By Stephanie Choate
In a canopy of shade between a 19th century farmhouse and a cattail-framed pond, Williston residents Joe Haller and Al Turgeon are hard at work preparing their North Williston Road property for a parade of midsummer guests. Haller deftly plucks weeds from between poppies, zinnias and geraniums, while Turgeon methodically edges the flowerbed.
“Gardening isn’t any fun unless it can be shared,” Haller said. “Most of my enjoyment comes from stopping my weeding and walking around and talking about it with someone.”
Haller and Turgeon’s property is one of seven private Williston gardens that will be on display as part of the 18th annual Flynn Garden Tour on July 13. It’s been 10 years since the tour came to Williston.
Haller and Turgeon said the tour provided a motivational end date for several garden projects and they stressed that the money raised goes toward a good cause.
The ticket sales benefit the education programs at the Flynn—affordable matinees for 40,000 schoolchildren each year, including approximately 7,000 free tickets for those children who cannot otherwise afford to go.
“It’s a good excuse to go out and see the beauty of Vermont while supporting a fantastic program,” Haller said.
At Two Acre Farm, enormous lush hostas—punctuated by delphiniums and yellow peonies—fill the walkway between the white farmhouse and traditional picket fence. The herb garden is a nod to a more formal European design, with boxwood and red lettuce dividing the herbs into four squares. Espaliered apple trees are trained near the road, and a vegetable garden produces a variety of summertime eating.
“You name it, I think it’s in here,” Turgeon said.
Further away from the house, the property becomes more farmlike. Muscovy ducks forage in a pond and two sheep graze in a pasture. Like on any good farm, a cat roams the property.
Turgeon and Haller bought the farm in 2007 and have been slowly transforming and evolving it while trying to stay true to the property’s agricultural roots.
“I wanted to create a pastoral feel but also have it as a creative outlet for me,” Haller said. “I have favorite plants and I wanted to incorporate those favorite plants but continue the legacy of the farm, which is especially important in the Williston area…perhaps that’s something we need to retain and make accessible.”
Turgeon said their neighbors have small children who frequent the property, along with Haller’s niece and nephew.
“We’re enjoying the fact that this is also enjoyable to our neighbors,” he said. “We want people who come to the property to feel welcomed.”
THE ANNUAL TOUR
Gina Haddock, the Flynn’s development director, said the diversity of the gardens on the tour is what draws people every year. Garden Tour Board Chairwoman Cheryl Dorschner, a Williston resident, has spent the last two years honing the perfect mix of gardens.
“Some are grand, beautiful gardens, some are working garden where people are doing homesteading and trying to live off the land,” Haddock said. “We have featured very small suburban gardens with a lot of container gardening, because people live like that and they love ideas.”
The tour also offers an education component. Many of the stops feature speakers and demonstrations, including flower arranging, terrariums and garden painting. Among the list of gardening experts involved is Sabrinajoy Milbury, who owns Williston’s Just Dancing Gardens.
“Each garden is its own little special experience,” Haddock said.
The tour wraps up with a social event from 3-4 p.m.—tea at Gardener’s Supply Company in Williston.
“It’s just a really nice way to end the garden tour and make it special and fun,” Haddock said. “We want people to have fun, we want people to learn, we want people to experience beauty and a sense of community.”
The tea will also feature a question and answer series with gardening experts.
“Even at the end of the day gardeners are not too tired to ask what’s eating their garlic and why their basil is losing leaves or why their lilac leaves are curling.” Dorschner said.
ART IN THE GARDEN
A theme of this year’s tour is art in the garden. All day, local artists will set up their canvases in various locations and paint. Visitors can watch their creations unfold, and check in with the final products at the tea.
“If you went to the first garden and all you saw was the beginning of (a painting), you can see how it turned out,” Dorschner said.
Sweet Grass Gallery & Gifts in the historic village will host several artists, opening on Sunday for the event.
“Because there will be plein air painters in some of the gardens on the tour, we decided to focus on the container and ornamental side of gardening,” Alyson Chase, Sweet Grass owner, wrote in an email to the Observer.
Two potters, Jen Kenney and Raquel Sobel, will hold wheel-throwing demonstrations. The gallery will also host a flower arranging demonstration—made with containers created by Sweet Grass featured artists—and a terrarium construction demonstration.
Local artist Sarah Rosedahl will have a selection of paintings from her “31 Days of Mary Oliver” series on display for the tour.
“Other artists are bringing in their garden-themed art, including garden ornaments my from re-purposed china and glass by Marcia Spine and wren houses and toad abodes by potter Jen Kenney,” Chase wrote.
For more information about the tour, visit www.flynncenter.org. Tickets are $40 and include a garden booklet and map, as well as badge to grant visitors access to the gardens. They are on sale online and at Gardener’s Supply Company.