The property where Sherwood Gardens is now located was originally part of the estate of A.S. Abell, the founder of The Sun newspaper. The site contained a pond and adjacent greenhouses. The Abell estate was sold to the Guilford Park Company in 1907 and shortly thereafter Guilford Park merged with the Roland Park Company, The Roland Park Company intended to develop the estate as a carefully planned suburban community and the Olmsted firm was engaged to design the Guilford development. As part of the Olmsted plan three community parks were planned. One located at Greenway and Stratford Road was named Stratford Green. Following the Olmsted plan, selected old growth trees were retained in a natural setting and planting areas defined for the introduction of new trees, shrubs and perennials.
On several parcels adjacent to Stratford Green, John Sherwood, a Baltimore businessman, philanthropist and pioneer in the petroleum business, built as his home a large Georgian revival house modeled after the Westover James River plantation. He then turned his attention to the grounds and the creation of extensive gardens. Sherwood was an amateur landscape designer who employed a cadre of gardeners to help create the gardens and maintain the property.
Sherwood continued the rolling lawn of the adjacent Stratford Green and as well retained many of the forest trees. In addition he collected evergreens from every country and transplanted many English boxwood specimens from southern Maryland properties. He was particularly attracted to spring bloom and the gardens were planted for maximum springtime effect. Each October one hundred thousand tulips were imported from the Netherlands and a few weeks before their bloom, “ten thousand specially grown pansy clumps are planted.” For added color and delight Japanese cherry, crab apple, pink and white dogwood, blue wisteria and masses of azaleas were planted by Sherwood. Eventually his plantings spilled into the adjacent Stratford Green.
It is reported that one Sunday in May in 1930 John Sherwood was surprised to see many uninvited guests enjoying the splendor of his garden. Shortly thereafter he opened it to the public and thousands of visitors came each spring to experience the spectacular sight of Sherwood Gardens. The Gardens were featured in the National Geographic magazine in April 1941 and May 1956 and in Great Gardens of America and many other publications.
Sherwood died in 1965. His will left funds to plant the gardens one last time. To assure that the Gardens were preserved as an asset to Guilford and for all to enjoy in the future, the Guilford Association raised funds to purchase the site, consolidating it with the Stratford Green community park. The entirety is now generally known as Sherwood Gardens and is owned and maintained by Stratford Green, Inc. With the assistance of the Guilford Association the spring bulbs are planted, trees trimmed and replaced when necessary, lawns groomed and summer flowers added. No City or public funds provide financial support for one of the most highly visited green spaces in the area. Care of the gardens depends on donations from friends of Sherwood Gardens.
National Geographic: May 1956 – Maytime Miracle in Sherwood Gardens by Nathaniel T. Kenney