Gardens grow at fairgrounds Rites of Spring benefits Union Memorial

April 02, 1995|By Linda Lowe Morris | Linda Lowe Morris,Sun Staff Writer

Every generation of children reinvents a love affair with the garden -- finding its secret hiding places, studying its bugs, bringing home its flowers.

Landscape architect Catherine Mahan and nursery owner Marion Mullan have watched this happen with their own children.

"As a kid, I always looked to find trees you could get underneath," Ms. Mahan said. Now, she continued, she watches her son Wilson, 14, and daughter Annie, 8, lay claim to the spaces underneath tall hollies in their back yard. "One time it's the fort, another time it's the playhouse."

So when Ms. Mahan asked Ms. Mullan to collaborate with her on a display garden for the Rites of Spring garden show opening Friday at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, it took only a few minutes for them to decide on a children's garden as their theme.

For the details, Ms. Mahan asked her daughter Annie: What should the garden have?

"You need to have a whole lot of flowers so we can pick them and nobody would notice," Annie told her.

And a private space just for them.

"It would make the kids feel proud if it was only theirs and the grown-ups couldn't go into it," she said.

So the display garden will have both: a child-size arbor of willow guarding a secret path just for kids, and drifts of flowers in bright colors. The garden will also have an area of fragrant flowers, Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in topiary, a small garden pond, a checkerboard pathway, a weeping tree to crawl under and a treehouse.

It was Ms. Mullan, owner, with her husband, Robert, of Mullan Nurseries in White Hall, who had the idea for a treehouse. "I just thought of all the children's books that have critters living in trees," she said.

They asked Bob Priest, an architect known around town for his treehouses, to design one. The result, built by Mr. Mullan and his brother Victor, is a house shaped like a tree with a tiny door and windows.

Ms. Mahan and Ms. Mullan are hoping visitors will take some ideas away to turn their own gardens into places of magic for their children.

"I know a lot of people are running their kids in all different directions to different activities, but you can really have a good quality time just hanging out in the back yard," Ms. Mullan said.

This will be the ninth annual Rites of Spring, to be held Friday through April 9. Sponsored by the Union Memorial Hospital Foundation, the show will feature six other display gardens in addition to the children's garden from Mahan Rykiel Associates and Mullan Nurseries.

Proceeds from the show will be used to support the National Center for the Treatment of the Hand and Upper Extremity at Union Memorial Hospital.

The weather has been a problem for some nurseries, as warm temperatures have speeded up their carefully timed forcing of plants. "Stuff is wanting to flower too early," said David Thompson of Foxborough Nurseries in Street.

Foxborough will be creating a spring-wedding garden with a pergola, spring-flowering plants and large, cut-flower arrangements designed by Mr. Thompson's wife, Marilyn, and staff designer, Georgette King.

"We've had one wedding and three receptions here at our place, so we're very well-versed in that," said Mr. Thompson.

Landscape architect Jack McWilliams, one of the owners of Maxalea Nurseries in Baltimore, has designed a garden based on the story behind the blue willow plate of Nanking, China. "Lots of people have an old piece of willowware from their mother or their grandmother," he said.

He and the staff at Maxalea will put it together using blue and white flowers and bluish-green grasses and evergreens. A bridge will span a water garden by Todd Fox, and two white doves will symbolize the ill-fated lovers Chang and Koong se.

Landscape designer Andreas Grothe of New World Gardens in Forest Hill has invited two friends -- artist and designer Wayne David Hand and sculptor Robert Stucky -- to join with him in creating a garden.

The timing of the show -- Palm Sunday weekend -- inspired Mr. Stucky, who is also the rector of St. Mark's-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in Pikesville, to sculpt an image for the display of Jesus rising from the River Jordan.

In the garden created by Conceptual Building and Landscape Ltd., a series of levels will lead visitors up to a central observation area Partners Ray Meyer, Pete Berggren and Raffaele Mannerelli will create a summer garden around a hand-carved wooden gazebo. "We consider ourselves an outdoor building company, so we wanted to demonstrate the aspect of construction in our garden," Mr. Meyer said.

Jay Stump of Spring's Nursery in Owings Mills will create a four-season garden with lace-bark pine, red-twig dogwood, winter hazel, tulips, daffodils and other plants around a waterfall. In a separate display, Mr. Stump will show how a fountain and pond could be built to give access for the handicapped.

Pinehurst Landscaping of Long Green will create a walled English garden. And the National Aquarium will be bringing a terrarium.

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