The neighborhood flower: a quick tour

JACQUES KELLY

June 23, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

Baltimore's neighborhoods exhibit distinct flower preferences.

Why is it that people in one ZIP code will prefer one type of blossom over another? Or why do some wildflowers take to one cranny in our geography over another?

Here's an unscientific course in dubious botany -- matching communities with what seems to thrive on a June day.

Cherry Hill: On a hot morning, one of the hillsides leading up to the heart of this neighborhood overlooking the Patapsco was covered with the delicate blue wildflowers that could only be chicory, light and airy and the color of little girls' party dresses.

Oakenshawe: This small North Baltimore micro-neighborhood, off University Parkway and Calvert Street, has so much pachysandra growing that residents must eat it for lunch. This low green ground cover grows around tree bases. Some people make lawns out of it. Has anybody tried pachysandra wine?

Downtown: The Inner Harbor may have its beautifully laid out and tended perennial gardens at Rash Field -- the Pride of Baltimore Memorial -- and alongside the Chart House Restaurant south of the Power Plant. But nothing so much characterizes Baltimore as the triangular-shaped bed of cannas at Saratoga and St. Paul streets in Preston Gardens. The cannas are actually a tropical plant in the banana family. They have thick roots, large leaves and brilliant red flowers. They are synonymous with a hot and humid Baltimore summer.

Mount Washington: The cool and shady terrain of this hilly Northwest Baltimore neighborhood seems perfect for the hosta, which pops up everywhere here, along stone walls, in formal gardens, on the banks of Western Run and anywhere the sun is scarce.

Catonsville: Somebody's grandmother once bought a 10-cent package of larkspur seeds that the winds carried to the four corners of Frederick Road. Larkspur, with its lacy stems and purple and pink flowers, is the backbone of the perfect old-fashioned June garden.

Brooklyn and Brooklyn Park: This is the heart of Baltimore's fancy day lily district. Maybe it's the sandy soil or the even the moisture-retentive clay, but the day lily propagators love these neighborhoods. The fine lilies are in shades of cantaloupe, peach, orange, lemon, pink and a naughty dark magenta.

Roland Park: When a shaft of June sunlight cuts through a stand of tall tulip poplar trees, it singles out the stands of common orange day lilies seen all over Woodlawn, Hawthorn and Oakdale roads.

West Inverness: Definitely the marigold capital of eastern Baltimore County. Good for Baltimore's droughts and happy in our monsoons, the marigold pops up gold and orange in West Inverness, one of the most densely populated parts of the county.

Charles Village: It's a tie between a stand of hollyhocks at 27th and Calvert and a monster patch of explosive red bergamot at St. Paul and 31st. The bergamot (Monarda) is a member of the mint family and grows as profusely. Charles Village gardens seem to thrive on all the auto pollution along these busy streets.

Rodgers Forge: The potted pink geranium wins out here. Are there any other flowers in this red-brick rowhouse-dominated neighborhood just south of Towson? Of course there are, but there's a penchant for the sensible, long-blooming geranium on Dunkirk, Old Trail, Hopkins and all the streets of this long established neighborhood.

Federal Hill: Residents of Baltimore's old harbor neighborhood took great pains last summer to plant large flower pots as well as many of their intersections. Vandals and thieves helped themselves on several occasions, leaving the pots in the summer of 1993 with heavy growths of unruly vinca vine.

Hamilton: Most every street in Northeast Baltimore's Hamilton could have appeared on a 1952 Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. This is an old-fashioned neighborhood where people break for egg custard-flavored snowballs at 8 o'clock each night. The summer blooms are, of course, on the 50-odd-year-old hydrangea bushes that seem to flank the porches of all the shingled bungalows. The deep, deep blue ones are one of summertime's great gifts.

Wyman Park: The people who live behind the stone and brick porch fronts of Tudor Arms and Beech avenues must have declared a petunia war. These floppy flowers cascade from urns and pots and boxes as though somebody knows a secret fertilizer.

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