The selection process was probably the hardest part of putting the event together, Scott said. There’s plenty of cultivated greenery to be found in Haywood, but the planning crew worked to whittle down the list to the few gardens that best epitomized this year’s theme — “Pollinate, Propagate, Cultivate.”
Pollinators — creatures like bees, hummingbirds and butterflies that spread pollen from plant to plant — are vital for the success of all kinds of plants. The tour will focus on gardens that welcome pollinator species with nectar to eat and habitats to rest.
“They’re important because they’re beautiful and we like having them as visitors in our garden, but that’s also how we get food, how we get the plants we eat,” Scott said.
The tour will feature an apple orchard, a beekeeping operation, several gardens catering to monarch butterflies, profusions of flowers and plenty of vegetable gardens. The goal is that the experiences visitors take home with them will inspire them to do their own part for the pollinators. Various educational experiences are integrated into the tour, such as demonstrations of tree grafting and plant propagation. Plein air artists — 16 of them — will be set up at each of the gardens to paint what they see.
“We try to keep things interesting so not only are they touring the gardens, but they’re learning something while they’re there,” Scott said.
It’s been a long road to the finish line, but the process of meeting the gardeners and seeing their creations has been amazing, Scott said.
“We’ve got some really pristine gardens that are just beautifully landscaped,” she said.
“Everybody has some kind of whimsical aspect to it,” added Cynthia Morris, publicity chair for the event. “There are birdbaths and bathhouses and yard art.”
She recalls one house, in particular, whose owners started the landscaping from scratch after buying it in 2003.
“If you see that garden today, it almost takes your breath away, it’s so beautiful,” Morris said of the profusion of coneflowers, daisies, iris and innumerable other plants.
Then there are the three different gardens that boasting a certified Monarch Waystation, the designation recognizing gardens that offer spectacular habitat for the struggling migratory butterflies.
“All three of them are very different in their approach,” Scott said.
One is a natural sort of setting alongside a creek. Another is more formal, set out in an existing landscape. And the third, located at the Canton Public Library Giving Garden, is a teaching garden with all plants labeled.
It’s kind of impossible, though, to pick a favorite garden or to highlight one of them as more spectacular than another, said Morris — they’re all amazing.
“I think there’s components at each of the gardens that will get people excited, no matter where they are on that spectrum of gardening,” Scott agreed.
The gardens have certainly served that purpose for the 100 Master Gardener volunteers who have worked to get the event together. The enthusiasm of the property owners is contagious, and it won’t be long after this year’s event closes down before planning revs up for the next garden tour, in 2018.
“We’ll start planning for the next garden tour as soon as this one’s over and everyone takes a breather,” Scott said.
Go on tour
The Haywood County Garden Tour will offer a look at some of the county’s most beautiful gardens 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 18, starting at the Mountain Research Station on Raccoon Road in Waynesville.
That’s where participants will pick up directions to the gardens and meet shuttles for the gardens with limited parking. For the rest, individuals can drive themselves. The average person might take about three hours to get their fill of the tour, but it’s also entirely possible spend all day taking it in, said the tour’s publicity chair Cynthia Morris.
$15 in advance and $20 the day of, with ticket sales limited to 500 people. Purchase advance tickets at Haywood Cooperative Extension, the Haywood County Arts Council, Riverview Farm & Garden and Grass Root Gardens. Organized by Haywood County Extension and Haywood County Master Gardeners. Proceeds will benefit Master Gardener activities.
Meet the gardens
The Haywood County Garden Tour will feature six spots carefully selected for their beauty and adherence to this year’s theme — “Pollinate, Propagate, Cultivate.” Mostly private residences, the stops will provide a rare public glimpse at these painstakingly cultivated landscapes.
Hiding in plain sight
The tour begins at the Mountain Research Station barn on Raccoon Road in Waynesville. Vendors will set up inside, tickets and tour directions will be available, and garden viewing will begin right outside the door. At the research station, staff work on everything from improving the chance of healthy births in cattle to growing more productive and disease-resistant vegetables. Visitors will get to look around and those who show up early will have the chance to take a guided tour of the place, with the research station’s superintendent Kaleb Rathbone giving a wagon tour of ongoing research at 10 a.m. — to the first 50 people who sign up.
A profusion of beds
Riding down a little-traveled lane, visitors will come upon an unexpectedly rich 1.25-acre yard featuring a variety of trees, bushes and flowers interspersed with wind sculptures, antiques and bird feeders. A rippling stream and mountain view complete the picture. In just four years, the owners converted the space from a grass lawn to an intensely planted 15 beds featuring everything from daylilies to hydrangeas to honeysuckle. Due to limited parking, this stop requires a shuttle, provided from the Mountain Research Station.
A sanctuary for all species
After traveling up a winding drive and crossing a mountain stream, tour participants will discover a 4.5-acre refuge for humans, butterflies and birds. An official Monarch Waystation, the property has been designed since 1998 to bolster native species of butterflies, birds, wildlife and wildflowers. The owners have chosen plants based on the three elements monarchs require for survival — natives, nectar and host plants for caterpillars. The owners are also committed to feeding themselves, as evidenced by their vegetable garden, and birds find solace in the numerous birdhouses and feeders. Visitors will wander between sun and shade, streams and garden, open lawn and forest while exploring the property.
Apples, bees, berries and trees
Since 2007, the owners of this combined apiary and orchard near Canton have worked toward their dream to grow fruit to feed their community. The property boasts 1,400 apple trees of 60 varieties, as well as 20 varieties of peaches, four varieties of nectarines, raspberries, chickens and plenty of bees. Grafting demonstrations at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. will give a glimpse of the intricacies of the six-year road an apple tree travels from grafting to harvest.
Sunny side up
When the owners of this Monarch Waystation bought their home in 2003, the yard was a blank canvas in the landscaping department. These days, it’s a montage of beds featuring all sorts of shapes, colors and textures of plants that grow in full sun most of the day. In the backyard, a wide expanse of pristine lawn is edged by diverse perennial beds, an herb garden, a fish pond, a gazebo, raised beds, earth boxes and patio container plantings — all backed by a mountain view. Nature-inspired art created by one of the owners is displayed as well. Master Gardener Volunteer Joe Smiley will put the cherry on top of the experience with a hands-on plant propagation demonstration.
An award-winning garden
The Giving Garden at the Canton Public Library is both a teaching tool and a provider of food for needy in the community, featuring seven raised beds with veggies and flowers, composting, square-foot gardens, vertical tee-pee gardening, a child-size veggie bed and a Monarch Waystation. Previously an unused lot next to the library, the Giving Garden now hosts year-round gardening programs by Master Gardeners and donates produce to the Community Kitchen in Canton.