Spring is the perfect time to get outdoors and make yourself at home in the landscape. If you’re stumped when it comes to creating the perfect outdoor retreat, however, put your worries aside.
Upcoming local garden tours, such as those organized by Christ Church Episcopal, the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs, and the South Carolina Koi & Water Garden Society, are filled with ideas and inspiration that offer all the help you need.
Each event promises an enticing array of nearby gardens, while also raising funds for worthy causes. Proceeds from the Christ Church tour will support the Beth Croft Memorial Endowment that provides for the ongoing enhancement of its historic grounds, while the money raised by the Greenville Council tour goes toward the care of the Kilgore-Lewis House and gardens. The Society’s annual pond tour benefits projects that nurture a love of water gardening.
Best of all, however, each of these groups values and promotes the vital connection between people and the natural world, knowing that we benefit in countless ways from embracing nature.
I was struck by this point again on a recent visit to the garden of Kim and Rory Whelehan in the Greenville Country Club area, which will be featured on the Christ Church “Joyful Garden Tour” on Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28. There, in the Whelehan’s garden, I found myself standing among a remarkable display of 800 tulips and couldn’t help but smile.
The flowering bulbs, which Rory orders from Van Engelen and plants each year because they produce the most spectacular flowers, form a sweeping arc around other spring-flowering ornamentals, including a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), a mass of colorful azaleas, and a yellow trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Sulphurea’) scrambling up a lamp post.
“One neighbor said the tulips are a gift to the neighborhood,” Kim noted during my visit. I agree wholeheartedly, but the colorful bulbs are not the only thing to admire in the Whelehan’s garden.
The back yard, a favorite gathering place for the young family, features a two-tiered garden divided by a bank of ‘George Lindley Taber’ azaleas, a sun-tolerant Southern Indica hybrid that grows 8 feet or more tall and blooms with pale pink flowers.
Near the house, a small fountain creates a tranquil setting for reading on the nearby deck or planting vegetables in a raised bed. On the lower level, however, there’s plenty of room for games on the lush carpet of lawn and much to admire in the deep garden borders that surround it.
The garden of Andy and Karen Mitchell, located in Chelsea Woods and open for the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs’ tour in May, also provides plenty of space for outdoor family gatherings.
Reminiscent of Charleston, this Upstate garden offers the same warmth and charm of the Lowcountry, putting everyone at ease, especially on pleasant evenings when dinner can be enjoyed on the circular patio that features a place for grilling and dining, plus a fireplace and multiple gathering areas.
Designed by Dabney Peebles, the garden also includes an adjacent outdoor living room with a classic fountain, all tucked under the shelter of a pergola, plus an intimate courtyard that creates a welcoming entry on one side of the home under the boughs of a graceful cherry tree.
In every direction you look, the garden is ornamented with colorful container plantings, a specialty of Karen, who loves to try new things in the garden. A variety of evergreens, including yews and boxwoods, provide a verdant backdrop and structure for the more ornamental plants, such as hydrangeas and lacy Japanese maples.
Garden tours, I’ve discovered, are the best way to learn from other gardeners. So as spring continues to unfold, revitalize your passion for outdoor living by gathering your friends for a fun day out and then, with your camera and notepad at the ready, enjoy all the pleasures these gardens and others have to offer.
Here are details for the local tours, as well as a few other top-notch events in our region.
April 27 & 28: The Christ Church “Joyful Garden Tour” is planned for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and will include seven gardens in the Alta Vista and Greenville Country Club areas, as well as the newly renovated Church and its courtyard addition. The work of talented local artists depicting garden scenes will be available for silent auction in the Parish House from April 20 until a reception on April 29 at noon. Tour tickets, which are $25, can be purchased at the Church bookstore, at the receptionist desk in the Parish House, at numerous local businesses, or online. For details, visit the website at www.ccgsc.org.
May 11 & 12: The Greenville Council of Garden Clubs will offer “Gardening for Beauty and Wildlife Habitat” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. The tour highlights seven gardens in the suburbs of Greenville and Greer, each featuring plants and designs that offer tranquility, beauty, and a safe haven for wildlife. Tickets can be purchased in advance at various locations for $22 or on the day of the tour at any of the gardens for $25. For more information, call 864-232-3020 or visit www.kilgore-lewis.org.
May 5 & 6: Winghaven Gardens in Charlotte, NC, continues its annual Mother’s Day celebration with the “Gardener’s Garden Tour,” with five local gardens and live music at Winghaven on Saturday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 on tour days. For more information, visit the website at www.winghavengardens.com.
June 9: The SC Koi and Water Garden Society’s 20th Annual Pond tour will feature eight or more gardens open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. A brochure providing highlights of the gardens plus their locations, all in the greater Greenville area, will be available on the Society’s website. Tickets, $10, can be purchased at the gardens or from various local businesses beginning on May 14. Children under 12 are free. Visit the website at www.sckwgs.org.
July 20: The Annual Mountains in Bloom Garden Tour in Highlands, North Carolina, will showcase six gardens around the Highland Country Club that are noted as among the most iconic residential gardens in the North Carolina mountains, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Purchase tickets, $100, online at www.thebascom.org/2018-mountains-in-bloom.