First they were honored as a "Tree City USA."
Now Westminster city officials are hoping to be recognized as "Maryland's Garden City."
"Westminster is the only city involved with this program," said Neil Ridgely, the former city grounds manager who created the project that encourages residents to care for municipal gardens.
"It started through my association with the town, and I have a real close knowledge what the city needs in terms of garden help," he said.
Ridgely -- who is now the county landscape planner -- said he knows how busy the city maintenance crew is and started the program in the hope of easing their workload.
"In early spring, the grass grows like crazy -- you have to mow it about twice a week," he said. "The city crew is short on time and can't take hours and hours to plant flowers.
"This will give (residents) a big chance to improve the gardens andpossibly add some more in the future."
Volunteers -- individuals or groups -- will choose one of the city's 14 gardens to care for as their own during the summer months.
"We need folks who are willingto spend one or two hours a week planting flowers in the spring and weeding up through the fall," said Ridgely, who also serves on the city's tree commission. "We want to try and keep things herbicide- and pesticide-free."
Westminster's maintenance crew will supply the plants and necessary tools, he said. Volunteers will provide people power and ideas to beautify the gardens.
"We want to work with peopleas much we can to give them something they'd like," Ridgely said. "We've asked the volunteers to give us some ideas on what they'd like to plant.
"If they make sense, and aren't too expensive, we'll try to get (the plants) for them."
While the flowers won't go into thebeds until May 15, workers should begin weeding the gardens this week, Ridgely said.
Only four of the city gardens are spoken for at this time -- Mather Garden across from City Hall, the garden by the police station, the W.H. Davis parking lot next to Heinz Bakery and theVeteran's Memorial at the fork of Pennsylvania Avenue and Main Street.
"I figure I'll be doing a lot of weeding," said Barbara Barnes,who will care for the garden next to the police department. "I'm good at weeding."
The wife of Lt. Randy Barnes of the city police department, Barbara Barnes said she agreed to help because she likes gardening.
"I just saw the ad in the paper and thought it would be a nice way to put something back into the community," she said.
Karen Blanford, the city's housing director, said she's considering helping because she doesn't have a garden of her own at her apartment.
"It's the frustrated gardener in me," she said. "I don't have my ownspace to play in the dirt. I love to play in the dirt and make things grow, rather than die."
The high visual impact of the planter atLocust Mall appeals to her, but it is a challenge as well, Blanford said.
"It gets a lot of wear and tear, and its been a problem to find something that works well," she said. "I'm not sure what would work in that location. I'm not an expert, more of a 'Point me to a weedand I'll go to work' person."
For James and Karen Buell, working at the Veterans' Memorial garden and the W.H. Davis lot will be a family affair.
"(Gardening) is just sort of a hobby we both have," said James. "We both enjoy it and like to keep the city looking as niceas it looks."
The family expects to spend about two to three hours a week tending to the gardens with their 3-year-old, Holly.
"Sheenjoys gardening, enjoys being outside," he said.
The remaining gardens are:
* The beds at City Hall.
* The walkway in the Key Parking Lot near East Middle School.
* The Conaway Parking Lot on Railroad Avenue.
* Two gardens at the Gehr Parking Lot on the corner of Main and Liberty streets.
* An ivy and shrub bed at King Parkon King's Lane.
* The new concession stand at Jaycee Park off Uniontown Road.
* The parking area at the former Albion Hotel at MainStreet and Railroad Avenue.
* The raised planter at Locust Lane Mall.
* The gardens at the city pool off of Royer Road.
* Belle Grove Square at Park, Green and Anchor streets.
"Belle Grove Square is a real special place, but it's a big responsibility," said Ridgely. "We're looking for a club to help us out on that one."
Ridgelyand James Buell said more volunteers are needed for the program, andany help would be appreciated.
For information, call 848-9000.