The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 22, 2009


Country Gardens Tour lets everyone appreciate hidden beauty of Carlisle

For 12 hours every two years, Carlisle garden gems usually hidden to the public are open to view. With its Country Gardens Tour on Friday and Saturday June 12 and 13, the Carlisle Garden Club will continue a bi-annual tradition that over the years has showcased dozens of beautiful private gardens. “Everyone has their favorites,” says Tour Chair Susan Pepple. “What’s great is the diversity – extensive landscapes and cottage gardens, cutting edge design and really traditional. Owners put a great deal of energy into creating personal spaces, and it’s wonderful to see the ways people manage the opportunities and challenges of gardening in this environment.”

This River Road garden was enjoyed by visitors on the Country Gardens Tour in 2007. (File photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

This year’s Garden Tour features seven gardens covering a range of styles, including a Japanese water garden, woodland, terraced, and wildflower gardens and formal gardens with extensive stonework. The garden locations are a closely-held secret, revealed when attendees pick up their booklets at the Garden Tour table in front of the First Religious Society (FRS) on one of the tour days. The booklet provides a map with garden descriptions and addresses, and is also a valuable resource guide for plant information and local horticultural-related services. A Plant Sale held at the FRS on the Friday of the tour offers annuals, herbs and hardy Carlisle-tested perennials from Garden Club members’ gardens.

Proceeds benefit the town

“The success of the tour in recent years has allowed us to increase our level of contribution to the town,” says Garden Club President Judy Lane. All proceeds from the Garden Tour and Plant Sale contribute to scholarships, public events, and town plantings and projects. The Debbie Wright Scholarship, named for a Carlisle teenager who succumbed to cancer, offers up to $2,000 each year to one or more college-bound Carlisle high school seniors interested in horticulture.

Town projects have included rotary plantings, the Heald House herb garden, contributions to Center Park, Gleason Library books and museum passes and many others. In September, the Garden Club sponsored a visit to Center Park by an Isabella Stewart Gardner re-enactor. Recently the club installed a sprinkler system at Town Hall and will soon begin plantings for the Veteran’s Memorial to be dedicated at Old Home Day this June. “In these times of tight town finances, the Garden Club is pleased to have been able to step in and beautify areas that might otherwise have been overlooked or minimally maintained,” says Lane.

Community helps out

Launched in 1997, the Garden Tour in its seventh year has become a community event, says Pepple. “Already, Larry at Ferns has let us know he will be scheduling speakers on his piazza and offering a discount on lunch during the days of the Tour.” The Council on Aging is encouraging their members to volunteer to help out. The Historical Society has spruced up its herb garden at the Heald House, and the First Religious Society will be inviting tour participants to their Infinity Garden. Visitors will be encouraged to take the time to check out these “bonus gardens” along with Center Park next to Ferns, all as part of their pleasant day in Carlisle.

But most important, says Pepple, is the community of homeowners who open their private spaces for a worthy cause. Garden owners often put a good deal of time and effort into preparing for the tour. “Being on the Garden Club tour is both motivating and rewarding,” says Heidi Harring, whose garden was featured two years ago. “It gets you to do those small items that are easily just pushed to another weekend,” she says, “and it’s rewarding to share your garden and the fruits of your efforts with friends and other visitors.”

Selecting gardens for the tour

The Garden Tour Committee started last spring visiting gardens all over Carlisle. An announcement asking for volunteers appeared in the Mosquito, with other gardens coming to attention through word-of-mouth. “Altogether, we probably investigated 20 or more gardens,” says Pepple, noting that the committee visited each finalist last June to see how it would appear a year later. “It’s a difficult decision process,” she says. “We look for unique features and diversity.” If two gardens are quite similar, one may be put on the shelf for a later tour.

Pepple suggests visitors reserve several hours for the Garden Tour, “This is an opportunity to slow down and smell the flowers,” she says. “It’s wonderful to take the time to walk around town and really experience the beauty of Carlisle on a lovely June day.”

The Garden Tour is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday June 12 and 13. Tickets for the tour are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the tour, $10 for seniors. Save money by purchasing now using PayPal at or visit Ferns, Agway in Chelmsford, or New England Nursery in Bedford. Tickets will be available the days of the tour at the First Religious Society on Carlisle’s Town Common. A Plant Sale featuring perennials from the gardens of Carlisle Garden Club members will also be held at that location. The Tour is held rain or shine.

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito