Davidsonville farmer delights citizens with his living murals

Neighbors

October 19, 1999|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALL SUMMER long, we watched the hillside at the Doepkens farm, waiting and wondering.

What surprise had Bill Doepkens concocted this time? For the past five years, Doepkens has spent Memorial Day weekend planting chrysanthemums at his Davidsonville farm.

Most of his plants are arranged in long, straight rows. But the hillside next to the intersection of Route 424 and U.S. 50 is unique, because that's where Doepkens creates his annual display of field art, a living mural composed of hundreds and hundreds of chrysanthemums.

One year, flowers in the shape of a barn and rainbow filled the slope. Another year, a colorful sun burst from the hill. The butterfly mural was very popular. And last year, a huge chrysanthemum hummingbird feasted on Doepken's flowers.

What would this year's picture be?

Kristin Deily and her friends pass the farm each morning as their bus travels from Crofton to South River High School. For the first few weeks of the school year, the students tried to guess what that slowly emerging shape would be. A fish? A whale? A peacock? Finally, some dark red mums started blooming, outlining a rooster's comb and wattle.

For three weeks, the flowers kept opening, filling in the vibrant tail feathers, the body, even the eye. This year's rooster mural sends children off to school in the morning and welcomes the evening's weary commuters home.

The Doepkenses have farmed in Davidsonville since 1906. They moved to their present farmstead in 1922, when William Doepkens Sr. was 6 years old. Doepkens worked and managed the family farm for more than 75 years. His son Bill now operates the farm, the third generation of his family to carry on the tradition.

For years, the family grew corn, wheat, hay and tobacco, and raised a fine herd of Red Angus cattle. Now, flowers have become the main cash crop. While working in the flower fields, Bill devised the idea of a flower mural.

The process begins each fall with an idea. Selling this year's chrysanthemums, Doepkens is already planning which colors and which varieties will work best in next year's living mural.

Over the winter, he will spend hours planning which flowers should be planted where. He also chooses among early, middle and late blooming varieties. That way, the mural evolves slowly as a moving creation.

More than 1,700 chrysanthemums were used to create this year's rooster, representing many of the 85 varieties grown on the farm. Doepkens has decided upon the mural he hopes to create on the hillside next spring.

But he won't tell. It would spoil the surprise.

Schemes aimed at the elderly

Officer Joe Hatcher of the Anne Arundel County Police Force will speak on schemes aimed at the elderly at the monthly meeting of the Crofton Association of Retired Persons at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow at the Seton Parish Center, on Route 424 in Crofton. A number of such schemes have been reported recently.

The group is open to those 55 and older. Luncheon meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month. Annual dues are $10, and the luncheon meetings cost $7.

Information: Grace Walker at 410-721-8830.

Distinguished Scholars

Arundel High School's Class of 2000 is proud to recognize a large group of students for outstanding performance in this year's Maryland Distinguished Scholars Program, the largest scholarship program in Maryland. The students may now be eligible for scholarships to private or public schools throughout the state.

Awards are given on the basis on academic achievement and SAT scores. Semifinalists in this category are Marc Gorman, Heather Hanson and Angela Solly. Honorable mentions were awarded to Mia Bovill, Bonny Busch, Thomas Dorsey, Elizabeth Farr, Jennifer Gardner, David Kitchin, Jennifer Lee, Kristin McBreen, Karim Said and Heather Wake.

A second group of students was recognized for achievements in the arts. An honorable mention in the "talent in the arts" category was awarded to Danielle Crawley for dance, to Nicole Day for visual arts, to Sarah Valdes for voice and to Heather Hanson and Elizabeth Palmieri for instrumental music.

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