will let him slide back into the spotlight. Crews from the other 15 participating gardens were also putting the finishing touches on their displays. The Sykesville-based Absolute Landscape & Turf Services was milling around a cottage in their "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" garden, while other companies prepared gardens inspired by "Jurassic Park," "The Great Gatsby" and "The Sound of Music."
Additionally, Scott Robinson, who grew up in Towson and owns L&R Landscaping in Glen Arm, was hard at work with his employees on a "Caddyshack" themed garden.
"We just wanted a fun theme, with outdoor living and a patio and getting the family together outside," Robinson said. On Thursday afternoon, Robinson was laying the putting green surface, replete with a hole and another spot he said was reserved for the ubiquitous gopher from the film.
The bar area represents the "19th hole," he said, and they were also able feature a sitting area with a fireplace.
"I knew what I wanted to bring, and I just picked a movie that would fit it," he said. "'Caddyshack' was a good one."
The Spring 2013 Maryland Home & Garden show features more than 300 home exhibitors, plus a variety of home and garden experts.
On Friday, March 1, the show will host the third annual Garden Preview Party, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake. The party features light fare, live music and a chance to see the 16 film-inspired garden displays before anyone else. Tickets at $50 in advance and $60 at the door and the party begins at 6 p.m.
The Maryland Home & Garden Show is open Saturday, March 2 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, March 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, March 8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, March 9 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.