It’s not everyday one gets the opportunity to visit an estate here in our neck of the woods. So if this sounds interesting to you get yourself a ticket for the upcoming Valley Churches United Garden Tour on Saturday June 22nd from 10am to 5pm . Enchanting Gardens in the Valley will showcase 7 beautiful gardens in Ben Lomond and Felton and directly benefit their year-round food pantry. You’ll come away in awe of the gorgeous landscapes some of our local gardeners have created.
You can visit the gardens in any order but I started at the largest garden near Quail Hollow. This 4 acre garden features a koi pond and waterfall in the front which is pretty spectacular in itself. But the back garden features a lake. Yes, I said a lake with a dock and an island and a huge waterfall. The owner, Vince LoFranco, told me that the only plant on the property 25 years ago was one redwood. The back acreage was then a spring fed marsh. They first had an engineer draw up plans to drain the boggy area but on second thought decided to go with nature and create the pond. When you visit look for Shadow, the black cat, the huge tadpoles in the lake and the blooming perennials, Japanese maples and grasses among all the other horticultural delights.
The Sikes garden was next on my list. Jeanne allows visitors to walk through the main living and kitchen areas as they are extensions of her garden. Using red as her primary color along with touches of vivid yellow, orange and blue with lots of white this garden features something to admire at every turn. There are many sitting areas to enjoy under the massive oaks. Jeanne adds new decorations all the time so if you visited this garden on the VCU tour a couple years ago there is a ton of newly created vintage garden art. Don’t miss it.
Sit a while in the retro metal glider bench at the Connolly garden next. Lisa told me that the property was “just dirt” when it was purchased 20 years ago in the Ben Lomond sand hills. When the front lawn was removed it created an opportunity to add low water use plants. The back garden features a beautiful river rock pool and spa. Under the shade of the oak trees flourish perennials and a DIY manzanita branch fence that “keeps the chickens on the other side” according to Lisa. There are many take-away ideas to glean from this garden that would be do-able for you, too.
The Swan residence will keep your head spinning. Anatola has created multiple garden rooms that flow from one area to the other. Her modern garden design features hundreds of perennial shrubs and flowers mostly in shades of white with variegated silver and blue accents. Dozens of Japanese maples grow lush under the oaks and giant birch. Of the many tips she shared I liked the one about instant “weathering” of a lattice to screen the neighbor using vinegar, baking soda and steel wool. The screen turned out great.
The Brook Lomond Iris Farm is home to Chris and Rick Moran who pack much more than the stately tall bearded iris on their property. A few iris might still be blooming and the compost bins working hard. Take in the front succulent and cactus garden featuring Chris’ renowned pottery to start your tour. The back garden features an organic vegetable garden, redwood fairy circle retreat, artist studio and a lush lawn that survives without sprinklers.
Not to be missed is the garden of Adra Ross. Her huge spring fed koi pond is so big it has it’s own beach. Having a silting area at one keeps the water clean. On the day of the tour a local koi and pond expert will be on hand to answer questions. This is a huge 5 acre garden featuring many gardens rooms around the entire property. It’s a National Wildlife Certified Wildlife Habitat so you’ll come away with ideas and inspiration of your own.
And be sure to visit Hallcrest Vineyard in Felton to enjoy the perennial planters, vegetable beds and enjoy the view of the meadow from the tasting room. The Schumachers bought the property in1987 and have gardened here ever since. Take a lunch and purchase a glass of their renowned premium wine.
Get your $25 tickets for the tour at many local nurseries or Valley Churches United in Ben Lomond.