24th Annual Garden Tour in aid of Grandmothers Garden in Westfield

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‘Summer Days, Summer Dreams’ is the theme of this year’s 24th Annual Garden Tour at Westfield. Six families open their private gardens for public viewing, welcoming people who come to see dazzling displays of flowers, trees, foliage, and the unpredictable spectacle of nature.

Richard and Donna Sabonis’ garden is one of six on the tour. The couple turned over the soil, pulled out the weeds and got their plants in perfect condition for their guests. Visitors will walk through an archway inviting people to come see what’s inside the garden – an array of annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees and foliage.

Donna is delighted to welcome friends and strangers into her private space. “We work very hard on what we do. We have never been asked to do this before. We are delighted that they asked us to allow people to come in and see our garden. It makes us happy to have people come and see what we have done,” she said.

The tour begins at Grandmothers Garden at Chauncey Allen Park, 62 Smith Ave. Tickets for the tour are $15 in advance or $20 on the day of the event. This is a self-guided tour with people following directions and leading to each of the six houses on the tour.

The money raised will benefit Grandmothers’ Garden, which has survived on donations and volunteer gardeners since the city withdrew funding in 1994, saying it would close the garden unless private citizens take it over.

Betty Platt is Co-Chair of the Grandmothers Garden Tour Committee. “There is a long list of things to do in the gardens. Everything needed is mostly paid for by the tour. Without this fundraiser, Grandmothers’ Garden wouldn’t exist,” Platt said.

Funds from this year’s tour will help rebuild and restore the Rose Garden and Garden Path. Corporate sponsors also help fund annual upgrades.

“Grandmothers’ garden is a wonderful place. It’s very soothing. It is a very nice place to go. It’s a worthy cause, just something we should support because it’s been around for so many years. It was created 88 years ago,” Platt said.

Platt promises a peaceful walk through the six gardens. People will enjoy seeing different garden designs and the colors and scent of thousands of plants.

“It’s my therapy. I like to see the birds and to create the gardens. The visit will bring people a lot of fun. There’s something great about being outside in a garden,” she said.

Platt expects around 400 people to make the rounds this year. Some will see all six gardens in one day; others will take two days to see everything. Some people even go around twice, soaking up the beauty of nature and their neighbors.

Most of the tour participants are gardeners looking for inspiration and ideas from host families. Donna Sabonis begins each year with a plan that she and her husband create and bring to life. The garden doesn’t always do what they expect – there’s a lot of tinkering and tweaking as the couple learns from what the garden is telling them.

“We like to try different flowers and see how they work, or sometimes don’t work. It is an education that teaches how to nurture plant life,” she said.

Tickets for the Garden Tour can be purchased in advance by posting a check payable to FOGG and sending it to FOGG, PO Box 1432, Westfield, MA 01086. Tickets are also available at Grandmothers’ Garden the day of the event. The tour runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit grandmothersgarden.org.

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