An autumn mystery again coming to light in a Davidsonville field


October 08, 2002|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ONE OF AUTUMN'S most beautiful traditions is unfolding on a peaceful hillside in Davidsonville.

For eight years, Bill Doepkens has planted a flower mural on the sloping field next to his family's farmhouse. Commuters, children on school buses and people from around the area pass the field every day, watch the chrysanthemums fill the design, and try to identify this year's picture.

The Doepkens farm, at Route 424 and U.S. 50, has been an important part of local agriculture since Maryland's Colonial days, when the land was part of the Middle Plantation. For the past 80 years, the land has been tilled by the Doepkens family, beginning with Heinrich Doepkens, a German immigrant, followed by his son, William, and continuing under the care of William's son, Bill.

The farm has produced many crops over the years. Recently, the tobacco fields have been replaced by flowers, which are now the main cash crop.

In 1995, Bill decided to celebrate the farm's flowers by creating a picture with chrysanthemums on the field next to his home. That May, he cleared the field and planted hundreds of chrysanthemums in a sunburst design. During the summer, the field looked like almost any other field where farm work is being done. Then, in early autumn, the chrysanthemum blooms came to life, transforming the hillside into a vibrant display of color.

Response to the flower picture was so positive that Doepkens decided to continue the project the next spring, with a more complicated design. During the winter months, he spent hours planning the placement of plants needed for his picture. On Memorial Day weekend, the planting was done. Then, as the flowers began to bloom, little by little, the picture of a barn emerged on the hillside.

Each year since then, the pattern has been repeated, planting on Memorial Day weekend, area drivers wondering all summer long what the picture will be, and then, in early autumn, as the picture slowly emerges, the guessing game begins.

The 1997 mural was a butterfly. In 1998, a hummingbird drank nectar from a flower. A rooster ruled the hillside in 1999, and 2000's offering was a mural, honoring Bill's father, who had recently passed away. Last year, a butterfly neared a black-eyed Susan.

This year's picture? I am still trying to guess.

But I keep finding excuses to drive past the intersection to see if today's new blooms will give me the clue I need.

Doepkens says the flowers are blooming later than normal, probably because of the drought.

Marjorie Doepkens, keeping the secret safe, does have a clue. She notes that a blaze of yellow mums marks the left side of the picture. But focusing on the right side of her son's design is more likely to lead to the answer.

Bill Doepkens said that a few people have already figured it out. Twelve-year-old Ariel Berry stopped by the farm with the correct answer during the summer before the blossoms had even begun; she knew the design based on the shadows from the plants.

Doepkens expects the remaining blooms - and the picture - to emerge within the next two weeks. Until then, passers-by will just have to keep guessing.

Fire prevention

Arundel Volunteer Fire Department will observe Fire Prevention Awareness Month with its annual Fire Prevention and Safety Open House from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Station 7 on Route 424, between Route 450 and U.S. 50.

The theme of this year's open house is "Fire Prevention is Everybody's Job."

Participants can view fire engines and ambulance equipment, receive fire-prevention tips and learn how the Fire Department helps protect the area.

The event will feature a fire-prevention trailer, where children can "practice" fire safety in a house their size. The open house includes demonstrations, games, door prizes, food and a bake sale.

Department volunteers will distribute fire-prevention materials at the open house and to children's groups who will visit and tour the fire station this month.

Information: 301-261-0747.

Tea in Odenton

Women from western Anne Arundel County are invited to a tea at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at O'Malley Senior Center in Odenton.

Mod Wesley will be the speaker. Wesley is the RSVP volunteer project manager for "Tell A Friend," a public information project of the American Cancer Society.

Guests are welcome. The tea is free, but registration is required. Information: 410-222- 6227.

Candidates forum

The Holy Name Society of Our Lady of the Fields Catholic Church in Millersville will sponsor a candidates forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the church.

Candidates for state Senate, District 33A and 33B House of Delegates seats, county executive and the 4th District County Council seat have been invited.

Lunch meeting

Crofton Area Retired Persons will hold its monthly lunch meeting at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Seton Parish Hall in Crofton. After a brief business meeting, the program will feature the Senior Sensations Musical Revue.

The group is planning several trips during the next few months. On Nov. 14, members can visit the Spy Museum and Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington.

A winter cruise to the Caribbean is scheduled for Feb. 22 through March 1. In April, members can view the cherry blossoms in Washington aboard the Odyssey.

Information: 410-451-0029.

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