Nancy Kohr, of Linwood, didn't volunteer to participate in next Sunday's summer garden tour by The Little Gardens Club. Her involvement comes closer to being drafted than anything else.

"Last year, my next door neighbor was on it. The ladies saw my yard. The ladies asked for my number. It got the ball rolling," said Kohr, who added garden club women visited in September to see if her home garden would be suitable for this year's tour. "I just thought it would be neat to be on it. I have been working on (the garden) more. I was flattered that they thought enough of it to put it on tour."

Whether for charity - as The Little Gardens Club tour is - or just for the public's enjoyment, summer tours through private gardens serve to show off the creativity of the homeowners and also provide new ideas to veteran and novice gardeners.

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Some of the tours raise money to benefit local charities. The Little Gardens tour, for example, has in the past benefited Gilda's Club Garden, the Audubon Society, the Linwood Arboretum and the Child Federation Garden.

Kohr is a window treatment designer. Her passion is her job, but her hobby is gardening. She and her husband maintain the garden without landscapers.

A mother of three, Kohr had added pressure on her with her garden this year. In May, she received a call from her oldest son, Tom Kohr, 30, who lives in New York. He wanted to ask his girlfriend to marry him a wedding held in the garden. He did so two weeks ago, and she said yes.

In preparation for the tour, Kohr pulled out hedges to replace them with flowers that bloom. She also increased the size of her flower beds and reduced the grass.

Even though The Little Gardens Club tour features only of private gardens in Egg Harbor Township and Linwood, the garden club members come from all over, including Port Republic, Mays Landing and Ocean City, said current President Tessa Goldsmith, of Mays Landing.

Goldsmith has been on most, if not all, of the 15 summer gardens tour sponsored by The Little Gardens Club. This year's tour will feature eight gardens.

"It's really so that people can get ideas and enjoy a total garden environment. A couple of years ago, we had one that actually had very few plants, but architecturally, it was stunning," Goldsmith said.

The club is dependent on people wanting to show their gardens for the summer tour, Goldsmith said.

"Generally, I personally advocate fall planting, but a lot of people don't. They don't do it until the spring (for the summer garden tour), but that's a personal thing," she said. For people who do like to plant in the fall, the commitment to participating in the garden tour can't be a last minute decision if they are to do any special plantings or displays.

"They have to know the year before to agree to do it, almost nine months in advance, so it gives them a fair crack at what they want to do," Goldsmith said.

Karen Panza, 60, of Somers Point, had only a few weeks to prepare her garden for visitors. She was asked in the middle of June if she wanted her garden to be a part of the Green Thumb Garden Club tour on June 29 in Somers Point.

Panza said yes, but she was anxious and nervous about having strangers see her garden that surrounds her house.

"The more flowers I have, the happier I am. I'm very surprised that I enjoy it as much as I do and that I spend so much time (gardening)," said Panza, who started gardening 28 years ago under the influence of her mother-in-law, Rosemarie Panza of Egg Harbor Township. "I feel it's about time I share it with others besides family and friends."

There are many shrubs and perennials in Panza's garden. She uses annuals - including hydrangeas - to supply a pop of color. She makes her own arrangements of flowers within her hanging baskets and pots. She has a raised herb garden and a vegetable garden with peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and tomatoes in her backyard.

Panza's garden is so large she and her husband, Bob, had to hook up an irrigation system to water the plants. But that doesn't stop her from engaging in some hand watering. Without the irrigation system, she estimates she would be spending an extra hour just watering. As it is, Panza spends between 15 to 20 hours weekly during the spring and three or four hours weekly in the summer maintaining her garden.

"It makes you feel good when all your hard work is appreciated by others," Panza said.

Marian Carlino, of Somers Point, said she has a "black thumb," but she admires peoples' handiwork, and the gardens that are out there. She took the Green Thumb Garden Tour in 2011.

"It was an opportunity to see some of the gardens that are hidden from public view. It's amazing when you get into the people's backyards and see what they have done," said Carlino, who added her experience on the 2011 tour was wonderful. "At each one, we received a chance to not only see the gardens and see that type of work, but it was a garden party... Each house, each gardener, explained the garden to us."

The children had as much fun as the adults as houses provided lemonade and cookies for them, Carlino said.

"You kind of followed the map. You got in your car and traveled to each yard," Carlino said. "It was amazing when you walked in the backyards and to see what the people had done... It brings the community together."

Carlino saw a garden with a Native American theme and one with a Storybook Land influence with Winnie-the-Pooh and Peter Rabbitt.

Ann Cinquina, of Egg Harbor Township, is a member of the Offshore Garden Club, formerly known as the Northfield Garden Club. Last year, Offshore Garden Club members opened their homes to the other 50 members of the club.

"I like to see the different types of shrubs that are out there that can be used in the southern New Jersey environment. I have more of a shade-type garden, so that interests me when I go to another garden that has a lot of shade," Cinquina said. "I have some sun. It's more dappled shade or shade all together because I have a lot of oak trees."

Cinquina's home was part of garden tours during the 2000s.

"I like people to see how I laid out my yard. It's more like a park environment, my yard, because I have about half an acre," Cinquina said. "That's the one thing about gardeners. They know their landscape is always changing because somethings happens, and we have to reconfigure."

Cinquina planned to do the Green Thumb Garden Tour and The Little Gardens Club tours this year.

The Garden Club of Ocean City tried to do a gardens tour twice, but in both cases, the weather did not cooperate, said Kay Reilly, a past president/director of the club, who has attended the The Little Gardens Club tour at least a half dozen times over the years.

"It's always different homes, and I always pick up something. It can be a new type of garden fencing. It doesn't even have to be actual gardening," Reilly said. "It can be a type of gardening where one lady divides her garden into perennials, annuals, vines and shade-loving plants, so you can see where she will have a rose garden in one part of the thing, and she will go into another area, which is all perennials. It's very interesting, I think."

Reilly has had Garden Club of Ocean City members over her house, and people who passed by have asked to look at her garden.

"I feel I always learn from somebody. I knew nothing about raising roses until I came down here and a friend was changing her garden, and I said, 'Oh well, let me try,' and she said, 'Down here, you have to really amend the soil with peet moss and good soil because of the way the soil is. I'm always learning."

Contact Vincent Jackson:


Little Gardens Club tour

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

July 14. Cost is $15. For more information, call 609-432-8695.

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