Margaret Flowers, 89, reading teacher, expert on gardens of England

September 19, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Margaret Carver Flowers, a reading specialist and authority on English gardens, died Friday of cancer at her Chancery Road home. She was 89.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Mrs. Flowers was a reading specialist in Baltimore public and private schools, helping dyslexic children learn to read. She tutored children in her home and in reading clinics and retired in the 1990s.

Mrs. Flowers was an accomplished gardener who "combined an artistic sensitivity to design with pragmatic skills," said her daughter, Margaret Flowers Sobel of Baltimore.

Mrs. Flowers made 26 trips to England to visit and study legendary gardens such as Sissinghurt Castle in Kent, which had been restored by the writer Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson, her husband.

Other gardens that she studied included Hidcote Manor in the Cotswolds, Powis Castle in Wales, Forde Abbey in Dorset and London's Chelsea Physick Garden.

"She liked the aesthetic cohesion and harmony of an English garden and the surrounding landscaping," Mrs. Sobel said. "She had a sensible eye for what went and didn't go in a garden, and her observations were both subtle and astute."

In a two-level garden at her home, Mrs. Flowers combined in a woodland setting five ancient locust trees with a row of dogwoods that, in turn, were highlighted by gardens featuring yellow roses, delphiniums, hardy begonias, artemisia and lilies.

Mrs. Flowers, who made her last visit to England this year, became interested in plants and gardens as a child while visiting her grandparents' farm in Virginia.

She wrote occasional travel articles for The Sun under the pen name of Margaret James.

She was a communicant of St. John's Huntingdon Episcopal Church in Waverly. In 1997, she became the first person in the church's 200-year history to be elected to the vestry for life.

"She was an exceptionally gracious lady who had a real enthusiasm for evangelicalism," said the Rev. Jesse Parker, rector of St. John's.

"She was very much a Southern lady and was as sweet as the day is long," Mr. Parker said. "Mrs. Flowers was very concerned about the community and helped by tutoring children. She was also very active in fund raising for the Barclay School library."

Mrs. Flowers had been a docent at Walters Art Gallery for many years.

Born Margaret Binkley Carver in Warrenton, Va., she was raised in Bolton Hill. She was a 1929 graduate of Bryn Mawr School. She received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Smith College in 1933 and a master's degree in education and reading from the Johns Hopkins University in 1971,

She married Farrand Flowers in 1935; he died last year.

She was a member of the Mount Vernon Club, Smith College Club and the Women's Hamilton Street Club.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 3 at St. John's Huntingdon, Greenmount Avenue and Old York Road.

She also is survived by a son, Dr. James Farrand Flowers of Port Angeles, Wash.; a sister, Ann Carver Asper of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

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