Be sure to mark Sunday, June 8th, on your calendars, garden lovers. That’s the day the Westport Historical Society rolls out its annual Hidden Garden Tour of five exceptional properties in Westport and Fairfield, and a Garden Market on the town’s Veterans Green, followed by a gala Garden Party that evening under a festive tent also on Veterans Green.
Among the gardens to be showcased on the self-guided tour is one its owners say “has put the green in Greens Farms.” And another at a land-marked house that once belonged to George Hand Wright, dean of Westport’s art community from 1907 to 1951. Green-thumbs can learn how others deal with such problems as nibbling deer, large swaths of shade, and variations in dry and wet soil.
The five venues of the Garden Tour will offer visitors the opportunity to connect to nature will all their senses. Garden experiences will include musicians, old-fashioned croquet, moving meditation demonstrations, food and beverage tastings, and garden experts.
Here’s an overview of this year’s five featured gardens:
Discovery and Restoration: Quite overgrown when the current owner moved there in 2010, George Hand Wright’s 1767 house sits on a spacious tract bounded by native stone walls. Scattered about are specimen trees: a Japanese katsura, Zelkova elm and towering Norway maple in the front, old apple trees and newer cherry trees in the side yard, and a weeping cherry and star magnolia near the drive. The flower beds are planted in blue tones favored by the owner and include blue hydrangeas, Russian sage, and butterfly bush. Behind the house, the lawn slopes to a restored pond and wetlands. An added treat is the secret garden behind the painter’s studio that was unearthed when the owner discovered “a mysterious brick stairway that seemed to go nowhere.”
Greenfield Hill Gem: This 1824 Dutch-style house atop Greenfield Hill has quite a pedigree. It occupies land first settled by the ancestors of the owner’s late husband in the 1600s. In 1976, when the couple moved in, they inherited an English rose garden designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead, the creator of New York’s Central Park. Though no longer planted in roses, the garden’s format remains unchanged, its beds enclosed in stone walls and sharing space with boxwoods and a pond.
Inspiration of Roses: Possessing little sophistication when its current owners arrived in the late 1990s, this home and garden in the Gorham Avenue Historic District near downtown Westport was nevertheless redeemed by “good bones.” So the couple, who both came from gardening families, set to work creating their own landscape, inspired by the six David Austin roses received as a housewarming gift. The centerpiece is a magnificent Japanese maple surrounded by a shade garden comprised of hosta, ferns, and Japanese forest grass. The sunnier areas show off borders of lamb’s ear, stonecrop, peonies, irises and lilies, and beds of lily of the valley, bloodroot, and imperata. Expect to see some bees as the owners are beekeepers as well as gardeners.
Continuous Blooming Color: Owned by landscape architects in the Stratfield section of Fairfield, this property is defined by the presence of old-growth trees whose dense canopy has forced the owners to use shade- tolerant plants. Even so, they have managed to provide color and bloom time from March to October using perennials, spring flowering lawn and garden bulbs, and flowering bushes and trees. A garden of wetland grasses and flowering native plants peeks from behind a 100-year-old spring-fed swimming pool. And a rock ledge beside the home is populated by daffodils, crocus, hosta, azalea, rhododendron, and woodland geranium.
Summer Hill Bliss: At this garden on a private Green’s Farms cul-de-sac, the plantings were inspired by the New York Botanical Garden and embellished by the owners’ love of wordplay. The formal garden is divided into three rooms, one with free-form beds divided by “a boulevard of grass” and another that the owners describe as a tranquil space with an alley. They call it their Zen Central. The pool/patio area features a white garden that changes with the seasons.
Hours for the Garden Tour are 11am to 4pm. Ticket prices are $40 for WHS members, $50 for non-members, and $55 if purchased on the day of the tour. A jitney service will be available to the gardens at an additional $20 per person. To reserve a seat, those interested should call Sue at 203-222-1424.
Tour-goers can start or finish their rounds by checking out the Garden Market on Veterans Green, adjacent to WHS headquarters. A variety of practical and fanciful items for home and garden will be for sale including plants, garden tools, antiques, jewelry, and accessories. Admission is free. Following the garden tour and market will be the Garden Party, also on Veterans Green, from 6:30 to 9:00. Guests will enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided by local restaurants and caterers, silent and live auctions, while listening to live jazz.
Tickets are $50 per person. Tickets for the Garden Tour and Garden Party may be purchased online at https://westporthistory.securesites.com/products/index.php?type=883&PCID=883:0:0:0:0 , or by visiting or calling Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, 203- 222-1424 across from Westport Town Hall. Tickets and garden directions will be available for pick up Sunday, June 8th from 10am to 2pm at the Garden Market.