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South Windsor tour showcases variety of garden ‘personalities’

Counting visitors and selling raffle tickets at the 2014 garden tour hosted by t

In early June, at least in this part of New England, most gardens are full of new plantings and just-emerging perennials. It will take a few more weeks for beds to fill in and create the lush landscape envisioned by their creators.

Still, the 2014 tour hosted by the Down to Earth Garden Club of South Windsor gave visitors a taste of things to come, and offered a chance to talk with other gardeners about unusual plants and creative uses of the natural landscape.

Among the seven homes featured on the tour, which was a fundraiser benefiting the garden club and Wood Memorial Library, one of the favorites was that of Bob and Shirley Smith on Clark Street.

“It’s like a paradise,” said visitor Mary Knell.

“It’s a great place to have a wedding,” added her husband, Gary.

Visitors entering the property were first greeted with the aroma of cedar trees.

And then, from the distance came the deep-throated croaking of bullfrogs who have made their home in the marshy spots on the outskirts of a man-made pond.

The pond reflects the images of plants and trees on its circumference, as well as a gazebo and the arch of a footbridge leading to a grove of black walnut trees, where the undergrowth has been cleared to allow a carpet of soft grass to cover the area.

The abundance of trees on these 10-plus acres creates a cool sanctuary.

Next to the house is a pool with a glassed-in bathhouse that, according to Bob Smith, is heated in the winter so that it can be used for relaxing year-round.

Both sides of the fence that rings the pool area are landscaped with a variety of flowers and shrubs.

“This is just lovely,” said Nancy Watt, who walked in the walnut grove with her husband, Jim.

“We go on this tour every time it’s held, even in the rain. We get lots of ideas for our own gardens,” she said.

Smith, who owns the Dur-A-Flex company, gave credit to his personal gardener, Kathy Niver of Hebron, and landscaper Jeff Hutton of Earthworks, based in Tolland, for pulling together the different elements of the property to create relaxing vistas, quiet walking areas and cozy entertainment spaces.

Another tour favorite was the Timber Trail property owned by Bert Kissling and “Jo” Johari Abdullah. One of the eye-catching features of their multiple gardens was a small waterfall next to the deck and below a bay window that feeds a fish pond inhabited by Koi fish (Japanese carp), the largest of which is about 15 years old, Abdullah said.

Gina Lyons, whose Tallwood Drive gardens also were featured on the tour, talked with Abdullah about how the fish pond was created and was pleased when he offered to visit her property to help her plan her own.

Lyons also praised the overall design of the gardens, which included tall stands of bamboo shading seating areas and pathways. “These gardens are just beautiful. I would sit here all day,” she said.

Lyon said she enjoys working side-by-side with her husband, Tim, on their landscaping projects, which mainly border a white fence surrounding their property.

In addition to ornamental grasses, shrubs and annuals, the Lyons have added potted plants and hangers to their comfortable deck and around the property, including a sherbet pink/orange begonia beside a “golden” bleeding heart.

A red hibiscus with twining stalks added a pop of color next to a mound of chartreuse ground cover and other plantings beside their garden shed.

To learn more about the Down to Earth Garden Club, visit the website

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