Category Archives: garden tours

Enchanting Gardens in the Valley

The LoFranco garden

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

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.

The Connolly garden

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 garden

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 Moran garden

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.

The Ross garden

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.

Enchanting Gardens in the Valley- A Garden Tour for Locals

I’ve seen my share of spectacular gardens and always come away with new ideas and inspiration. It’s part of the fun to imagine how one might incorporate a unique type of path or a water feature into your own garden. Maybe a particularly breathtaking plant combination would look just right next to your patio. It’s even better when the beautiful gardens are in your own neck of the woods. What could be better than to see what fellow gardeners have created nearby?

English cottage garden

Recently I was able to preview several local gardens that will be featured on the Enchanting Gardens in the Valley garden tour on Saturday, June 24th from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. As a fundraiser benefit for nonprofit Valley Churches United there are seven beautiful, unique and inspiring gardens in Felton and Ben Lomond that shouldn’t be missed.

Weeping Atlas cedar near pond

Dappled by the morning sun the pond and waterfall in the first garden I visited was even more enchanting after the owner, told us an interesting story. Seems that one spring she looked out her office window and saw a live blue heron strutting and displaying, trying to get the attention of the metal heron sculpture. “He was really doing his thing”, she laughed. The pond is surrounded by grass-like plants like lomandra and carex that provide movement in the wind while the upper bed where the waterfall originates features flowers of bright orange, red and magenta along with the blue foliage of a weeping Atlas cedar and blue oat grass.

Other highlights in this garden include raised veggie beds, a rose and cutting garden and a special fire hydrant garden for the dog. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Antique baby’s bed planter

Several gardens on the tour allow visitors to walk through the main living and kitchen areas. It’s a treat to see how the outside reflects the interior design from a gardener’s perspective. Under massive native oaks one such garden will keep you exploring for hours. With red as the primary color accent along with touches of yellow and blue every nook and cranny has been tastefully decorated with hand made glass collectables. An antique baby’s bed has been converted to a planter, a vintage stove overflows with ferns, ivy and begonias. The English cottage look is complete with mature boxwood hedges and a large white pergola with wicker furniture. There are sitting areas at every turn throughout the garden, however, the owner confesses she sits for about 15 minutes before the urge hits her to trim or re-arrange something. Sound familiar?

Rainwater catchment system

Another garden on the tour features a Newport Fairy rose as big as a van. A rainwater catchment system designed by the owner/engineer waters his orchid greenhouse with pure rain water. The rhododendrons in this garden are 20 years old and all the hydrangeas are from cuttings his wife has propagated. There are many great tips and ideas to take away from this garden.

Edible garden

A study in sustainability and permaculture, one of the gardens is a mega food source for the owner’s family. From grapes to vegetables to recycled wood arbor and decks with fancy railings, this garden is a certified wildlife habitat and pollination garden for bees and beneficial insects. Using organic practices and water conservation techniques it’s brimming with life.

galvanized water tank pond

If your space is small, you’ll want to visit a garden nearby, Designed by a landscape architect and her creative husband the garden rooms surrounding the compact home feature a koi pond, meditation garden, galvanized water tank with wall fountain, outdoor dining table re-purposed from old deck and vegetable garden. The outdoor experience connects to the interior with large open doors at both the front and the back.

So whatever type of garden appeals to you there’s sure to be one to please at the Enchanting Gardens in the Valley garden tour. Tickets are available at Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, several other local nurseries and from Valley Churches United office in Ben Lomond. Contact them at 831-336-8258 for more information.