Stratford District Horticultural Society Garden Tour returns in July

  • Community   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Lisa Chester-Hanna
BACK ON TOUR – The Stratford Garden Tour, put on by the Stratford and District Horticultural Society, returns to an in-person event this July for the first time in two years.

BACK ON TOUR – The Stratford Garden Tour, put on by the Stratford and District Horticultural Society, returns to an in-person event this July for the first time in two years.

The Stratford Garden tour returns to town Sunday, July 3 after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic. Ron Nichol, who sits on the Garden Tour committee is happy to see the return. The Stratford District Horticultural Society (SDHS) has a number of different committees for different events for example, there is a committee for the annual plant sale in May, and educational events.

The garden tour has been going on about twenty-five years, with the exception of the last two. It first started in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. This year, there are eight private houses encompassing the tour. The houses are selected sometimes by people in the community recommending a particular garden, or it could be a member of the Horticultural Society volunteering their own garden to be included. There is no specific criteria for selection, just an interest in gardening and some interesting gardens to show.

There is an unofficial criteria that a house that has been on the tour cannot be in the tour again for ten years. Every year provides a new experience to participants, making the tour a wonderful event to make an annual outing.

Tour participants can usually expect to see the homeowners around to answer questions. There will be two volunteers from the SDHS at each of the eight home gardens checking passes, answering questions, and showing the way in and out. 

“There will also be a Master Gardener on hand from the Stratford District Master Gardeners for plant identification and the homeowner is on hand to answer questions about the development of the garden, what the criteria for the selection of plants is, if they have a particular focus, like shade or sun, or a native pollinator garden,” explained Nichol.

The gardens selected this year should prove to be interesting with unique development rather than commonality. One garden included on the tour belongs to Kathy and Ross Robertson, at 28 Blowes Drive. Here you are greeted by a lively and colourful front garden before the porch where the Robertsons can enjoy the view in a pair of chairs. Kathy has been gardening for over 40 years at various homes, but this was her first with what would become her sun garden. When building their current home, they told the builder not to put grass in the backyard, knowing then that the back would transform into what it is today.

“We moved into this house, coming up to four years, this is the third summer. We wanted to create a view, rather than just the fence. It’s a new neighbourhood with no trees, so I thought we had to make the most with what we had. We told the builder no grass, and it was just the clay dirt so we brought in truckloads of dirt and compost, there’s still some clay but we’re working on that. We have lots of worms now,” laughed Kathy.

Clay has been a struggle, particularly the second summer when there was too much rain. To combat the excess moisture a French drain was installed with weeping tiles.

She still has about 175 seedlings left to plant mostly zinnias, but not your ordinary zinnia. These seeds were colours that you don’t see, and some that will be 5 feet tall. There’s a specific sunflower that she has wanted to get that look more like a daisy, and has been looking for these seeds for a couple years now.

“I try to get as much colour as I can because I’m an artist and paint flowers. I’m always looking for photos that I can paint, so I have been out there photographing the pink tree peony in all its forms to try to get a painting out of that. Funnily enough I also like tomatoes and like to paint them as well,” said Robertson.

Robertson is not a member of the Horticultural Society but has extensive gardening experience. Being a member is not a prerequisite to having your garden as part of the tour. Her skills as a professional photographer and artist lend well to her choices in colours and design. 

“It’s nice for people to see different things, and different types of gardens,” said Kathy, “and it’s fun,” added Ross. “You see some manicured pristine gardens that are beautiful, and you see some that are jungles that are beautiful, sort of a natural thing,” he said.

In the garden there is different textures and colours. She is a fan of lime green in the garden so there are a number of perennials in her favourite colour.  She thinks because she was a food stylist, she is good at arranging things and is good with colour and texture which is what is essential to a food stylist. She hasn’t had to spend too much time moving things around, once they were planted they mostly stayed.

“Except once I found I had three white things together and I nearly lost my mind.”

She planned it quite well, and every morning sits and thinks about what might go where. She even drew a map to scale to identify what was where, because with hundreds of plants it’s easy to forget what might be coming up in the spring.

“Every time we go to the nursery she says she’s not going to buy anything more but then it’s oh! Look at that,” laughed Ross.

“I always feel that if you have a nice backyard and you enjoy being in it, especially during COVID, it was really nice. We are lucky with the sunroom; it’s really long so we could have two people at the table and two in the middle and two at the end of the room and everyone could safely visit.”

What is unique about the garden, is that it is accessible. Kathy is handicapped and designed the garden to accommodate her limitations. There’s stones throughout the garden for her to reach the plants safely with room for her to get around. By the time visitors come for the garden tour on July third, you can expect lots of blues and oranges, purples and lime greens, as the beautiful perennials will have matured.

Kathy’s paintings are often available to see and purchase at Village Studios at the Festival Market Mall. Tickets for the Stratford Garden Tour are available to purchase at Cozyn’s Garden Gallery and Sebringville Garden Centre. Passes are $15 each or two for $25. The event runs from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., and for the holdouts who wait until the day of to buy passes, there will be a table outside of City Hall on July 3 until 1p.m.