Garden tour sites welcome visitors during the pandemic
BY DENNY SCOTT
With the second year of lockdowns and pandemic in full swing, the group behind the Discover the Gardens of Huron Perth tour is directing people to its website instead of its annual pamphlet.
Rhea Hamilton-Seeger, who maintains the annual pamphlet, told The Citizen last year that the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented some of the regular events that allowed the distribution of the pamphlet, but reminded people that the information is available online at www.gardensofhuronperth.com.
She explained that some of the sites could easily be visited while maintaining your distance, including public gardens like Blyth’s Horticultural Park and the Butterfly and Memory Gardens, also in the village.
However, this year, the pamphlet won’t be created, she said, leaving people to go to the website for more information.
Hamilton-Seeger did point out some gardens that, despite the pandemic, continued to see a number of visitors last season and even into this season, including Willow Park Patch, Debbie Kuyvenhoven’s garden in Lower Town Wingham.
Kuyvenhoven said her garden is really more like a park to the surrounding community.
“People wander through,” she said. “It’s right beside our house, and it feels like a public park, so people don’t feel like they’re snooping around by visiting.”
She said she has an open garden sign and a number of people have been through the garden this year, though it’s not a matter of numbers, but of repeat visitors.
“They become regulars,” she said. “It becomes part of their walking tour. Dads come with their kids and the dads sit and talk in the gazebo while the kids run around.”
She said the visitors include people walking their dogs, families and older couples and a day doesn’t go past that someone isn’t there.
“There’s such a variety of people,” she said. “We had a couple of ladies that must have sat and talked for an hour there.”
She said that last summer was good, as the COVID-19 restrictions were loosened, and a 12-year-old went through the garden, returning a week later with his grandma to tour the site.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens,” she said.
The garden is open right now, she said, and with daffodils and magnolia in bloom, it’s a colourful spot to take in spring.
She said the seasonality of the garden makes it so, every three weeks, it’s a different experience, but it’s always full of life.
“Kids love running around with the trees to hide behind,” she said. “They don’t run through the flower beds, and it’s a place to have fun. That’s the idea I want it to be - just like a park.”
For more information, visit willowparkpatch.ca.
Thyra Knudsen and Patrick Capper’s Serendipity Garden, just south of Clinton, also saw significant use last year, though this year she says it’s been more family and friends visiting to take in the daffodils.
Knudsen said she saw more than 30 different visiting groups last year, some of whom came specifically to see the garden and others that came upon the site by chance.
“This year, we haven’t been able to officially open because it’s not a necessary thing for survival,” she said. “I’d argue with that, though, as it’s definitely good for mental health.”
The garden changes significantly over the season, she said, with ephemerals in the spring like tulips, blue bells and the narcissus-type family of flowers. There are also more than 1,600 daffodils throughout the site, which Knudsen said are a “generous” flower because they just keep coming.
Right now, there are also apple and pear trees in flower, she said, as well as crabapple, plum trees and wild cherries.
“It’s kind of a blossom time now for some of those plants,” she said.
The garden is split into two sections: the front half of the property, which includes landscaped sections, and the back part, which includes trails, wild asters, goldenrod and daisies. Knudsen said the back part is more of a butterfly garden than the front.
The back part of the garden also recently earned Knudsen a national accolade.
“[Last] week in the mail I got a certificate from the Canadian Wildlife Federation,” she said. “It certifies the space as a wildlife-friendly habitat.”
Knudsen has been working on the site for 11 years after moving to the property and realizing how much space there was.
“A lot of it was mowed,” she said. “There wasn’t any garden except right beside the front step, so as soon as I came, I started making flower beds around the trees.”
She said she has discovered many “gifts from the past”, or plants that are growing that she hasn’t planted like long-tube daffodils, pointed tulips and others.
“I’m always happy to see something come up that I didn’t plant,” she said.
For more information, contact Knudsen at 519-606-0016 and, when visiting is safe, she said people can stop by Serendipity Garden at 77759 London Road just south of Clinton.