Legendary are the large, historic parks of Baltimore: Clifton, Druid Hill, Patterson, Carroll, Leakin, Wyman and more. But there are a host of smaller, intimate green spaces in and around the city that one happens upon incidentally. These little gems help to create an increasingly important “green necklace” that laces Baltimore. They also offer passers-by moments of unexpected joy, respite and even healing.

A Commemorative Garden
[sally’s garden, maryland institute college of art]

Ten years ago, it was unimaginable that a garden might ever exist along wide and busy Mount Royal Avenue. But the combined efforts of Maryland Institute College of Art alumna Doris Reif and landscape architects Jonna Lazarus and Julie Higgins resulted in one of the first green gathering spots on the urban campus. This well-integrated space was created in memory of Reif’s daughter Sally, and to recognize Sally’s three children. “It was the beginning of the [landscape architecture] that is now used all over campus,” says Lazarus, who is the wife of MICA president Fred Lazarus.
Higgins and Lazarus used patterns of threes on this triangular plot, installing easily maintained plantings that would provide visual interest when MICA was in session and resonate with the site and with the purpose of the garden. Three large stones recognize Sally’s children and provide, along with the bluestone wall, places to sit. Three multi-stemmed River Birch trees provide vertical interest and a sculptural quality, as well as interesting bark and beautiful yellow leaves in fall. The stems of red twig dogwoods and red barberry bushes brighten gray winter days. Daffodils explode with color in spring. All year long stands of perennial grasses provide texture and grace. Evergreen Austrian pines screen out Howard Street below. “I think in spite of the fact that it’s on busy Mount Royal,” says Lazarus, “it feels very peaceful.  Now that it’s grown up, it’s enclosed and cozy.”

A healing bridge
[ kernan hospital ]

Installed in 2000, the garden at Kernan Hospital, on the western edge of the city, is designed to stimulate with sight and smell, and touch the mind, body and spirit of patients making the often-difficult transition from traumatic injury to returning home. It features a pond with goldfish, snails and waterlilies; a bridge; a pergola; brick, concrete and crushed stone paths; trees; and perennials and containers of annuals that are changed every season. Throughout the day, one part of the garden is in sun and another in shade. That is true of the benches, too, including a signature element of this and every garden funded by the Annapolis-based TKF Foundation: a wood bench with a journal and pen attached to a shelf underneath. Here reflections are written as a testament to the garden’s ability to help and as encouragement to others.

“Everyone loves the visual relief from the insanity of a hospital,” says horticulturalist Rae Ann McInnis, who has maintained this garden since its beginnings. Family members wait in the garden for their loved ones’ surgery to be completed and staff comes out just to sit. “The patients are the ones who’ll break your hearts,” says McInnis. Many climb out of their wheelchairs and learn to use a walker and cane, and move around in the garden. Paths of various materials simulate curbs, sidewalks, earth and sand, which patients must learn to navigate at home.

“Often I tell the patients to pick a piece of lambs ear, hold it in your fingers, rub it and worry it all day,” says McInnis. “Take a piece of lavender and smell it.” McInnis also bags up lavender for the staff and patients to take home, as well as divisions and cuttings, allowing the healing effects of the garden to spread.

A prayer garden
[ the pope john paul ii prayer garden at the basilica of the assumption ]

An outside prayer garden on North Charles Street at Franklin Street was a novel concept, but one embraced by the leaders of the Basilica when they purchased the lot where the Rochambeau apartments once stood. A 7-foot bronze sculpture of Pope John Paul II created by local artist Joseph Sheppard serves as the focal point of the garden, which was designed by Mahan Rykiel Associates and opened in October 2008.

“When you stand at the top of the parking garage [next door] you see that it is shaped like a fish,” says Mark Potter, executive director of the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust, Inc., explaining that the fish is an image associated with Jesus. While the prayer garden is a memorial to two visits paid to the Basilica by Pope John Paul II, it is designed to welcome people of all faiths. Embedded in the granite wall enclosing the garden is a stainless steel band depicting symbols of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The plantings, however, were chosen to resonate particularly with the Catholic faith. Kousa dogwoods are emblematic of the crucifixion while ferns symbolize humility, and laurels, victory, triumph and eternity. Roses symbolize the Virgin Mary; hellebores, said to have bloomed on Christmas Day, are a symbol of the birth of Christ; and periwinkle, used as the primary ground cover, is associated with references to the Virgin Mary as the “Star of the Sea.” In spring, tulips, and in fall, chrysanthemums, bloom in white and pale yellow, the colors of the papal flag.

Living memorial
[ september 11 memorial garden at loyola university ]

The focal point of the elegantly simple, but horticulturally diverse and sophisticated September 11 Memorial Garden is a fountain with nine jets and 11 stones set in front of a glass wall. The water brings serenity to the space while the glass wall behind it represents both the strength and the fragility of human life. Envisioned by the late Rev. Harold Ridley, S.J., who served as Loyola University’s president until his death in 2005, and Helen Schneider, associate vice president for campus services, the garden memorializes those in the Loyola community affected by the 2001 tragedy. “So many of our students come from the greater New York metropolitan area that Sept. 11 had great impact,” says Courtney M. Jolley, director of public relations.

Funded in part by a $22,000 gift by the class of 2003, and designed by Carol Macht, principal at Hord Coplan Macht, the garden invites peace and contemplation on the busy campus quadrangle. The square shape of the fountain, the rectangular bluestone pavers and the overall rectangular shape of the garden resonate with the Gothic stone chapel, itself a reverential setting. The plantings feature white-blooming plants (crape myrtle trees, azaleas, deutzia, oakleaf and climbing hydrangeas, hellebores, astilbes and hostas), which
suggest peace and tranquility and bring light into the garden after dark.

The Loyola community celebrates the garden’s beauty in spring and gathers there after a death and for the annual 9/11 prayer vigils. “This garden is used in good times and bad,” says Jolley. “And by the entire community— students, faculty, employees. It’s the quiet place on the busiest days.”

A sense of home
[ the gardens of gilchrist hospice ]

Driving up the long driveway to Gilchrist Hospice, the importance of the landscape is clear. First, the open hillside makes the low-lying facility, which opened in 1996, feel as if it is in the country and not off bustling Towsontown Boulevard. Then comes the well-landscaped entrance where wisteria climbs a pergola and azaleas, nandina and birch trees edge the building.

“We want the families and patients to feel that this is their home, not an institution, and the gardens around it are part of that,” says Catherine Boyne, former president of Gilchrist. Each of the 34 rooms opens to the outdoors. Some rooms open onto the patio of the courtyard garden; others open out to the hillside and the creek where deer gather; and the newest open to recently installed patios and plantings.

“We wanted to provide a restful, peaceful space for families at the end of a person’s life. The visibility of the gardens helps make them feel that this is their home,” says Boyne. The gardens are planted for year-round interest with evergreen plants such as boxwoods and holly, shrubbery such as azaleas and viburnum, and grasses and bulbs, perennials and annuals. In each area is a water element. “Water provides a sense of quiet and a constant background,” says Boyne.

Along with providing a beautiful and serene place for family and patients to visit, the gardens also have been used for small family weddings so that the patient in Gilchrist could attend. “One young woman moved her wedding date up five weeks, so her father could be there,” says Boyne. “We rolled the bed out and used the waterfall as a backdrop.”

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  1. I’m Doris Riefs granddaughter, its nice to read about how much people love my grandma’s garden as well as the Doris Cafe!


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