Ever want to peek in someone's backyard? You know the one. It has an abundance of color, or offers a tranquil bit of green. Maybe it's the garden you always wanted for your own.
On Sunday, seven gardeners of Roland Park, Guilford and Tuscany-Canterbury will open their own flowery oases for the Horticultural Society of Maryland's 25th annual garden tour.
"You get to go in somebody's backyard you wouldn't have gone in otherwise," said Nancy Raskin, horticultural society president.
Behind the stone garden gate of Marcia and Charles Moylan's home, the moss-covered fountain, profusion of flowers on the lower level and towering elm trees beckon visitors to stroll and relax.
In the years after the Moylans moved into their 1920s-era stone cottage in Guilford in 1974, Marcia Moylan took care of the garden herself. She lovingly points out the red-leafed Chinese maple trees that she planted, as well as two stands of tall bamboo and a leafy American holly now tall enough to hide an unattractive utlility pole.
Two elm trees have shaded the gardens for decades. But it took some serious effort to protect them from the Dutch elm disease that decimated the elm population on their street and all around Baltimore — Marcia Moylan said the street once had 17 of the elegant trees — despite a community effort to save them. "It worked for my trees but it didn't work for the city trees," she said.
Those big trees mean a shady garden. So the garden beds are filled with perennials that like shade and require little attention — other than to admire the flowers. There are astilbe, coral bells, lots of Lenten roses and hostas. She planted several oak leaf hydrangeas, which are shade tolerant. In the front yard, beds of liriope and day lilies leave room for only a little patch of lawn.
She admires the old azaleas and rhododendron just blossoming with big purple lfowers. "We all love the spring," Marcia Moylan said.
There are whimsical features to the garden: a buddha at the garden gate, concrete mushrooms, metal hummingbird and lots of bunnies and frogs.
The garden has served the family's three children and four grandchildren and been the site of a family wedding. The Moylans have their coffee and paper every summer morning on the covered patio, added when the garden was redone 12 years ago.
"I like being part of the garden. It's been a wonderful thing to have for us," Marcia Moylan said. "It's a big part of our life."
The couple used the talents of local landscape architects to plan their gardens. Years ago, Wayne Hand designed the fence, trellis, patio and low stone wall that serves as the family's outdoor dining area just outside the kitchen door.
This is the second time the Moylans' garden has been on the garden tour. "Things were different," she said. The patios and garden beds have been redone since that 2002 tour. A new design by Stonehill Design, with neat straight lines and crisp right angles complement the original dining patio and fence. A cement patio was removed to lay a stone patio. The goldfish pond was moved to a spot adjacent to the new patio. It features a mossy fountain that Marcia Moylan bought at auction for $15.
Marcia Moylan looks forward to the garden tour. As an antiques dealer who travels around the country, she has visited plenty of leafy old neighborhoods. But none compare with her Guilford neighborhood.
"This is really special," she said.
This year's theme, Gardening Just Enough for the City, offers gardens just beyond the city sidewalks, according to Raskin.
"The gardens are representative of what can be done in the city," she said, explaining that some gardens may be grand but others are creative in their unique use of small spaces. "Some of them are quite different," she said.
The Horticultural Society of Maryland is a nonprofit organization for those who garden and those who love gardens. "We welcome anybody to join," Raskin said. Society members have supported a number of gardens, including the Cylburn Arboretum, where they raised funds for the recently built Vollmer Visitor and Education Center and last year planted a new garden bed, according to Raskin. A May tool drive collected garden tools to be donated to area "tool libraries." The society also sponsors an annual lecture series and trips to gardens both close to home and abroad.
Visitors may tour the seven gardens Sunday, June 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available online at mdhorticulture.org, or at area shops, including Green Fields Nursery on Falls Road. Tickets include a map to the first parking stop, where visitors will receive the complete tour program booklet and map.
Tickets also can be purchased at the first garden at 103 Ridgewood Road, off Roland Avenue, on the day of the tour. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 on Sunday.