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Kamenetz, Shellenberger face off over flowers in Gardens Day trial

 Kamenetz, Shellenberger face off over flowers in Gardens Day trial
State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, left, squared off with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, center, in a mock trial over Towson's official flower, the azalea. Circuit Court Judge Justin King, back left, presided over the trial, while Dorrie Wilfong, right, testified in favor of the azalea. (Photo by Jon Sham)

On a day when downtown Towson was splashed in spring and mobbed by vendors and patrons, what else could two of the county's most powerful officials do but debate flowers and shrubs?

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger squared off in a mock trial during the 26th Annual Towson Gardens Day celebration Thursday afternoon, with Kamenetz challenging the merits of Towson's official flower, the azalea.

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But despite the county executive's convincing argument that the azalea was actually a shrub, not a flower — a point that was upheld by the mock trial's chief arbiter Circuit Court Judge Justin King — the azalea was ultimately retained as Towson's official flower.

Both sides delivered compelling arguments.

Star witness Dorrie Wilfong, who was dressed in a rainbow of azalea colors, joined Shellenberger to defend the credibility of the 1996 public vote that made the azalea Towson's flower.

Wilfong went on to described just how prevalent azaleas are in the community.

Kamenetz, however, equated the azalea — which blooms just briefly in the spring saying it was "stuffy and past her prime"— with "old Towson."

"New Towson is moving ahead with new ideas … and new construction perpetually about to begin," Kamenetz said. "New Towson needs a new official flower."

Kamenetz was advocating that the knockout rose, which is already prolific in downtown Towson and which continually blooms, becomeTowson's new flower.

While Kamenetz scored a small victory when King, who was understandably more concerned with getting to the nearby food vendors because it was lunchtime, declared the azalea a shrub, Kamenetz's case wasn't strong enough to push the knockout rose to victory.

It wasn't all bad news for Kamenetz and the knockout rose bush, though. King ruled that next year, the Towson Gardens Day committee will honor not only the best display of azaleas as it does each year, but the winner of a new category, the best knockout rose display.

After the trial, the county executive questioned the decision.

"The facts are pretty clear that the azalea is a shrub and not a flower, and knockout roses are the sign of the future for the new Towson," Kamenetz said.

Despite claims that the trial was fixed against him, Kamenetz announced he had no plans for an appeal at this time. He simply urged Towson residents to plant knockout roses anyway.

Even in victory, Shellenberger claimed collusion between Kamenetz and King.

"Despite all that, we overcame," Shellenberger said. "The azalea is still the official flower of Towson —well, maybe the official shrub of Towson."

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