As two hummingbirds lap up sugar water from a bright red feeder adjacent to the screened porch of their mid-century Mt. Washington home, Tony and Patsy Perlman marvel at the miracle of nature.
And with that, the world's tiniest birds pause for a few moments to mate in the grass.
"They really are a pair," continues Patsy, 79. "We rarely get to see this type of activity—isn't this wonderful?"
Much like the birds, the Perlmans, who have three grown children, are a wonderful pair. The octogenarians have been together for 55 years, ever since meeting at a party.
When they met, the Perlmans' love of nature was one of the many passions that brought them together. She grew up tending a garden alongside her mother in the Dumbarton section of Pikesville. He grew up in South Africa but never had the opportunity to garden until he and Patsy moved to an apartment along Park Heights Avenue where they gardened in a shared yard.
When the Perlmans moved to their half-acre Mt. Washington property in 1957, the land was uncultivated. "It was a raw lot that came out of the woods," recalls Tony over the call of a catbird nesting in the forsythia. "We had a lot of towering trees everywhere including a 250-year-old beech tree, oak, and hickory, but the landscape was just woods, trees, and mud."
Retired pediatrician Tony, who turns 85 this month, set out to create an indigenous wildflower garden, but it has evolved into much more. Thanks to trips to the woods to collect native plants and many jaunts to Green Fields Nursery, the back hillside of their property is now rife with wildflowers—English bluebells, maybells, wild geraniums, jack-in-the-pulpits, and a variety of graceful ferns. But there are also violas, peonies, a profusion of columbine and clematis, and a 50-foot holly tree the Perlmans transplanted many years ago from Patsy's Pikesville childhood home.
Interspersed with the flowers are several beautiful sculptures including a mythical granite bird purchased on a trip to Zimbabwe and a recycled wood sculpture Tony fashioned from wood he collected. "Wherever we've been over the years, I've collected wood and was saving it for the time when I retired," says Tony. "I've always liked working with my hands."
The garden is the product of the couple's devotion to the great outdoors—and to each other.
"Patsy and I have a love for nature, and the garden is one expression—the fact is that this has become a sort of paradise for us," says Tony. "I didn't expect it to evolve this way—who knew? I didn't think I'd live this long to enjoy this. But here we are."