A Concord garden on a previous tour. Courtesy photo

Lupines, and lilacs, and laurels (oh my!) on view at 35th annual garden tour

By Laurie O’Neill — Correspondent

Mistress Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And marigolds all in a row.

So goes the old English nursery rhyme, as altered by Frances Hodgson Burnett for her children’s book “The Secret Garden.”

As pretty as Mary’s floral display might have been, it likely couldn’t hold a candle to the six stunning private gardens featured on the Concord Museum’s 35th Annual Garden Tour on June 7 and 8.

Gardeners looking for inspiration and visitors who simply enjoy communing with columbine and clematis can amble through carefully curated gardens, some of which feature rare plants. 

Among the dozens of flowering plants and trees flaunting their spring blooms and greenery will be peonies, poppies, irises, lupines, clematis, catmint, allium, sedum, bleeding heart, painted fern, and Concord grapes, plus quince, dogwood, magnolia, and viburnum. 

“People are delighted to visit these gardens that they wouldn’t normally see,” says Pat Hinton, head of the Museum’s Guild of Volunteers, for which the tour is a major fundraising project. “Some of them you can easily spend an hour in.”

Courtesy photo

All proceeds from the event, for which some 1,100 tickets were sold last year, benefit the Museum’s education initiatives, which include seminars for teachers and hands-on programs for children throughout Massachusetts. 

On this year’s tour is what the Guild describes as a “jewel-box” garden at a home in the center of town, where the owners use gravel rather than grass to minimize care. Itea (sweetspires), little lime hydrangea, dwarf lilac, and catmint grow along a path to the backyard, where a pergola over a sitting area is blanketed by sweet autumn clematis: “Along with the furniture and décor, it creates a boho, vintage feeling.” 

An early 1960s home designed by the architect Marvin Good and set into a hillside above a fern-filled glacial basin offers a Japanese-inspired garden that showcases many trees and shrubs, including mature rhododendrons, pieris (Japanese andromeda), and azalea. The garden offers nooks and crannies to explore, and Japanese lanterns, bamboo fencing, and purposely placed stones complement the space.  

Each property reflects the interests and passions of the owners and their families, such as those with plants and feeders that welcome avian guests or those with pollinator plants. A tour booklet provided to ticket holders contains detailed descriptions of each garden and its plants.

A professional arborist from Hartney Greymont in Needham will be in an “Ask the Arborist” booth to answer gardening questions. 

A Guild committee decides which gardens to select for the tour; Sinton says someone might suggest a friend who has a beautiful garden, or homeowners might ask that their gardens be considered. 

“People put a lot of effort into their gardens and want to show them off,” Sinton says. 

Preparing a garden for a crowd of visitors in early June “can be a lot of pressure,” she notes. A cold and wet early spring can affect when flowers bloom, and winterkill can wreak havoc, sending gardeners to nurseries to replace plants. But you would never know that when you visit them.   

Tickets for the self-guided tour, which are $45 for Museum members and $50 for nonmembers, may be purchased in advance online at www.concord.museum.org or on the days of the tour at the Museum at 53 Cambridge Turnpike. 

Tickets include a map and address for all six gardens and can be picked up at the Museum on Friday, June 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.