Meandering past Judson and Marya Flanagan's charming garden—with its riot of roses, row of espalier pear trees, and herb garden rife with rosemary and lavender—a passerby might think they're in England's Cotswolds instead of the heart of Guilford.
"It's amazing to have all this space and beauty in the middle of the city," marvels Judson, the director of human resources for Catholic Relief. "Where else could you find this but Baltimore?"
And where else but Baltimore could you find a 1915 stone residence designed by noted local architects Palmer and Lamden that serves as the perfect backdrop to the garden? "The architecture of our home is like a French or English country house," says Judson, "so I tried to design the garden with that in mind."
In 2002, when the Flanagans first moved to the half-acre property with their two children, Eavan, 13, and Jake, 11, a massive beech tree dominated the front lawn.
"[It] had two huge trunks five feet in diameter," says Judson. "And when you saw it, you fell in love with the beech tree as much as the house. It covered the whole house. I'm from Camden on the coast of Maine, and when we moved here, I thought, 'I have to learn a whole new climate—I have to learn to do shade gardening.'"
For inspiration and collaboration, Judson turned to a longtime friend, Philadelphia landscape designer Harriet Pattison, who made frequent visits for brainstorming and planning sessions.
"She walked around endlessly looking and visioning," says Judson. "We would then stay up until midnight looking at and discussing trees and bushes."
Turns out, the Flanagans best intentions to plant a shade garden were for naught: The beloved 100-year-old beech tree fell during the course of two storms. "I called Harriet, and I said, 'You've got to come back down—it's all sunlight now,'" recalls Judson. "She created the design out of our joint ideas, and I put it into a five-year plan, starting with the big structural stuff like trees and design."
Today, the garden has a kind of imperfect perfection.
"I like the look of letting things grow into each other," says Judson. "Even though it has to be fairly designed, there's a messiness about it. For me, gardening affirms a lot about patience and diversity and how some things work and others don't and how there's not one right way to do anything—and that's good."
Judson also plants with family and friends in mind.
"Whenever I can plant things I associate with people that I care about, I put them in," says Judson. "I look at the poppies, and I think of Marya's mother because she always had a lot of poppies in her garden in Maine. I had a cousin who loved red geraniums, and so I plant them for her, and a lady who took care of us when we were kids loved hollyhocks, so I planted them for her. And then I walk around and think of them everyday."