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    Thursday, September 28, 2023

    Nature Notes: Stonington Garden Club tour offers many new features

    This beautiful garden is one of eight private, rarely-seen gardens on the “Gardens by the Sea” tour in the Borough, hosted by the Stonington Garden Club.(Photo by Bill Hobbs)

    If you enjoy gardening and have ever wondered what landscaped secrets lie behind the many walls that border people’s homes in the historic Borough of Stonington, mark your calendars.

    On Friday and Saturday, June 10-11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Stonington Garden Club is hosting its biggest event of the year, a walking tour called “Gardens by the Sea,” showcasing eight private gardens.

    This not-to-be-missed triennial event, postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, is expected to draw some 2,000 enthusiasts.

    Attendees will explore eight rarely seen hidden gardens, ranging from formal perennial plantings to intimate pocket gardens, including the COMO Children’s Learning Garden, the garden club’s primary community project, featuring regenerative gardening techniques.

    Other highlights include a program called “Artists in the Borough,” spotlighting 11 curated “Plein Air” artists from around New England, who will be painting on location in select gardens and in the Borough, drawing inspiration from the area’s many seaside landscapes.

    In addition, a tented Marketplace, located on Wadawanuck Square, will feature a wide variety of vendors, offering garden-inspired items as well as clothing, jewelry and home décor. And new to this year’s tour is celebrity speaker Charlie Nardozzi, who will speak on both days of the tour at 1 p.m. at the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club in the Borough. He is a regional, Emmy award-winning garden writer, speaker, radio and television personality.

    How did the Stonington Garden Club select the eight private gardens?

    “I peek over a lot of fences,” Deb Dodds, president of the club, acknowledged with a big smile. Laughter aside, Dodds admitted the scouting process began as early as 2019.

    One of the eight gardens, for example, faces Little Narragansett Bay. It has a sweeping view of the bay and a lovely garden close to the house.

    “We chose this garden because of the water views and how the owner has architecturally married the main house with its adjoining garden beds and two guest homes and cottages within the landscape,” Dodds said, adding, “The lovely garden to the left of the garage is a small, sweet and delightful garden that is a surprise on such a large piece of property.”

    Another jewel of a garden is only 30 feet wide by 15 feet deep, yet it has amazing different levels, with stonework. “It’s a wow!” Dodds said.

    Laura Metzger, chair of the tour, said the club last time made it too complicated for people to buy tickets.

    This year, she said, you can either buy tickets direct from the will call/ticket booth, located on Wadawanuck Square, opposite the Post Office, the day of your arrival and receive a tour guidebook, which is your ticket to get into each of the private gardens. Or you can purchase tickets online at stoningtongardenclub.org/garden-tour/, receive a receipt, and present that at the ticket booth to receive your guidebook. But this year, Metzger said the garden club will not mail out tickets, nor have arm bands, nor stamp your hands when you arrive.

    In addition, each garden on the tour will have 10 laminated copies of their own landscape plans available to use as guides, when attendees walk around a particular garden. The front side reveals a diagram of each flower or shrub bed, numbered, while the backside lists all of the plants and flowers within each bed. These creative aides were hand-drawn by David Brown, a local landscape architect.

    “We’ve never done this before, so it’s a real bonus,” Metzger said.

    Finally, a special preview party will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 9 at the La Grua Center in the Borough. Attendees will get an exclusive preview by power-point of the eight tour gardens and see the artist’s work on display for sale. Plus, attendees will receive their tour guidebook, avoiding waiting in line on tour days.

    Additional ticket information

    Tickets are $35 online or $40 if purchased on site the days of the tour. Tour tickets are valid for both days.

    The marketplace is open to the public. The two celebrity speaker talks are $25 each, space limited. Preview party tickets are $50, also space limited, and all tickets are non-refundable. To order tickets, visit stoningtongardenclub.org/garden-tour/ or for more information, contact sgctourinfo@gmail.com.

    Dodds said the funds raised by the Gardens by the Sea “enable us to give back to our community by supporting our projects, community grant program, and educational scholarships, and we are enormously grateful to all who support this critically important event.”

    Bill Hobbs lives in Stonington, writes a nature column for The Times, and is a novice, but active gardener. He can be reached for comments at whobbs246@gmail.com.

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