Inaugural Coastal Garden Tour shines light on local gardens

Coastal Point photos • Susan Lyons: A glimpse of one of the gardens that will be featured on the inaugural garden tour on Thursday, June 29.Coastal Point photos • Susan Lyons: A glimpse of one of the gardens that will be featured on the inaugural garden tour on Thursday, June 29.Nine private gardens and one local landmark in the Fenwick Island area will be in the spotlight next week, and members of the Barefoot Gardeners Club have been very busy getting those gardens ready for their close-up.

On Thursday, June 29, the club will host its inaugural Coastal Garden Tour, featuring nine homes located on the oceanside, bayside and in between. The Fenwick Island Lighthouse grounds, which the club members have also been tending to for years, will also be a highlight of the tour.

Last Saturday morning, many of the club members attended a “preview” tour, during which Gregory Tepper — director of horticulture for the Delaware Botanic Gardens — provided helpful information on each garden to the Barefoot Gardeners members who will be hosting each of them on tour day.

As Tepper and the gardeners traveled to each garden, he could be heard uttering the scientific names of many of the plants on display and giving tips as to where each grows best. At one stop, Tepper gave advice that could be the theme for all gardens: “It’s trial and error,” he said.

The gardens on the Coastal Garden Tour are a testament to that. Some have been planted, replanted, cultivated and loved for more than 50 years; others have been brought to their present glory after being recreated and reimagined after storms and home renovations have done them harm.

In the case of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse grounds, the Barefoot Gardeners have maintained the property around the lighthouse, which is owned by the State of Delaware, since 2008. They paid for water service and irrigation for the garden there, and members have carefully chosen plants that would have been found in the area in the lighthouse’s earliest days, in the late 1800s, such as boxwoods, hollyhocks, Shasta daisies and native grasses.

The lighthouse property is significant because of its historical importance in the town, as well as the abundance of native plants that grace its landscaping. Members of the Barefoot Gardeners regularly spend time pulling weeds, pruning and grass-cutting on the historic property, in cooperation with the Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, garden tour committee chair Carol McCloud said.

The Barefoot Gardeners formed as a club in 2004 and have been involved with the lighthouse “pretty much since the beginning,” McCloud said.

The tour also includes an oceanfront property, six bayside homes and two properties on Route 54 in West Fenwick.

McCloud said the 59-member club began planning the tour about a year ago. Although the club has held tours of members’ gardens before, this is the first time it has held a public tour. The inaugural event is set for Thursday, June 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be held rain or shine, McCloud said.

Since the Barefoot Gardeners maintain the gardens at the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, including it in the club’s first public tour was a natural choice, and it was the first garden chosen for the tour, according to McCloud.

While most of the gardens belong to club members, in addition to the lighthouse, there are three other properties that McCloud said will add even more dimension to the tour.

The Campbell property on Route 54 is historically significant to the area — particularly its agricultural roots, McCloud said. “It’s part of the history of the area,” and the property features a vegetable garden and an extensive collection of historical artifacts, she said.

The Cabot property on the bayside in the town of Fenwick Island and the Zonko property on Route 54 add even more variety to the mix, McCloud said.

All proceeds from the tour will go to the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek in Dagsboro. The Barefoot Gardeners have been involved in that project “since Day 1,” McCloud said, and members can often be found volunteering on the grounds.

The Delaware Botanic Gardens is a 10-year project designed to result in a major public garden along Piney Neck Road. The parcel has a unique mix of upland plateau, woodlands and more than 1,000 feet of tidal waterfront on Pepper Creek, and organizers are seeking to bring visitors from the local area and beyond, for both education and pleasure.

Tickets to the Coastal Garden Tour cost $25 in advance and are available at the Coastal Point office in Ocean View, the Good Earth Market in Clarksville, the at Bayville Postal in the Bayville Shopping Center in West Fenwick, Atlantic Body Works in Millville and Southern Exposure in Fenwick Island. They will also be for sale at Fenwick Town Hall on weekends until the tour. Tickets will also be available the day of the tour, at any of the tour sites, for $30.