The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 30, 2003


Garden tour promises beautiful vistas, peaceful country walks

Has this rainy spring kept you too much inside? Then get out on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, and enjoy the Country Gardens Tour and Plant Sale, sponsored by the Carlisle Garden Club. The tour's seven gardens feature spectacular late-spring flowers, beautiful landscaping, and the peaceful country ambiance of Carlisle. "I'm really excited about this year's tour," says Carlisle Garden Club president Alison Saylor. "It features wonderful gardens that are really diverse."

Garden Tour co-chair Roberta Wessell notes this year's gardens are "brand new · none have been seen on a garden tour before." She adds, "These tours are idyllic · the natural beauty, the weather, the atmosphere · the chance to learn what works and to pick up ideas for your own garden." The tour book offers information on landscape designers and other resources helpful in planning and execution.

A diversity of landscapes

Although mum's the word (no pun intended) as to which gardens are featured, the following are brief descriptions excerpted from the tour guide to show the range of what visitors will see:

· Gardens combining family-friendliness and historical accuracy surrounding a home built in 1765;

· A "garden in the woods" featuring native plants, a "lawn" of natural bloomers, and bird and butterfly gardens;

· An English-style garden featuring exquisite stone walls draped with color from spring to fall;

· An "artist's garden" with rock, shade, rose, and bog gardens, and a drying shed of herbs;

· A wetland and pond garden friendly to a variety of wildlife;

· A garden of woodland trails leading to outdoor "rooms," including a massive rock garden and

· An owner-maintained garden featuring bamboo and ornamental grasses, a glassed conservatory, and a sunken garden.

Other events on the tour include a classical guitarist to appear at one of the gardens on Saturday, and a plant sale at the First Religious Society where tickets are purchased for the tour. According to Saylor, all the sale plants are from members' own gardens and "you know that anything from a Carlisle garden will thrive in this area."

Raises money for town projects

This is the fourth biannual Carlisle Garden Tour. The first took place in 1997 and was an immediate success. Each tour has welcomed hundreds of visitors from Carlisle and surrounding towns. The money raised is used entirely for civic activities such as the Debbie Wright Scholarships and town beautification, as well as Christmas wreaths for seniors, support of Girl Scout gardening projects, and, this year, a substantial contribution to the CEF/CSA Auction for the Carlisle Schools.

In recent years the club has used money raised from tours and plant sales to redesign the rotary, plant bulbs and trees on the common, donate trees and books to the library, and provide pruning and planting at the Historical Society. Upcoming projects include the beautification of "Central Park," the small park next to Daisy's Market and improvements along the "library trail" leading to Church Street. "If anyone asks us to help out, we try to oblige," says Saylor.

If you're looking for workable ideas for your own Carlisle garden, want to support an important fundraising effort, or simply need to unwind and get back in touch with nature, the Garden Tour is the place on June 13 and 14. Adds Wessel, "Considering what the country's been through this winter, it's a great time to get out there and relax and enjoy."

Country Gardens Tour and Plant Sale

The Country Gardens Tour and Plant Sale takes place Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available at Daisy's, New England Nursery, and Agway in Chelmsford for $12 in advance or can be purchased for $15 ($10 seniors) on the day of the tour at the First Religious Society, which is also the location of the plant sale (for which no tickets are required).

Carlisle Garden Club focuses on civics, learning, fun

While the garden clubs of surrounding towns may offer membership-by-referral-only, require attendance at meetings, and compete for prizes in garden shows, the Carlisle Garden Club has always gone its own, more relaxed way. President Alison Saylor has compared notes with other garden club presidents and finds, "We're much more low key and laid back. We've evolved in keeping with modern times and kept the commitment reasonable."

Ordinary Carlisle farmers

Perhaps it's the fact that the Carlisle Garden Club was originally formed in 1959 not as a social organization, but as an outgrowth of 4-H. According to founding member Marge Burton, "Carlisle was an ordinary farmer's town. We weren't interested in showplace gardens but in learning to do things in our yards."

Reached at her home in Ayer, 81-year-old Burton noted it was my "lucky day" to find her inside on this rainy morning rather than "out in the garden in my dungarees." She proceeded to share a number of tales from the olden days of Carlisle gardening.

Craft sale remembered fondly

For many years the garden club raised funds through a Christmas craft sale for which members collected natural materials and made items such as candlesticks to sell. Burton recalls collecting beechnuts behind a church in Concord and stumbling on an Acton Garden Club member hiding behind a tree, apparently embarrassed to be found collecting on private property. Another time, at Green Cemetery, club members were told by groundskeeper Joe Clarke to "find something to do with all these oak leaves!" Ever inventive, they made wreaths out of the leaves, and sold them at their next sale.

Over the years the Christmas sale became more and more popular, according to Burton, until the line would start forming an hour before opening. One year a large limousine pulled up. Says Burton, "We watched the chauffer help out a man with a felt hat and plaid coat." The man took his time and made many purchases. Although they must have been bursting with curiosity, Yankee reticence apparently prevented anyone from prying. "It was Dutch, Anne Wright's husband, who finally recognized him. It was Rudy Vallee on his way to the Blue Moon in Lowell - our one celebrity," laughs Burton.

Scholarship fund started

But not all memories are happy. When member Anne Wright's daughter Debbie died of lung cancer at age 13, the club began a bulb sale for a scholarship fund in Debbie's name. Although the bulb sale has been replaced by other fundraisers, the scolarship fund is still an important club priority. This year two scholarships of $1,000 each were awarded.

Through good times and bad, Marge recollects that "We really enjoyed ourselves. Everyone worked well together. We were a small town then, and this was a fun thing." She contrasts those days with the present, "We were close-knit and enjoyed spending time together. Now people live such busy lives. . . ." She adds, "I feel the town was an ordinary farmer's town. Now it's an "aristocratic town. . . they hire people to do their gardening and this is one aspect of the garden club that's changed."

Burton notes there was a sense among members that "we didn't want to emulate Concord." The membership was "close-knit and consultive; everyone took part in decisions." At times there was a waiting list to join due to a need to fit meetings inside members' small living rooms, but there was never a sense of exclusiveness or a desire to restrict membership.

Says Saylor of the modern-day Carlisle Garden Club, "Our focus is on doing projects for the town and on learning more about gardening." She points to the speakers who appear at each meeting and adds, "We have many knowledgable members willing to share. It's a great place to learn without a lot of pressure."

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito