Support for conservatory is blooming Renovations, fund-raisers set for Druid Hill Park site


A new group is trying to increase support for one of bTC Baltimore's least attended public attractions -- the 1888 Palm House and Conservatory on the western edge of Druid Hill Park.

Members of the fledgling Baltimore Conservatory Association say that the landmark greenhouse deserves a wider audience than the handful of visitors who stop by for seasonal flower shows at Halloween, Christmas and Easter.

The Palm House and Conservatory have been ignored for too long, they say.

"My heart broke. This building put me in a great despair. We can't let this happen," said Peggy Stansbury, a Federal Hill resident and commissioner of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks. "The city and state came to the rescue of the Palm House with renovation money a few years ago. The work is done and now it's time we use it as a real horticulture center for the whole region."

About 30 supporters have agreed to form the association and are its charter members. Memberships are to be sold this weekend at the group's first two public functions, a Saturday night gala $100-a-head dinner dance and a $10 per person Mother's Day tea. Both events are to be held under tents on the conservatory grounds on the western edge of Druid Hill Park.

"Just getting kids out here to learn about gardens and horticulture is a priority," said Edith Henry, president of the For-Win-Ash Garden Club, a group whose members lived in the Forest Park-Ashburton section of Northwest Baltimore.

"There is a lot of interest in gardening today. Plants have a wide appeal. This setting -- a Baltimore landmark that a lot of people have known over the years -- could capitalize on that association," said Paula Simon, a member of the Baltimore Conservatory Association.

The conservatory complex is owned by the city and includes four structures: the Palm House, an 1888 structure with tall glass walls that enclose a collection of tropical plants and trees, and three long greenhouses behind it.

Stansbury said that local governments have been generous in their support.

About $3.5 million is slated to be spent on refurbishing the long greenhouses.

Tentative plans also call for construction of a meeting room that could accommodate school groups and area plant and horticulture societies. Construction work on the refurbishment is scheduled for next year.

The conservatory's three long greenhouses are slated to be outfitted in separate themes -- the desert, the Mediterranean and tropics. New gardens are planned outside the greenhouses.

"This should be the horticulture center of the region. All the plant societies in the region could meet here," said Barry Woolf, a Fallston photographer who is board member of the Maryland Orchid Society.

The Palm House Gala is scheduled for 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Baltimore Conservatory, $100 per person.

The $10 Conservatory Tea, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, includes tea, tours, garden talks, music and children's activities.

Reservations are being taken at 410-396-0180.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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