When the grand stone mansion Cylburn was constructed in 1868, it commanded a wide view of the Baltimore harbor and the distant countryside that surrounded it. Spacious and luxuriant grounds were established to highlight the owner’s wealth and landscape aesthetic.
After some periods of use for other purposes, among them as a home for neglected children in the mid-last century, it was purchased by Baltimore city and now houses offices unrelated to its other role as a public garden and arboretum.
It was a sunny but blustery April day that five of us bounced our way across the bay into the big city. We entered through a manicured drive that led to the visitor center, and after parking, we walked to the old estate house.
Joined by a garden club group from Western Maryland, and under the guidance of two knowledgeable Cylburn volunteers, we wandered on paths that led through a spring wonderland of freshly blooming ephemerals and flowering trees.
As exciting as it was to witness this fleeting expression of the bloom of the many woodland flowers, it was also fun to share in the wonder with so many other garden-loving people.
Dutchman’s britches! Anemone! Celandine woods poppies! Mayapples! Trillium! Bloodroot! Toothwort! A grove of blooming tulip magnolias surprised us with a buttery yellow flowering tree.
Witnessing the tender emergence of the yellow buckeye’s leaves and the full expression of the various species of flowering crab apples and other ornamentals is a privileged and magical moment.
We hiked back to the mansion through lush wooded trails and then sat together around a beautifully prepared round table in one of the large ground-floor rooms in the house.
Paneled wood walls, parquet oak floors, original tapestry wall coverings, floor-to-ceiling windows and fanciful chandeliers surrounded us as we lunched on delicious tomato soup, bread, a spring salad, and cookies.
We were fortunate to have as our lunch partners the two guides who accompanied us on our walk, Bev and Kathleen.
This ‘soup and walk’ at Cylburn was inspired by those now held in the spring and fall at Adkins Arboretum. Julianna Pax’s Soup ‘n Walk program is a hard act to follow; however, it is good to see the influence a good program such as this can have in other places.
Leaving in time to avoid rush-hour traffic, we enjoyed chatting about our impressions and the value of visiting gardens and arboreta to stay in touch with other beautiful properties and other passionate gardeners and naturalists.
by Anna Harding
Maryland Master Naturalist