Mary Jo, Diana and Nancy in my front garden

In June of 2019 I reported on the Horticultural Society of Maryland’s latest garden tours in Baltimore, including one garden-owner who turned out to be a GardenRant reader. 

Well, after several years of enjoying the Society’s outstanding tours, my tour-going companion Mary Lou and I offered to return the favor, by inviting the tour organizers to visit OUR gardens here in humble Greenbelt (in stark contrast to the grand neighborhoods in and around Baltimore we’d discovered through their tours).

And this summer, with garden-visiting possible without fearing for our lives, Maryland Hort leaders Nancy Blois, Mary Jo Sherrod and Diana Jacquot came to call.  I’d first met Nancy when we were both snowed in at the Philadelphia Flower Show and she said yes to sharing her just-snagged hotel room with me, someone she’d known for 10 minutes. (Here’s that story. )

But first I sent our visitors some homework about Greenbelt, a place they’d never heard of, because PBS does a better job explaining its unique New Deal history than I possibly could. (To watch the 5-minute video, click here and scroll down a bit to then click on “Greenbelt, Md.”)

Since our adventures in Philly, Nancy had followed me here on the Rant and seen videos of my garden, so she came prepared to closely examine some plants I’d recommended. Above, she’s looking skeptically at the groundcover comfrey I love, suspecting that it’s too thuggish for the garden. I tried my best to defend the plant, apparently to no avail. 

Melissa, Nancy and Mary Jo in Melissa’s garden

Next, we visited another small townhouse garden, this one of Melissa Mackey, president of the nearby Beltsville  Garden Club. (Here’s a 2020 video of her garden.)

Mary Lou, Diana, Mary Jo and Nancy touring Mary Lou’s garden

After showing the visitors our historic Roosevelt Center, the final stop was the large, lakeside garden of Mary Lou Williamson, Greenbelt’s long-time newspaper editor. 

It was one of those gawd-awful summer days, hot and humid, but no amount of sweating could rush these garden tours because Mary Lou, Melissa and our visitors are all plant geeks, which I realized as I watched their deep dives into plant talk.  And boy, that is so not me – I struggle to even remember plant names and am more likely to swoon over inviting seating areas than new cultivars. 

But despite the weather, I thoroughly enjoyed the visitors, seeing their evident pleasure in touring the town and its gardens. What made me happiest is hearing how much they loved meeting Melissa and Mary Lou – two women who are at least as interesting as their plant collections. Probably more so. Like so many life-long avid gardeners I’ve known and admired.

Maryland Horticulture’s Speaker Series


Maryland Hort has always been known for its top-quality speakers (including by normally travel-averse Margaret Roach), but people in the DC area have been loathe to make the schlep to the north side of Baltimore on Thursday nights to attend in person.

But now – you know where this is going – the talks are online, so they’re accessible to everyone! The cost is just $10 – click to register. Or you can join the Society and enjoy the talks for free ($25/year for students, $50/year for individuals, $75 for households).