“Wouldn’t it be fun to have an opportunity to see some private gardens in the Northern Neck?” The question was posed by Mary Lloyd Lay to three of her gardening friends in the summer of 2000. The ‘fun’ that ensued became an annual fundraising event known as ‘Just Gardens.’
The gardeners that were a part of the first tour and also part of the original team of organizers were Mary Lloyd Lay, Anne Olsen, Suzanne Haaland and C.J. Carter. Anne Dickerson, a member of The Haven’s board of directors, joined the fun as well. It was decided early on that the event needed a cause and The Haven was a natural choice. Maria Laqueur volunteered her administrative and creative talents and created brochures, flyers, tickets, maps and anything else that was needed.
Tour number one in 2001, covered the far reaches of Lancaster County. “Gardens from Wicomico Church to Kilmarnock, to Weems to Merry Point, and one garden at Yankee Point; it was quite a trek if you intended to see all seven gardens we had open that first year,” said C.J. Carter. “But wow, we knew right away we had a winner. Almost 400 people attended and the positive feedback kept coming weeks after the tour was over. The most asked question was “‘You’re going to do this again next year aren’t you?’” Carter went on to say.
“We realized we needed more help,” said Olsen. “Every garden was going to need one person in charge or a team of two in charge to deal with ticket taking, parking cars, identifying plants, putting together preliminary publicity info, writing a description of the garden and directions for the brochure; it’s a process. We have been very fortunate in getting master gardeners to assist in many of these arenas. And then there’s finding new gardens every year. That’s been a real challenge. We have had to broaden our search in an effort to find tour gardens.”
Coming into its 14th year and 13th tour (a much needed one year break was taken in 2012), the vision that began as an idea to educate and inspire new gardeners in the area, has become a yearly “don’t miss” event for hundreds of loyal followers. “We are really lucky to have found a new group of fantastic gardens in the Tappahannock area for this year’s tour,” Olsen said. “Look for more information in the coming weeks about each garden that will be open.”
-Read the full story in this week’s Northern Neck news, on stands now!