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Seeds of a Scenic Sort

Photo by Bill Denison
Most of the year, physics professor Bruce Barnett is concerned with quarks -- the seeds of the universe that were sown eons ago by the "Big Bang." But the arrival of spring turns his attention from the kernels of particle physics to seeds of another sort -- the kind that sprout a big bang of color in Sherwood Gardens, a seven-and-a-half-acre community garden within walking distance of the Homewood campus. Barnett oversees the planting of the garden, which is near his Guilford home.

"Since I walk by Sherwood Gardens on my way to and from work each day, I'm motivated to make it look nice," Barnett says.

Sherwood Gardens has gained renown for its beauty in late April and early May, when 75,000 tulips erupt in full bloom. But for years, the garden went from beautiful to blah after the tulips peaked. That all changed 13 years ago, when Barnett and his wife, Dottie, who is now deceased, spearheaded an "adopt-a-plot" program. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, some 30 neighborhood green thumbs and others from farther away dig up the tulip bulbs and plant 20,000 annuals in their place. The Guilford Association, the homeowners group that purchased the Sherwood Gardens from its namesake, John Sherwood, roughly 50 years ago, supplies mulch and fertilizer and hires Hopkins students to pitch in. The numbered plots are "adopted" by the volunteer gardeners, who tend them throughout the summer, then ready them for another round of tulip bulb sowing in the fall.

Barnett wasn't always so floral-minded. Growing up on a farm in Ohio, corn was more his game. "Flowers are quite different from corn," he says. "You don't get to drive around 260 acres on a tractor here, either." --Amy Cowles
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