Celebrating the Rites of Spring

April 03, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff Writer

Here's something we can all use lots of: a touch of spring.

And it's no small touch -- it's an extravaganza with garden displays, all manner of garden goods, goodies to eat for lunch and tea, lectures, demonstrations and entertainment.

This fling into a finer season is the eighth annual Rites of Spring sponsored by the Union Memorial Hospital Foundation. This year's event, which takes place Friday through Sunday at the 4H Building at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, will benefit the new open-heart surgery program starting this summer at Union Memorial.

This year, lectures will deal with pottery containers (with Florence Platt), spring-flowering bulbs (with Kitty Washburne), vines (with Graham Egerton), the "new American garden" (with Wolfgang Oehme), herbal topiaries (with Susan Iglehart) and miniature flower arrangements (with Jinx Barton).

The featured speaker will be distinguished horticulturist Dr. J. C. Raulston, professor and director of the North Carolina State University Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C. Dr. Raulston is known as a "plant evangelist," for his championing of underused species.

Dr. Raulston contends that most Americans are "springtime" gardeners, relying on plants such as azalea, dogwood and flowering crab apples, which last for only a few weeks in April and May. He advocates more use of plants that flower in January or February (in mild climates), and of shrubs that flower in late summer and autumn. The illustrated lecture and reception will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15.

Gardeners whose yards still look like a dust bowl hit by an ice storm can revel in the half-dozen or so display gardens that will be created indoors by area nurseries and garden designers.

"It's nice to show our wares, and a lot of the people who come there are our customers," says Jack McWilliams, owner of Maxalea Nurseries Inc., of Baltimore. Maxalea has been creating gardens for Rites of Spring since the event began, he says.

This year Maxalea's display, one of eight landscape exhibitions in the show, will feature an Oriental theme.

"I'm going to do a Chinese garden -- impressionistic of a Chinese rose-medallion plate," he says. "We're going to try to develop a scene, probably with a green arbor to frame it, and maybe some of the characters from the plate."

Next to the garden displays, a big attraction of the event is the boutiques. This year, several dozen vendors from as close as Sparks and Glencoe, and as far away as Phoenix, Ariz., will be offering hand-painted furniture, interior design and antiques, accessories, games and toys, gifts, relic replicas, topiaries, herbs, baskets, jewelry, flower and garden books, hand-painted note paper, 19th- and 20th-century French and American garden furniture, animal sculptures and planters, garden tools, silk and dried floral designs, as well as perennials and other plants.

"It's a great time," says Judy Hillman, owner, with Janinne Rodgers of the Milk House shop in Sparks. They'll be bringing hand-painted furniture, flower arrangements, needlepoint pillows, hooked rugs, china plates, decorative frames and "some neat bunnies," among other things, to the show. This is their third year at Rites of Spring. "It's unique in that everyone who's there has something different," she says.

Among events are a gala preview party from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday that will include music, food and a rare-plant auction, with celebrity emcee Bob Turk. (Cost is $75 per person.)

Other events are singing by the Traveling Men of Gilman School Saturday at noon; an international wine tasting with Bob Schindler, of Pinehurst Wine Shop, Friday at 4:30 p.m., and family tea in the Decorator's Birdhouse luncheon area from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The light-fare area will be decorated with a collection of birdhouses and bird cages created or donated by local designers, including Susan Silverman of Louis Mazor; Arnot-McComas, Betty Cooke and Bill Steinmetz of the Store, Ltd.; and Rita St. Clair. Each of the pieces is available for sale.

"It's just such a neat little project," says Madeleine McComas. The birdhouse she and Rhea Arnot are donating "looks like a castle," she says. "We took the idea from a 19th-century French building. The outside surface was done entirely in tiles, so it's very colorful."

Rites of Spring will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5. For more information, call (410) 554-2662.

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