A different type of trail: Connecticut's historic gardens

Old Lyme — Connecticut residents didn't have to pay museum admission Sunday to take a step back in time — they just had to visit one of the state's 14 historic gardens.

Spread throughout the state, most of the gardens were created by a well-known designer or feature a historical garden style. Sunday, all 14 joined together for the 12th annual Connecticut's Historic Gardens Day, where most were allowing free admission to their grounds and offering refreshments.

At the garden at the Thankful Arnold House Museum in Haddam, for example, visitors could use dried flowers, herbs and ribbons to make a grapevine wreath while enjoying fresh rhubarb tea and learning more about the garden's herbs.

And, at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, guests could see Griswold's cutting garden, from which Griswold would pick the flowers for the bouquets she put in her boardinghouse's rooms.

Both the garden and Griswold's boardinghouse have been restored to reflect the early 1900s time period, when the house was the center of an art colony that featured many prominent artists.

Tammi Flynn, director of marketing at Florence Griswold Museum, encouraged guests to take a trip — and painting supplies available on-site, if they so desired — down to the nearby river, where some of those prominent artists used to spend much of their time.

"Every place centers their Connecticut's Historic Gardens Day activities around what they do best," Flynn explained.

This year, those participating could grab a "passport" at their first garden, mapping their own trail throughout the state and getting stamps along the way. If they visited at least three, they got a prize: six notecards featuring past Connecticut's Historic Gardens Day hand-painted posters.

Flynn said a good amount of visitors, if they hadn't already visited more than one garden, were planning to do so, despite Sunday's rainy weather.

Standing in Griswold's garden of several heirloom-variety plants, Joanne Priolo and Kay Morey, both of Fairfield County, were just getting started. Next, they said, they'd visit Harkness Memorial State Park, Thankful Arnold House or the New London County Historical Society.

"We've been working in (Priolo's) yard for the last four or five weeks, making a lot of changes to her landscaping and her gardening," Morey said. "So we're just trying to get ideas and see what looks good mixed with other things."

Flynn said she was happy to see people "making the Historic Gardens Day exactly what we were hoping for."

"I think it's a great reminder that we have such wonderful places within the state," Flynn said.

l.boyle@theday.com

Twitter: @LindsayABoyle

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