On June 16, people came from near and far to see a variety of peaceful escapes from bustling city life at the 25th annual South End Garden Tour. The self-guided tour had 23 different stops comprised of both public and private gardens and green spaces connected by Dartmouth St, Columbus Ave, Rutland Square, and Tremont St.
Peter Bowne, an Engagement Manager for the Trustees, said that they had an “amazing response” to this year’s tour. “We had perfect weather,” he said, and there were just shy of 600 visitors, which is up from last year. Bowne said that they used more social media to get the word out this year, but good, old-fashioned posters and neighborhood meetings and outreach were also part of the Trustees’ advertising.
“I’m a bit old fashioned, but in terms of organizing community events, I think really what it comes down to is the personal connection is a major factor,” Bowne said. “It is and always has been a grassroots and community event and that’s still a very powerful way to get word out about the event.”
Garden owners were also invited to advertise on their personal social media to get the word out to their friends and family, he said.
Bowne also said that the tour is in a different zone of the neighborhood every year. There are five different zones that were chosen within the first five years of the tour, and they rotate every year. The individual gardens within the zones can change, and Bowne said they reach out to individual gardeners, neighborhood associations, and landscape designers by walking the neighborhood each year to scout for gardens.
“That way, there’s new stuff to see every year and it keeps it fresh,” Bowne said.
This year’s tour began at the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library, where visitors could purchase tickets and pick up their maps. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Boston community gardens.
One of the first stops was the private backyard garden of Reinhold Mahler and David Miller, who moved into the property in 1995. Miller said that he always says that the tour is held two weeks too late, as the last of their irises bloomed two weeks ago. The garden features a wall of sprawling ivory, as well as gay feathers, balloon flowers, and orange and yellow lilies.
Another popular garden was the Living Roof on Holyoke Street. John Dick, a Trustees volunteer, manned a ladder for visitors to go up and get a better look at this garden that sits atop a carport. Because of the garden’s location, water drainage was a concern for the owners. Dick explained that the garden consists of dry environment plants, so they won’t stay wet for very long, and they’re also planted in a lightweight potting mix. “The whole idea is to slow down the runoff so it doesn’t flood the neighborhood,” Dick said. Visitors enjoyed going up and down the ladder to take pictures of the rooftop blooms.
William Corcoran’s front garden is full of sculptures that he changes twice a month. The sculptures are intermingled with different plants as well as hang from the side of his house. Many people stopped to take a closer look. “My sculptures have become an evolving form of public art,” Corcoran said in the map booklet. “Some call me the neighborhood sculptor and that’s fine by me!”
The sense of community was evident throughout the different stops along the tour. There was a Boston-grown plant sale by the Trustees tent outside of the library, as well as books out on carts in Library Park.
The Trustees will already be on the hunt this summer for gardens to feature in next year’s tour, as Bowne said the tour has an 11-month timeline.
Bowne said he’d really like to thank the volunteers for all of the work they put into the tour. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers and the owners offering to volunteer their spaces,” he said. “Above all, this is about supporting community gardens in the city of Boston,” he said, and allowing people to connect with their neighbors to build a community.