Exiling dullness, daffodils gild the whole area

April 05, 1994|By JACQUES KELLY

Because we've had to endure such a long and wretched winter, the sight of hundreds of blooming yellow daffodils is extra welcome this month.

Look at the beauty these flowering bulbs -- the proper name is narcissus -- give to such places as the York Road entrance to Towson. There's a bank of daffodils growing on the south side of the old Ma & Pa Railroad stone bridge abutments, a spot that traditionally marks the business section of the Baltimore County seat.

Towson, cursed by some exceedingly dull and awkward-looking architecture, needs all the beautification it can muster. It is amazing how a traffic-clogged York Road seems to shine for the 10 days or so when the daffodils are blooming.

Pratt Street at the Inner Harbor, another busy thoroughfare lined with drab, clunky office buildings, overflows with beds of the yellow and white blooming bulbs in early April.

Nearly 20 years ago, landscapers planted the bulbs along Pratt street. These slightly elevated gardens are called berms. They are especially noticeable along Pratt from Eutaw Street to Little Italy.

The blooming of these bulbs has become a Baltimore springtime tradition, right up there with the show of flowering trees along Springlake Way in Homeland and the early May show of tulips in Sherwood Gardens.

Spring observers should not overlook the redbud trees in Leakin Park along the Gwynns Falls Valley or the Bradford pear trees all over the city and counties that will probably explode into grayish-white flowers today or tomorrow.

Back to the Inner Harbor. The berms keep a dirty little secret. Rats. Lot of them. They love to nest in the matted ivy that grows atop these mounds. The next time you're in the area at two or three in the morning, you'll see the rodents cavorting along the brick-paved sidewalks.

Rats are an urban reality. A friend of mine just up the street has killed 30 in the past few weeks. He has daffodils, too, but there's no correlation between Dutch bulbs and the common alley rat.

The daffodil show is not confined to the tourist quarters. Check out University Parkway where the street divides into upper and lower halves at the southern entrance to Roland Park. These bulbs have naturally multiplied over the years. Mixed in with the open umbrella-shaped elm trees (now showing a good hint of spring green) the daffodils create one of those springtime compositions that look as if they belong on a seed calendar.

Another worthy showing of daffodils is the Baltimore Museum of Art's sunken sculpture garden at Charles Street and Art Museum Drive.

For sheer expanse and variety of daffodils, there is nothing quite like the long driveway that leads to the Cylburn Arboretum, the city's wildlife preserve off the 4900 block of Greenspring Ave. in Northwest Baltimore. Any season of the year, the arboretum is one of Baltimore's greatest hidden treasures.

Bird-watchers like to count the varieties of winged creatures at Cylburn. The same could be done for varieties of narcissus that city gardeners have planted throughout the peaceful Cylburn meadows so artfully detached from the rest of Baltimore.

It's one of Baltimore's least visited greenswards and one of its greatest. Maybe that's just as well, but Cylburn deserves to be visited, respected and enjoyed.

Daffodils don't require much work, but they do like a good annual banquet of bone meal fertilizer. This is a kind of aromatic plant pick-me-up that garden shops sell.

Bone meal is a natural fertilizer and I've used it in my own garden. Bone meal is good, except the Saturday afternoon many years ago when a sack of the gritty fertilizer managed to work its way open in my lap. I was riding home on the No. 8 streetcar from the old J.S. Manns seed company opposite the Belair Market in the Oldtown neighborhood.

The bone meal spill didn't do any damage except to my pride. One more smell filtering through that swaying old trolley coach was hardly detected.

Daffodil varieties have names. They sound like race horses: Obdam, Cragford, Foresight, Golden Dukat, Daydream, Mount Hood, King Alfred, Romance, Amor, Unsurpassable and Fortissimo.

I wonder if Pimlico has any daffodil beds?

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