Even before passing through Barbara Taylor's garden gate, visitors are drawn in by the sweet smell of white hyacinths, over-sized pink hydrangeas, and delicate daffodils. Once inside her gates, they might be surprised to see that most of the flowers are in pots—and how striking the effect is.
"I decided to plant the bulbs in pots and take out the beds when I moved in eight years ago, because my dogs would pee on everything," says Taylor.
While her Baltimore townhouse garden is wonderfully picturesque, Taylor, a semi-retired floral designer, has a perfectionist's personality. She's quick to point out that her backyard baskets aren't filled and she apologizes that the roses have yet to bloom.
"There's a saying in gardening," she says, laughing. "You should have seen it last week [and] you should come back next week!"
Her sumptuous but small outdoor space also offers some unusual focal points not ordinarily found in a garden, such as hanging mirrors and a "moss chest"—literally, a chest of drawers purchased at a second-hand shop and covered with moss.
Taylor's flower fantasy does not stop at her front door but extends into the charming home she shares with husband Andy Conn, a mechanical engineer, and her two Corgis, Jack and Julia Roberts. (Taylor did all the flower work for the film Runaway Bride starring actress Julia Roberts.) Nearly every surface—from the petit point pillows with pansies to the wood fireplace mantel and the Victorian mantle vase collection in the living room—is stitched, carved, or painted with flowers.
Her lifelong love of flowers started many years ago when she was growing up in Forest Park. "I grew up in a semidetached house, and our yard had nothing but clotheslines," recalls Taylor. "But our neighbor's whole backyard was nothing but flowers, probably dahlias, and it also had a front walk of bearded iris. I thought it was beautiful, and I never forgot that. It really inspired me."
Despite her passion for flowers, she actually got into floral design by chance more than 30 years ago. "I used to cook for [now Linwoods caterer] Linda Brown," recalls Taylor. "And she said to me, 'You do flowers, don't you?' And I said, 'I wouldn't say I do flowers. I just like them.' And she said, 'I have this party at Evergreen House, and I just need one centerpiece,' and I agreed to do it."
The centerpiece was such a hit that Taylor quickly became the toast of the town, working events for Baltimore high society. "Everything was so floristy at the time—baby's breath and roses," says Taylor. "People loved my work because it was more artistic. It had to be since I wasn't trained."
Whether she's working in her garden or artistically arranging flowers, Taylor believes fully in the power of flowers. "What is more wonderful than to be outside and to hear birds singing?" she asks rhetorically. "I mean to me that's it. I am very simple. I am so happy being surrounded by flowers—it's just so beautiful and peaceful. You get lost. It's like living in a fantasy."