Rufus Banks, who earned the nickname "the Gardener of Roland Park" for the scores of gardens and yards he tended at homes in Roland Park and throughout the Baltimore area, died Tuesday of heart failure.
Mr. Banks, 52, of West Baltimore had worked as a private gardener and landscaper for the past three years after many years of work for local nurseries. Many of the yards he cared for were in Ruxton, Guilford and Homeland, as well as Roland Park.
"He was always so careful in the garden," said Kathy Hudson, a Roland Park resident whose garden Mr. Banks serviced for nine years. "He properly planted everything and had an incredible eye."
"Now, I can barely walk out of my house and into my garden without breaking down and crying," she said.
A very large, quiet man who carried his lawn gear in an aging pickup truck that could be heard a block away, Mr. Banks was perhaps best known for his meticulous care and the creativity he used in gardens.
For instance, he selected the types of flowers and plants for most gardens -- and when he cleaned a yard in the fall or spring, fallen leaves were never overlooked.
For the past six years, he has maintained the roughly 120 flowering trees on a quarter-mile stretch in the median strip of University Parkway, just north of 40th Street.
"He did the weeding and mulching and created an edge and everything else there," said Ann Lundy, a landscaper and member of the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corp. "And he can get virtually anything to grow."
A native of Emporia, Va., Mr. Banks came to Baltimore as a young man and worked numerous odd jobs before working for Maxalea Nurseries in Baltimore County. But he learned how to work the land on his family farm in Emporia, where he watched his mother garden.
"Everything that could grow, he'd grow it," said his mother, Rosa Banks of Emporia. "He'd grow the corn, tomatoes, tobacco and everything. And the best thing about what he did in the garden is that he did it right."
Mrs. Banks said her son grew vegetables and cared for other farms in Emporia. "He picked it up so easy. He didn't need no one to tell him how to garden. He was from the South, where there are a lot of good gardeners," she said.
One of the gardens he maintained for the past several years is at Dee Hardie's home in Baltimore County. "He just always knew what to do," Mrs. Hardie said. "He knew when to mulch and not to mulch; when to prune and not to prune. He knew when the roses needed food and when they didn't need food. And it was always right."
Services are planned for tomorrow in Emporia.
Mr. Banks was divorced. In addition to his mother, he is survived by a son, Rufus Banks Jr. of Baltimore; two daughters, Maxine Banks and Lisa Banks, both of Baltimore; his father, George Banks; two brothers, Atlas Banks and Alfred Banks; and three sisters, Geraldine Mille, Nora Gillis and Ossie McClenden, all of Emporia.
Pub Date: 12/20/98