Melanie K. Edwards
Former Ruxton resident and Garden Club of America judge enjoyed sharing her love of horticulture
Melanie K. Edwards, an award-winning master gardener, Garden Club of America judge and potter, died Thursday of cancer at her home in Palm Desert, Calif. The former Ruxton resident was 73. The daughter of Francis Bien, a supervisor for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, and Lillian Bien, a homemaker, Melanie Kathleen Bien was born in Baltimore and raised near Patterson Park.
She was a 1960 graduate of Seton High School and attended what is now Loyola University Maryland.
In 1962, she met George D. Edwards II, a marketing executive, and they married the following year.
The couple lived for years in Homeland, where they raised two daughters, before settling in 1990 on Rolandvue Avenue in Ruxton. Since 2012, she and her husband had lived in Palm Desert.
Mrs. Edward’s interest in gardening began when she lived in Homeland. She joined the Guilford Garden Club in1984, later serving as its president.
As a member of the club, she participated in several projects, including maintaining the grounds of the Old Otterbein United Methodist Church at Sharp and Conway streets; aiding landscape projects with the Friends of Robert E. Lee Park; and helping maintain native plant teaching gardens at Friends School.
“I first met her when I joined the Guilford Garden Club in 1998, and the main thing she was connected with was organizing workdays for the native plant garden at the caretaker’s house in what was then Robert E. Lee Park, now Lake Roland,” said Kay McConnell of Bare Hills.
“I loved that project, and she’d always bake cookies for everyone,” Ms. McConnell said. “She was nurturing, gracious, paid close attention to detail, and was kind and inclusive. She also had a special talent for growing indoor plants.”
When traveling throughout the United States or Western Europe, Mrs. Edwards never missed an opportunity to explore a region’s flower and botanical gardens.
“The Chelsea Flower Show in London was her favorite flower show, and the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton was her most cherished garden,” her husband said.
In 2005, Mrs. Edwards was presented the Catherine Beattie Medal by the Garden Club of America for excellence in horticulture.
“Melanie had a lot of knowledge about horticulture. She would share her knowledge and plants, and helped other people with their gardens. She was a very warm and friendly person,” said Barbara P. “Bobbie” Hansen, also an avid gardener and a longtime friend.
“She was organized and did a fabulous job with everything she did,” said Ms. Hansen, a former Ruxton resident who now lives in Lutherville. “Her small garden featured native plants and bonsai. She had lots of bonsai plants, and they were just lovely.”
Helen Couch, a former Stoneleigh resident who now lives in Columbia, S.C., is a longtime Garden Club of America judge.
“All those activities for the garden club and the judging program are dear to my heart and something I would never forget,” wrote Ms. Couch in an email. “We had the best of times doing the things we loved together.
“She’d hold bulb-planting parties at her garage and she showed us how to plant them in containers. She’d do this every fall, and we had such a good time,” Ms. Couch said.
Mrs. Edwards propagated a palm tree from seed and later gave the plant to Ms. Couch, who wrote in her email that it was “thriving in South Carolina.”
“I have thought of her every time I watered the palm since she gave it to me,” she wrote. “Her memory will live in me and in that palm forever.”
Primarily a self-taught gardener and horticulturist, she completed the Master Gardener program in 2015 at the University of California-Riverside while undergoing chemotherapy.
Mrs. Edwards was a Garden Club of America horticultural judge who traveled extensively throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia judging shows, including the noted Philadelphia Flower Show, where she judged the succulents category.
“She was a very, very good judge,” Mrs. Hansen said. Her husband recalled that Mrs. Edwards was attending a meeting of the Garden Club of America on Sept. 11, 2001, when notified of the attack on the World Trade Center. Her committee recessed the meeting and “prayed for the victims, their families, the firefighters and rescue personnel,” he said in an email.
In addition to gardening, Mrs. Edwards was an accomplished potter and a member of the Potters’ Guild of Baltimore. She studied pottery making and glazing techniques at Antioch College and was known particularly for her blue-tint glazed bowls and vases.
She was a volunteer fundraiser in the early days of Maryland Public Television, and more recently served as a volunteer seed propagator with the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Palm Desert.
She was a member of St. Margaret Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.
Mrs. Edwards enjoyed playing golf and bridge at the Baltimore County Club, and also enjoyed playing at Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert.
“For the Edwards family, Melanie was our true North Star. She was always the voice of reason, civility and optimism,” her husband wrote.
Plans for a private memorial service to be held in Baltimore are incomplete.
In addition to her husband of 53 years, Mrs. Edwards is survived by two daughters, Valerie Edwards Vaile of Roland Park and Brett Edwards Nausha of Pasadena, Calif.; a brother, Frank Bien of Glencoe; a sister, Pamela Brown of Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and four grandchildren. Melanie K. Edwards completed the Master Gardener program in 2015 at the University of California-Riverside.