This Sunday, serious as well as aspiring gardeners have a chance to spend the day strolling through 10 beautiful gardens in the 21st annual Atlantic County Little Gardens Club summer garden tour.

The self-guided tour set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will take garden lovers across the county, starting in Linwood and finishing up in Mays Landing. Detailed directions are included in the tour booklet, or visitors can plug the addresses into their GPS.

The tour begins at the Linwood Arboretum, a showcase for native New Jersey plants featuring beautiful camellias, hamamelis, magnolias, alliums, dogwoods, hydrangea and other rare and exotic plants. Make sure to see the bog that volunteers have created and learn about carnivorous plants. Now nearing its 10th year, many of the species are coming into their maturity and showing off their natural beauty.

A few blocks away, the yard of Jim and Tina Leonard features a variety of greens, unique plants and a beautiful green vase zelkova tree nestled together with many species. The space is punctuated with blue and white china pots, statuary and textiles to create a beautiful garden and comfortable outdoor space.

Nearby in Northfield, the tour includes the home of Paul and Helen Utts. Living near the bay and the bird sanctuary, the couple created a dry creek bed to redirect water to the bay, and around it they expanded their garden with perennials. They have become stewards of the earth by growing plants that benefit wildlife and said they are still learning and experimenting. Thus, their gardens are ever changing. Wildlife seem to enjoy the Utts’ garden, as owls and hawks are regular visitors.

The next stop on the tour is the D’Augustines’ Mays Landing garden. The couple’s one-acre lot features old favorites like rhododendron and azaleas coexisting with New Jersey native plants like redbud, dogwood, holly, hornbeam and hemlock, with a path in the woods leading to pink lady slippers.

Meanwhile, at the Mays Landing branch of the Atlantic County Library, the Master Gardeners have created and maintained a garden, much to the delight of library patrons. The group will perform demonstrations there as well as answer questions.

A half-mile from the library is the garden of Ian and Anne Nelson and Barbara Cole. The gardeners’ plan when they moved into the house 20 years ago was to have constant blooms from the first crocus in spring to fall aster and mums, and they have been very successful. Check out the colorful zinnia, phlox, daisies and lamb’s ear, along with dogwoods, crepe myrtle and more. The yard is home to critters like squirrels and toads and a variety of birds.

Drive around the block to the next home on the tour and experience the garden of Sue Lang Hacker, a serene space with plants and perennials for every season that in the summer attracts butterflies, bees and birds.

Tessa and Henry Goldsmith’s home on the banks of the Great Egg Harbor River is next on the tour. Their garden features iris, willow, sarracenia, cardinal flower and Joe Pye weed, which are visited often by dragonflies and frogs. A sunken garden is filled with perennials and flowering shrubs and accentuated with colorful annuals. Stop and listen for the peaceful sound of the waterfall, and enjoy the view of the river.

Finish up the tour in Mays Landing by visiting Craig’s Point on the river, where gardener Anne Craig invites visitors to venture up the sweeping driveway to discover what is ahead. Look for beautiful plants and trees and a summer breeze that gently blows past the flowers and shrubs. The garden looks out to the river, where bald eagles, river otters and many species of birds have found sanctuary.

Tickets for the 21st annual Little Gardens Tour are $15 and benefit civic and environmental projects.

Past beneficiaries include Smallwood Gardens in Port Republic, the Egg Harbor Township teaching garden, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Cookie Till’s A Work in Progress Foundation, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission Garden, the Linwood Arboretum and the Community FoodBank garden. The program is the ticket for the tour and provides information on each of the gardens as well as directions to each of the homes.

The tour is a rain-or-shine event. Tickets are available at Joe’s Garden Center in Absecon, Lang’s Garden Market in Linwood, Bob’s Garden Center in Egg Harbor Township and Homestead Nursery in Egg Harbor City.

For additional information, call Jean at 609-927-4961 or Meg at 609-822-5248.

Contact: 609-272-7234

Twitter @ACPress_Grote

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