Did you ever see a closed gate for a tall, solid fence and wonder what was behind it? Did you ever see a row of tall hedge bushes and imagine what was beyond the green fence? Were you ever so curious that you snuck in to take a quick peek? And if the fences were locked up tight, did that pique your interest even more? Was that answer “constantly”?
On June 4, 2011, I got a chance to look beyond hedges and past locked fences into some beautiful retreats for the soul during the annual Annapolis Secret Garden Tour, sponsored by the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis. I was a true passenger on this trip, since I went with my very good friend and tour veteran. Both of us are devout Plantaholics and not ashamed to admit it. We both unabashedly look for ideas from others on how to jazz up our own gardens. I, especially, look for what survives under specific conditions, since I have a questionable ability to grow a variety of plants in my yard.
We started the day at the First Presbyterian Church yard, where we picked up our tickets and maps, and completely absolved ourselves from going to the gym that day. We were in for some serious walking. The tour was totally self-guided and all you needed to do was follow the sunflower markers. Being a bit rebellious, we started at the end of the tour, with the garden at the Harbor View Inn on St. Mary’s Street.
Local businesses and realtors took the opportunity to show off some of the houses as well as the gardens. Some gardens were professionally landscaped, and it was interesting to see the latest trends in landscaping. Some gardens have many gardeners collaborating into the look of the garden. St. Mary’s Church Meditation Garden was just such a location. Hidden well in this quiet haven is the Children’s Garden, filled with plants that are aromatic and tactilely stimulating to young curious minds. The gardens of the Charles Carroll House, on the same site as St. Mary’s Church, beckoned to brides and their photographers with lush, formal vistas that include the harbor. We were also able to tour the Charles Carroll House; to see how one of our country’s founding fathers lived.
The tour also allowed us to peek into many private home gardens and experience the personal touches added by many Historic District residents. Several homeowners wanted every view in the garden to be peaceful and relaxing. Many also capitalized on their water views and worked their docks into their landscapes. One particular home focused on the children who either lived there or visited often. This landscape had several secret passages through and within the hedges, complete with guardian fairies, frogs and twinkle lights. Vistas in these homes were rich, so that a movie buff like me can imagine another time period and see Gatsby and Daisy strolling across the lawn, or Daniel Day Lewis’ character seeking Michelle Pfieffer’s at the docks, as in “The Age of Innocence”.
The Secret Garden Tour is an annual event scheduled for the first full weekend in June. The gardens offered for viewing change each year, although I am assured that there are a few repeated gardens. The tour planners bring a wide variety of landscape styles from both public and private gardens into view. A passionate gardener can get so many ideas, from the types of plants to use in certain garden locations, to ways to personalize the space and make you home garden environmentally friendly. There is a charge for the tour and the proceeds are used by the Hammond-Harwood House Association Inc. The House itself is open for touring and gives a glimpse into the colonial Annapolis everyday life. Check for more information, costs, and special programs offered at www.HammondHarwoodHouse.org. This is a great place to visit for some experiential (and “stealth”) learning in American history and culture for students of our area. Not far from home, inexpensive, and educational – can’t beat that for a summer field trip!
Originally published in the Arden on the Severn NewsBuoy - July, 2011 as "A View from the Passenger Seat"