The grounds and gardens around the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson are perfectly manicured, but not by the residents.
Though many of them gardened at their own homes, gardening is something they left behind when they went to live at Edenwald.
That is, until Amalie Adler Ascher, who has been a resident for seven years, suggested a Parsley Club.
She proposed it last summer in a "Flower Talk" column she writes for the newsletter, and now it is one of the most successful clubs at the 400-resident community. Some of its more than 40 members are accomplished gardeners, and some are so inexperienced they aren't sure what end of a plant goes in the dirt.
"It was just a lark," said Ascher, 81, who was a garden writer for many years for The Baltimore Sun. "And it took off."
They began by planting parsley, of course.
"It is hard to grow parsley in a window in the winter," she said. To make sure none of her new members got discouraged, at a recent meeting Ascher passed out robust parsley plants she'd cultivated.
But Ascher has bigger plans.
"I want to have the 'hanging gardens of Edenwald' by spring."
In the meantime, the club has been busy with field trips, lectures and activities. Out of mountains of cut boxwood that Ascher provided, members made ingenious tabletop Christmas trees, some of which were still going strong weeks later.
For Ruth Klohr, who will be 90 in March, the Parsley Club helps make up for the activity she misses.
"I lived on a farm in Randallstown, but I always planted flowers," said Klohr, who also had a garden in Florida for the 19 years she lived there. "I miss my garden. Here, we don't have any ground."
Veteran gardener or no, the members all said they joined because they like learning something new. At this month's meeting, Ascher was demonstrating the various ways to propagate plants.
"I'm not much of a gardener," said Marion Liebert, holding up her plant and trying to figure out which end to root in the sand. "But it is interesting to learn new things."
Member Mary Claire O'Neil, childhood friends with Ascher before they lost touch, met again at Edenwald. "Amalie is so knowledgeable and everyone likes her," she said.
"I have a purple thumb," she added. "Everything I try is hit or miss. I talk to my plants, but I say, 'What the heck is the matter with you?' "
Ascher has written books about flower arranging and gardening articles for The Sun magazine, and produced a PBS series on the subject, but she has no training in horticulture or journalism.
"I didn't know anything about plants," she said. "But I was a darn good interviewer.
"I wrote from the point of view of a novice gardener. I could relate to the average person."
Nancy Kiehe, formerly of Hampton, moved to Edenwald in August and said she misses her garden.
"I miss my yard and my boxwoods and my herb garden and my brick paths. I miss cutting bouquets of flowers," she said.
She brought a large planter with hostas and bulbs for her balcony, and a large pot with herbs for inside.
Ascher organized a "flower show" in the fall and asked the residents to bring a plant. More than 80 different plants arrived from behind apartment doors.
"It was amazing what people are growing here," she said.