Seven Gardens You Can See Soon

The McNeel's garden in Governor’s Club. Photo by Daphne McLeod.


By Jane Brown

When we moved into our mid-century house about 25 years ago, we couldn’t even see Eastwood Lake because the backyard was so overgrown. Over the years we have cut out the underbrush, trimmed the trees, dug out garden beds and planted hellebores, ferns, astilbes, peonies, iris, liriope and mondo grass.

We’ve had hydrangeas and hostas, too, but the proliferating deer population has reduced us to only deer-resistant perennials and a few annuals. The Lady Banks rose trellis is roof level so the deer can’t reach that. Our lettuce, spinach and kale grows in a low cage with a lift-top that keeps out the rabbits, too.

A few years ago a neighbor and fellow gardener, Sarah Laish, suggested I should join the Chapel Hill Garden Club. She said she always learned something at their monthly meetings and it was a great group of folks who loved digging in the dirt. She was right.

The first year I learned about pollinators and native plants, how to construct container gardens, and how to plant a wildflower meadow. I made amazing bouquets under the tutelage of master flower designer, Betsy Nininger. Very fun.

Then Sarah said we should nominate our garden to be on the biennial garden tour. Thus began a five-year saga that comes to fruition this year when our garden is one of seven on the 2022 Chapel Hill Garden Tour.

The gatehouse at the DuBose house garden. Photo by Kathy Swendiman.

In 2018 our garden was inspected by about 20 Club members to see if it was worthy of being on the tour in 2020. We were pleased that they liked all the work we’d done. We got busy planning and planting for two years hence. What could we have blooming in late April 2020?

And then there was COVID. No Garden Tour, even though tickets had been sold and everything was ready. Were we willing to try again next year? Sure! COVID undoubtedly would be over by Spring 2021! But, no, another year of weeding, digging, planting. So, we are excited that finally this is going to happen.

According to Gill Roberts, the chair of the CHGC Tour committee, this year more than 100 guides will welcome more than 1,200 guests to seven nearby gardens. You can purchase a $25 ticket that will grant you access to all the gardens, rain or shine, April 23 and 24 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) online here.

Beginning April 1, tickets will also be available at the NC Botanical Garden’s gift shop, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center, Southern States in Carrboro, Wild Bird Center of Chapel Hill and Victoria Park Florist.

On Tour days ticket prices increase to $35 and are sold at the NCBG and the entrance to Governor’s Club.

Poppy Protzman enjoying the Zen of the Lady Banks rose at the Brown/Protzman house. Photo by Jane Brown.

Gill said after the four-year hiatus she is thrilled by the “fabulous quality of the gardens, each one different.” She is especially excited that this is the first time the Tour includes gardens in the Governor’s Club in Chatham County.

The Jordan Garden has been described as “an impressionist painting of a Parisian garden in springtime.” Gill said this garden is an excellent example of “what you can do without professional support in a small space and make it fabulous.”

Also in the Governor’s Club, Carol McNeel, a CHGC member, estimates she has collected more than 100 species of trees and dozens of azaleas, camellias and native rhododendron. Artwork scattered throughout the garden enhances this certified wildlife habitat. 

The NC Botanical Garden. Photo by Kathy Swendiman.

The Tour always includes the beauty of native plants in the North Carolina Botanical Garden, one of the beneficiaries of proceeds from the tour. Next door, the whimsical garden of the Ronald McDonald House will also be open for viewing.

In the historic gardens surrounding the DuBose House at Meadowmont you will walk along paths curving through 11 acres of mature trees, flower beds, boxwoods and lawns.

In the Briarcliff neighborhood, Dick and Lynda Baddour have tamed a “mess of bamboo, ivy and weeds” into a half-acre “suburban oasis” of spring blooming flowers, dogwoods and Japanese maples.

I hope you will get to see these remarkable gardens this year. In these difficult times the beauty and timelessness of nature are restorative.

If you’d like to nominate your garden or someone else’s for a future CHGC tour, please do so here beginning April 25. In the meantime, buy a ticket, put on your walking shoes and sunhat and relish the beauty of spring curated by our neighbors.

The Ronald McDonald House garden. Photo by Daphne McDonald.

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