If the pen is mightier than the sword, two top politicians are about to fight the War of the Roses.
The azalea was crowned Towson's official flower by a public vote in 1996, but it will go on trial next Thursday outside the building during .
The prosecution is led by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, while State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger will handle the defense.
Unfortunately, I don't think I can outwit this press release sent earlier today from the , so I think I'll have them take it from here:
Towson's official flower, the azalea, goes on trial on Thursday, May 3 at 12:15 p.m. following Towson Gardens Day award ceremonies on the steps of the New Courts Building.
Picketing is expected.
Charged with being a shrub instead of a flower, and with "blooming only a measly two or three weeks a year," the azalea has retained Baltimore County States's Attorney Scott Shellenberger to mount her defense.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz will serve as chief prosecutor.
Rumor has it that Kamenetz has been pressured by special interests seeking to replace the azalea with the knock out rose.
The public vote in 1996 that legitimized the azalea was mired in controversy.
The daffodil, the tulip and the standard American rose ---and the forsythia, which didn't even get nominated, raised objections about the azalea's questionable lineage and life span, and attempted to plant the idea that then Gardens Day chairman Marge Crook was aptly named.
Crook retorted that the only stuffing in the ballot box was mulch.
But this was the fertile soil from which the trial has grown.
Because of the volatile nature of the case, Kamenetz and Shellenberger played rock, paper, scissors to determine who would argue which side. They made it clear that their interest in the issue is professional instead of floral, they claimed.
Kamenetz subsequently requested a change of venue because nearly every property in Towson features at least one display of azaleas.
But Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Justin King, who will preside over the trial, denied the request.
So Kamenetz and Shellenberger will match their degrees from the University of Baltimore School of Law and duke it out in front of the Gardens Day crowd in Courthouse Fountain Plaza at about 12:15 p.m.
A tough budget year means both lawyers will represent their clients pro bono and will be able to question and cross examine only one expert witness:
Landscape designer Carol Oppenheimer, owner of WOCO Organic Gardens LLC, will be summoned by both the prosecution and the defense.
However, while Oppenheimer professes to value both flowers, she indicated in April that she wasn't that impressed with the vote in 1996.
"I believe the voting was based on misinformation and a 'muttery' of facts about the azalea," she said.
In pre-trial statements, the azalea, which or who will be played by an appropriately garbed former Gardens Day chairman Dorrie Wilfong, defended herself.
"We voted for it and I won," she squawked. "I'm the one who tells you spring is coming. Yes, I'm a shrub, but I'm a flower too. Anything that blooms is a flower."
She also alluded to the "wicked thorns" of the knock out rose. "Tend them at your own risk," she mumbled uncharitably.
The trial is expected to last only 10 minutes before King announces the verdict. This could risk charges that the azalea is being railroaded.
However, lunch is a legal precedent that King, Shellenberger and Kamenetz don't plan to ignore.