Overcast skies didn’t hold back the crowds that came on Friday to see magnificent, private gardens that were open to the public for only one day.
Gardens by the Sea is an annual fundraiser for St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, which uses the money raised for global and local outreach programs.
The tour included handouts for each garden, detailing which way to walk, with explanations on plants, trees, and shrubs, as well as specifics about the history and work that went into water features, ornamental statue placement, birdbaths, bird-feeders, trellis, and other auxiliary garden items.
Six private home gardens were on display, one of which was in Marion Village, another at The Moorings, and several in the Point Road area. The Sippican School Edible garden was also on the tour. Diane Cook and fourth grader Bella Romig gave a walking tour around the various vegetable beds, blueberry bushes, strawberry stack, and potato beds.
A fundraising bake sale organized by Community Resources Network was held in the Captain Hadley House parking lot, where tour tickets were sold. CRN helps those in need by offering limited emergency utility assistance, food, furniture, and referrals to social service agencies.
Three of the gardens were waterfront properties, with sweeping views of Wings Cove, Marion Harbor, and Buzzards Bay. The homes had many interesting garden amenities, including tree houses, pools surrounded by beautiful plantings, koi ponds, water features, blooming water lilies, grape arbors, herbs, vegetables, apple trees, interesting bird feeders, and creative ways to keep deer away.
One home had a pet cemetery with small gravestones with names including: Mittens, Minnie, Cinder, Suzi, Lillabet, Spooky, and Roxanne. “My Lillabet is buried here,” hostess Sandy Dawson said. One home had soda cans strung with fishing line along a fence to scare deer. Another used pet hair combings, cat litter, and torn up old T-shirts to keep deer away.
“I think people come on the tour to get ideas for their own garden,” organizer Hannah Milhench said. “I also think that curiosity plays a part. They want to look around a beautiful home and see what others have done in the garden and go home and try to replicate some of it.”
Milhench said that it takes many volunteers’ time and effort to plan a successful garden tour. Each of the six gardens had volunteers working two-hour shifts, along with a head hostess who was responsible for each garden.
When asked how she gets people to agree to show their gardens, Milhench said that she has lived in Marion for over 45 years and asks her friends to be on the lookout for gardens that could be on the tour. “I have a lot of help and depend on the many wonderful people who have suggested spectacular gardens,” she said. Milhench is a gardener and her own home has been on the tour in the past. “I also walk around Marion a lot.”
Eleven years ago, St. Gabriel’s had a shortfall to fund the Barbara Harris Camp, a retreat and camp for youth. The assistant rector at the time, Cynthia Bell, came up with the idea of a garden tour to continue funding the camp. The Gardens by the Sea was born. Since then, the tour has grown by word of mouth, and funds raised help not only the camp scholarships, but other global mission needs as determined by the St. Gabriel’s mission and outreach committee.
When asked about next year’s garden tour, Milhench said that she already has a great start.
“We hope to have one really special garden on the water, that encompasses the Marion waterfront feeling,” she said.
Although it sprinkled at times during the tour, rain makes the flowers grow, and that’s what it was all about.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry