Special to The Lake Report
For the first time in 15 years, the Shaw Guild Garden Tour is stepping away from its regular early summer date in June, to now take place in September.
After lockdowns and COVID restrictions, the team, led by Jane Catcher and assisted by Cheryl Morris, unanimously decided that it be safer for all to reschedule to Sept. 11. Tours run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tickets are available online at shawguild.ca/garden-tour and also will be available at each location on the day of the tour, for $25 cash only.
They changed the date knowing that vaccines would be more readily available and many, if not all, volunteers and visitors would be double-vaccinated. As well, the weather would be a little more predictable with comfortable temperatures and the gardens would be still be beautiful and thriving with an array of different seasonal plants and flowers.
Catcher said the fall gardens will look “magnificent. Envision burning bushes in full colour, waves of hydrangeas of varieties too many to name, sweet william and clematis that will be intoxicating both visually and aromatically.”
The garden tour is a fundraiser for the Shaw Festival and supports initiatives such as the production of “A Christmas Carol” playing at the Royal George Theatre and “Holiday Inn” at the Festival Theatre.
It relies on a team of volunteers who are passionate about showcasing what NOTL neighbourhood homes have to offer.
Garden managers with volunteers in each of the eight gardens will be on hand to answer any questions about the gardens and, as a special treat this year, there will be fun and interesting activities in each of the gardens.
Guests will be supplied with a brochure and map that allows them to visit each garden at their leisure.
As with many events, this could not take place without the generous donations of the wonderful sponsors who were quick to respond and happy to help out.
The platinum sponsors this year are: Tree Amigos Landscaping, Gatta Homes and Gauld landscaping, nursery and garden centre.
The gold sponsors are: Desjardins Insurance, Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, Konzelman Estate Winery, Van Noort Flower Studio, Master Gardener and Simple White Interiors.
The silver sponsors are: All Green Irrigation, Il Gelato di Carlotta, the Exchange Brewery, Chamber of Commerce, Harvest Barn, Niagara-on-the-Lake Realty, Pet Valu, Peninsula Flooring Ltd., Scottish Loft, Silver Leaf nursery and garden centre landscaping, Simpson’s Pharmacy, Upper Canada Mechanical heating and air conditioning, and Valu-mart.
Last but not least, what would a garden tour be without the support of the homeowners, who so generously will be allowing hundreds of guests to enjoy the beauty of their gardens?
How are the gardens chosen for this event? Enter Peggy Bell, a longtime Shaw Guild member and experienced gardener.
Bell has toured many beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake gardens over the years and is always searching for more.
“Fifteen years ago, I don’t think anyone thought about this as long-term fundraising,” said Bell.
“It’s turned into the largest fundraiser for the Shaw Guild. It’s very generous of people to allow their gardens to be part of the tour,” she said. “It’s a huge commitment on their part.”
Bell seeks out gardens that, from her experienced eye, are deemed worth of being on a tour and will then approach the homeowners about allowing the public to visit their property for the day.
She looks for the curb appeal of a home by way of its front garden. That will often indicate what the back will look like. Unusual plants, placement as well as the layout of outdoor rooms, such as dining and seating areas, all factor into her decision.
Ponds, pools and waterfalls in addition to any other elements that might make a garden unique make their way to the top of her list.
Bell visits the gardens during all seasons in case other opportunities arise where the use of a local garden is needed. This year due to COVID and the fact the Shaw Guild had to change to a fall event, her choice of gardens made for a perfect transition from spring to fall.
When Bell selects the gardens, she factors in their proximity to each other, parking and how the flow of the garden allows for the best experience for guests.
Five of the eight gardens are in Old Town, with two along the Parkway and another in Queenston. According to Bell, they are well worth the short drive to visit.