Public invited to tour ‘boundless gardens’

12:09 pm | June 3, 2013

Gardening enthusiasts may want to take a break from tending their own flowers and shrubs long enough to attend a garden tour being held later this month by one of the area’s oldest garden clubs.
“Boundless Gardens” is the theme for the 2013 Garden Tour organized by the Shady Oaks Garden Club.

The Johnson City-based club holds garden tours every other year. In years between the tours, the club presents a flower show.

Heather Bagnell, garden tour chair for the club, and Pat Buck, a club member from Elizabethton, provided a “sneak peek” at one of the gardens that will be showcased in the upcoming tour.

The Metamorphosis Garden, a lushly planted landscape at the home of Lee and Susan Chase on Unaka Avenue in Johnson City, is one of seven stops on this year’s tour.

Buck and Bagnell started their preview of the garden tour at an engraved stone sculpture, “Metamorphosis,” that welcomes visitors to the Chase home and gardens.

“It’s a very unusual garden,” Buck said. “Almost all of the property is planted, so there is hardly any lawn grass.”

Instead, the Chase garden offers a variety of shade-loving plants, including ferns, bamboo, hardy orchids, horsetails, herbs, hostas and flowering annuals. The garden also features some spectacular evergreens. A deck also offers planters featuring bog plants, including Venus Flytraps and a variety of Pitcher Plants.

“It’s an urban oasis,” Bagnell said as the peek at the garden crossed a stone bridge over a small creek that flows through the property, dividing the garden into two sections.

Both Bagnell and Buck have plenty of gardening experience to share with the public and fellow club members.

“Though I started a vegetable garden when I first moved to Stoney Creek in the late ’70s, I got interested in flowers because of my late neighbor, Ruby Hardin,” Buck said. “She had tons of daffodils, poppies, roses, dahlias and much more.”

Buck began taking her flower gardening more seriously in the mid-1990s.

“When my children left home, I started working on growing flowers,” she said.

These days, she continues to raise a small vegetable garden, as well as raspberries and a couple of fruit trees.

Buck said choosing a favorite flower is difficult.

“Lilies are my favorites, but that’s a really hard choice,” she said. “I’m tempted to say my favorite is whatever is in bloom at the moment: columbines, forget-me-nots, Siberian irises…”

She also shared some advice on how to make gardens as attractive and appealing as possible.

“Plant perennials and shrubs,” Buck said. “Think in terms of having something in bloom in sequence from spring to fall, because the blooms of perennials and shrubs don’t last all summer, like annuals.”

The perennials are, however, more interesting in Buck’s opinion. “You have a constantly changing tapestry,” she said. “I’ve concentrated on them, but I now realize my garden could use more shrubs to give it structure.”

Buck has been a member of the Shady Oaks Garden Club for about five years.

She encourages other gardeners and garden enthusiasts to consider joining.

“It’s more than just brunches and flower arrangements,” Buck said. “This is a civic-minded group that does a lot of volunteer work with Girls Inc. and the Salvation Army.”

Bagnell added that the club is involved in a variety of local beautification projects.

“We’ve planted roses at some of the entrances into Johnson City,” Bagnell said. “We also give money to other beautification projects, including a butterfly garden in Jonesborough planned and planted by Frances Lamberts.”

Club members have also planted a barrel garden of red, white and blue flowers at one of the local fire stations. They have also completed projects for Rocky Mount Living History Museum in Piney Flats, as well as for a women’s day shelter known as The River.

During the holidays, club members have also crafted living wreaths for a fund-raising event hosted by Hands-On! Regional Museum.

Members also contribute their time and talents to assist with the Salvation Army’s Flowers of Hope project. This effort takes flowers that would otherwise be discarded and transforms them into floral arrangements that are distributed to residents at area nursing homes and other facilities.

The flowers are donated to the Salvation Army by local grocery stores, including The Fresh Market, Kroger’s and Food City.

Volunteers from various clubs, including Shady Oaks, as well as the Jonesborough Garden Club and Monday Club, take the flowers that would otherwise be thrown out and turn them into beautiful bouquets.

“The flowers can go to anyone in need of cheering up,” Bagnell said.

The membership at Shady Oaks also helped establish a garden of native plants and herbs at Girls Inc. The sunny garden at Girls Inc. is also a stop on this year’s tour.

Bagnell noted that the history of the Shady Oaks Garden Club dates back to the 1950s.

Though the garden club is based in Johnson City, members also hail from Elizabethton and Piney Flats.

Buck is not the only member from Elizabethton.

“Sara Bowers, whose mother, Beulah, for many years ran Bowers Florist of Elizabethton, is also a member,” Buck said.

This year’s tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 8. In the event of heavy rain, the tour will be held Sunday, June 9, during the same hours.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance by calling 929-2267. Tickets can be bought the day of the tour at Girls Inc., 227 Library Lane, Johnson City.

Pat Buck, a member of the Shady Oaks Garden Club from Elizabethton, stands in the garden of Lee and Susan Chase.

Pat Buck, a member of the Shady Oaks Garden Club from Elizabethton, stands in the garden of Lee and Susan Chase.

The tour will feature refreshments and a plant sale at Girls Inc. A pair of garden gloves will be distributed to all ticket-holders during the tour. For more information on the tour or Shady Oaks Garden Club, call Bagnell at 929-2267.

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