Story: Alex Glaze
Multimedia: Chris Smith
On the outskirts of Baltimore, just south of Loyola University of Maryland, rests one of the area’s hidden gems.
Tucked away in the Guilford, a neighborhood that is filled with homes designed by some of the greatest architects of the early 1900s is a sublime six-and-a-half acre garden where over 80,000 tulip bulbs are planted annually in addition to other spring flowering bulbs.
Sherwood Gardens was created in the 1920s by John W. Sherwood, a local petroleum pioneer. He imported the tulips from the Netherlands and covered Stratford Green, one of the original parks of Guilford, and a number of neighboring building lots that he purchased.
When Sherwood died in 1965, he opened the garden to the community and left enough money to maintain the grounds for one year. After that, the Guilford Association purchased the land and took responsibility for its care.
There are no gates or barriers around Sherwood Gardens, and there is no admission charge. It is open to the public. That allows people like Sara Gerrish to set up a picnic, pull out a pack of playing cards and enjoy a sunny afternoon with her friend Rory Chartreause.
“It’s pretty, it’s calm, it feels safe,” Gerrish said. “It’s just a beautiful place to be on a nice weekend.”
Though the tulips don’t bloom until spring, people come to the park year-round to enjoy the tranquility of the area. During spring, the garden becomes more crowded and there is a lot more going on. There are numerous fundraising events to raise money to pay for maintenance costs of the property, picnics, and neighborhood parties.
“We have a couple of things where there’s a picnic that’ll be sponsored by a local liquor distributor and you can buy wine and bring your own food and sometimes there’ll be bands that play in the park,” Elizabeth Sugar, a Guilford resident, said. “You’ll see people playing Frisbee, kids climbing on the trees, so it’s a lot of fun just as a hangout spot. It’s a fairly large space, so it never feels horribly crowded even when there’s a lot of people here.”
Jeff Zaraya has lived in the Guilford community for over 40 years and compared Sherwood Gardens’ tulip season to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.
“The whole city comes here,” Zaraya said.
“People have weddings, photographers [come] and people are painting,” Zaraya’s wife, Missy, said.
According to Sugar, people come form all over the city to partake in a Baltimore tradition.
“Everyone brings their children,” Sugar said. “It’s a big Baltimore tradition to every year take a picture o your child in front of the tulips so you can see them grow throughout the years with the tulips as a backdrop.”
Chartreause lives in the Ednor Gardens area, located less than 10 minutes from Guilford, and comes to Sherwood Gardens often, even in the fall, to hangout.
“It’s just beautiful,” Chartreause said. “It’s open space, and it’s free … This is actually a lot more lavish of a park than anything in the suburbs of Baltimore County. We have parks over there that are kind of pathetic.”
The City of Baltimore used to help with the cost of maintaining the grounds, but according to Sugar, that no longer occurs. Instead, the people of the community come together and collectively take care of the garden.
“After the tulips come, people in the neighborhood volunteer to adopt a plot and then you’re involved in the planting, the weeding, the watering until we take out the flowers,” Sugar said. “It’s all volunteer. The Guilford association pays for all of the moving and we pay, through fund raising, for planting the tulips. We do a bulb dig at the end of the tulip season and the bulbs are all sold for 35 cents per bulb, and that helps pay for the bulbs next year. Mostly, it’s volunteer and donation based.”
Sugar has adopted plots five out of the six years she has lived in Guilford. She enjoys gardening, so she decided to joint the community movement to make the community “a little brighter.”
The tulip bulbs are scheduled to be planted at the end of October and bloom during the spring.