Gardens across Atlantic County were dressed in their finest shades for the 20th annual Little Gardens Club summer tour Sunday. Each of the 10 stops along the tour had something uniquely individual about their garden that made it special.
The first stop on the tour was the Linwood Arboretum, a small swath of land that has become a horticultural classroom to its visitors. Its phoenix-like creation, turning an old electric substation into a green space that has been written up in The New York Times, is always a great beginning to the annual tour.
In Egg Harbor Township, Carolyn and Jeff Van Debussche’s garden is ever evolving. Beautiful water features highlight this meandering half-acre that includes purple passion flowers climbing up the fence and a redwood tree that was 4 feet when planted but 20 years later towers above the other treetops.
Across town, Sharon Vitale’s garden is a lesson in how art and nature blend together. Vitale said she was raised on a dairy farm in the Catskills. When she moved here, she wanted to bring some of the beauty of home with her. The walkway through the garden is lined with stone brought from upstate New York. So many spots in the nearly one-acre garden are filled with plants from family and friends. The very center of the garden is repurposed farm equipment straight from her youth that her son Brett Vitale, a metal sculptor, has fashioned into “The Farm.” It is surrounded by peonies from her mother’s garden. She and her sister Cheryl McCrea shared a reflective moment Sunday remembering so much about family through their garden.
Down the road, Elaine Herron’s garden was a quiet oasis hidden from the cars that pass on Ridge Avenue. A lovely pond, large potting shed and pops of color abound in this half-acre spot. The layout is perfect for family events and has been the venue for three family weddings complete with dinner and dancing.
Pat and Scott Warner have been in their home since 1969, and Scott Warner said the half-acre lot was a blank slate when they moved in with just a few trees. Now, the home boasts splashes of color at every glance. Water features throughout allow visitors to stroll and enjoy the bubbling sound of water to add to the visual.
The tour then headed to the other side of Atlantic County with five homes in Port Republic. For Janet Longo, the garden consumes much of her time but is also a place where she finds a great deal of enjoyment. Butterflies and other pollinators enjoyed a Sunday afternoon visit to this large garden.
Across the street, Steve Whitford was happy to talk about his wildlife-friendly garden. At nearly 3 acres, the garden sprawls from Main Street to Nacote Creek. An environmental scientist by trade, Whitford has several bogs planted near the house and uses one exclusively to filter a koi pond.
Deer are a part of life in Port Republic, and the gardeners make exception to keep the deer happy and to keep a healthy garden. Jaime Santiago said he uses a natural repellent, “Just Scentsational,” to keep the deer at a safe distance.
Cheryle Amico, president of the Little Gardens Club, said the club will use funds raised by the tour to fund a number of regional environmental projects like the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the Community FoodBank garden, the Linwood Arboretum and Cookie Till: A Work in Progress Foundation.