Homestead flower mart to bloom

The Baltimore Sun

The Union Mills Homestead will be turned into a colorful garden next weekend as the 210-year-old historic Shriver farm is filled with blooming spring flowers for the 38th annual Flower and Plant Market.

A variety of plants, including hanging baskets, climbing vines and even small shrubs, can be found by gardeners for their homes and yards.

"What really makes it unique is our selection of quality plants and a huge selection of hanging baskets that people can take home and enjoy," said James Shriver III, one of four committee members who heads Homestead's longest-running event.

"We try to feature plants with good potential for growing, and we get the plants in just before Saturday so they are fresh and well-maintained," he said. "We try to utilize four different greenhouses - some have specialty plants, and some have other plants that give us the complete variety for the weekend sale."

The committee also focuses on its customers, many of whom come back each year. Shriver said the Homestead workers know what visitors want.

"They go and hand-pick every plant and hanging basket," said Jane Sewell, Homestead's executive director. "It's a big job to be sure you're getting fresh and unique things."

The grounds will be covered with flatbed wagons loaded with flowers ready for planting, and The Tannery will be filled with a variety of hanging baskets, both single-flower and mixed.

"We try to put the hanging baskets in pairs, because a lot of people like to have a pair, especially for the porch," Shriver said.

There will be a mix of annuals and perennials, plants for sun and shade, and some shrubs, including butterfly bushes - something for all gardening tastes and abilities.

"We have some very knowledgeable people working that weekend who can answer questions about how big the plant will get, where and how to plant it, and how to care for it," Shriver said.

The two-day event, a fundraiser to support the preservation and restoration of the Homestead, also offers other activities, said committee member Coral Collins.

The Homestead gift shop will be open; the house and grist mill will offer tours; the blacksmith, a popular feature, will be on duty; and Kountry Kafe & Katering will provide breakfast and lunch foods both days.

"People can spend the day, shop, picnic in the park if they like," Collins said. "We'll have a few vendors, funnel cakes, silk flower arrangements. Alloway Creek Gardens will be there with herbs, and a few more vendors with gardening items and ideas."

Marlene Lufriu, a former partner of Alloway Creek Gardens, will be on hand to answer questions about flower planting and care, Collins said.

"I try to lend my expertise because there are lots of questions people have - what grows best in shade, where to plant - questions that the average person wouldn't pick up on, I feel comfortable chatting with them about it," Lufriu said. "I do what I can do to make it a better sale for the person."

Lufriu also keeps up on new plants and trends, such as the increasingly popular container gardening, for which there will be plants available, she said.

The Homestead's gristmill stone-ground cornmeal and other flours will be for sale, as will raffle tickets.

First place in this year's raffle is a signed print by artist Paul McGehee. Second prize is a collection of commemorative beer glasses from September's microbrewery festival.

Tickets are $1, and the drawing will be at the Homestead's Corn Roast Festival on Aug. 4.

The Union Mills Homestead was started in 1797 by brothers David and Andrew Shriver, who built a farmhouse, gristmill, tannery, sawmill, blacksmith shop and barrel-making shop on Big Pipe Creek.

Shriver said the market will be held rain or shine. Tents will be set up for some of the plants, and more can be squeezed into The Tannery if necessary.

Union Mills Homestead is at 3311 Littlestown Pike (Route 97 north). The Flower and Plant Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. May 6.

Admission is free. House and gristmill tours will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. May 6. Tours are $5 for adults, $3 for children, and free for ages 5 and younger. Information: 410-848-2288.

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