Thursday, 11 July 2013 15:52

RSVP: Everything’s Coming up Roses

By Trina Lucas | Entertainment

More than 700 patrons and volunteers braved the heat last Sunday, July 7, to participate in the 19th Annual Secret Gardens Tour. Presented by Soroptomist International of Saratoga County, the event featured 11 private and unique gardens in and around Saratoga Springs, including Yaddo, Balet Flowers and Design, and the entrance to Saratoga Spa State Park.

The self-guided tour encouraged ticketed attendees to visit the locations in any order. At Balet, Soroptomist member Mary Huber welcomed those looking for ideas to grow bird and butterfly native gardens. Fittingly, she shaded herself from the high, hot sun under an umbrella sprinkled with the winged creatures. Barbara McGrath and Dorothy Kelliher were seen among the perennials and flowering shrubs, as were Gretchen Ruhl, Carol VanLuyk and Cammie Clancy. 

Down the road at Saratoga Farms, homeowner Donna Redgrave stayed cool by the pool with her friend, rose garden designer Joanne Strevy. While the large property blossoms with countless flowers like English roses, peonies, hydrangea, spirea and lilies, the focal point of Redgrave’s yard is the stone labyrinth she built as a memorial to her son, Michael. 

A classic seven-circuit design, the circular paths lead to the center but not in a spiral design. Redgrave took liberties, adding a heart shape in the middle of the ‘turnings’ and a large center rock that provides the perfect spot for quiet reflection. The labyrinth inspires peace, and despite the afternoon warmth, visitors paused in awe, struck by the extraordinary work of love and grief. John and Mary Ellen Ward took extra time circling the paths and volunteer Nancy Powhida remarked that it was a special place to spend the afternoon. 

Back in town, Soroptomist volunteer Kelly Armer greeted tour-goers at 176 Nelson Avenue, the home of Jerry and Lu Lucas. The couple has nurtured their side and front lawns for 14 years, choosing big blue and elephant ear hostas, ferns, Solomon’s seal and Lily of the Valley to complement the 1860s house. All agreed, however, that the century-old grape arbor is the yard’s highlight. 

Fearing they’d destroyed the grapevines when they moved it not once, but twice, the Lucas’ replaced them with climbing lace-cap hydrangea and clematis. It is breathtaking and did not disappoint attendees Dan and Jan Hazewski, Debbie Shea, Melodye Eldeen, Rena Smith, Maureen and George Foster, Emily Long and Ronnie Lenis. 

Tracy Savage and Jeremy Jones opened their backyard garden at 158 Phila Street. When the two purchased their 1870s home six years ago, it was divided into four apartments with spotty grass in the backyard. Needless to say, it didn’t survive the major remodeling project that converted the house back to a striking single-family home. In its place, Savage and Jones created an oasis blending her southern love of cherry trees, lilies, reudbeckia and geraniums, with his hardy Saratoga roots in delphinium and alchemilla. The center is a stone cherub that once graced Savage’s grandmother’s house in Virginia. 

“I played ring-around-the-rosie with that statute when I was five years old,” she recalls.

Other private stops on the tour were the poolside plantings at Mayor Scott and Julie Johnson’s home; neighboring gardens on Waterview Drive owned by Candice Krueger and Robert and Jane Keyser; the Carpenter Family’s garden bordering the third green at McGregor Links Country Club; and the Kissick’s garden nestled in a woodland setting on Seymour Drive. 

Preliminary numbers indicate that over $14,000 was raised through ticket sales, a raffle of home and garden gifts, and sponsorship support from Stewarts Shops, Susan K. DePaula, Dog Guard, Saratoga Living, The Saratogian, Edventures and the Herzog Law Firm. These funds will advance the Soroptomist mission to improve the lives of women and girls locally and throughout the world. 

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