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Get Growing: Tour time

Garden tour season is in full swing with Whately this weekend and both Amherst and Shutesbury the last weekend in June.

Why go on tours?

First of all, it’s fun — even when it rains. Gardeners are fairly intrepid about weather so a few showers won’t stop us from admiring plants. Northampton was lucky last weekend. The forecast was dismal but Mother Nature took pity on the organizers and it was a lovely day. I only got to see three gardens this year, but they were all stellar. One friend who saw most of them commented it was one of the best Northampton tours ever. I’m sorry I didn’t see more.

Nancy Goldstein’s roses were just coming out. Her Buddleia argentifolia was stunning and her small parterre potager was lovely. I especially liked the fennel. Ruth Folchman’s garden is full of whimsy, but in a restrained manner. Several years ago I noticed her gazebo under construction and wished I could write about it. Now her garden is on my list of future columns. It is a wonderful mélange of secret gardens, beautiful plants (huge hostas) and delightful statues peeking out from behind plants. And I had to visit Julie Abramson’s garden again to show it to a friend.

A second reason for touring gardens is to find new plants. Every time I interview a gardener I end up adding to my wish list of plants. This time it is Geranium phaeum ‘Samobol’ in Abramson’s garden. It has distinctive foliage reminiscent of a pelargonium with lovely markings. The dark flowers don’t appeal to me as much, but the foliage provides wonderful all-season texture. In Whately I was reminded that the hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’) was on this year’s wish list and I haven’t purchased it yet. It does light up a shady corner.

Years ago a Northampton gardener had a huge pot of the annual Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’. I bought a plant and have managed to overwinter it indoors, three pots of it, some from cuttings. Now it is heading to the porch for the summer. Another plant I saw in a tour garden in Amherst is Gillenia trifoliata or Bowman’s Root, really a subshrub. It just finished blooming in my garden and was quite gorgeous this year. The star-like white blossoms are great for flower arrangements and the plant has great stature in the garden.

So, when you go on garden tours, be sure to take a notebook and ask questions about plants you admire. Then you can start your own wish list.

The Amherst tour, sponsored by the Amherst Historical Society, will feature seven gardens on June 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour. Members of the historical society can purchase tickets for $15 each.

Tickets are available at these Amherst locations: A.J. Hastings, the Historical Society at the Strong House, Annie’s Garden & Gift Store and Andrew’s Greenhouse. The Hadley Garden Center will have them as well. There are also raffle tickets available.

The Shutesbury Garden tour is June 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are nine gardens on the tour. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the tour. They can be purchased at Shutesbury Town Hall and the town library as well as the Shutesbury Farmers Market and at A.J. Hastings. Proceeds will help landscape Shutesbury’s public spaces. One of those public spaces is on the tour: The Highway Department Berm at 187 Leverett Rd., planted by local gardeners. A plant sale will be held there during tour hours and tour tickets will be for sale.

ROSES FOR DADS: Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston offers free admission to fathers on Father’s Day. There is a rose show from noon to 5 p.m. at the garden. General admission is $12, seniors $9. For details check www.towerhillbg.org.

ROSE WEEKEND AT ELIZABETH PARK: Elizabeth Park in Hartford has one of the oldest and most beautiful rose gardens in New England. It celebrates Rose Weekend on June 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be an herb plant sale, specialty vendors and displays and tours of the garden. There will also be rose garden tours on June 18 and June 27 starting at 10 a.m. at the entrance to the rose garden. For more information including directions check www.elizabethpark.org.

WATER FEATURES: Wistariahurst Museum offers a lecture on water features on June 22 at 11 a.m. at the museum on Cabot Street in Holyoke. Jeff Paquette, owner of Picture Perfect Ponds, is the speaker. A donation of $5 is suggested to help restore the historic gardens.

JAM-MAKING WORKSHOP: It’s strawberry season and a good one this year. Learn how to make strawberry jam with your own home-grown berries or those picked locally on Thursday, 6-8 p.m., at the Bangs Community Center in Amherst. Peg Thibbitts will demonstrate proper techniques for safe preservation of berries. Each participant will take home a jar of strawberry jam.Participants — limited to 20 — must preregister by contacting Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst sustainability coordinator, at ciccarellos@amherstma.gov or by calling her at 269-3149. The program is sponsored by Grow Food Amherst.

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