Garden tour to display range of nature’s color, richness

If you want to be inspired by the opulence of nature, take in the 8th Annual Soroptimist Internation
Marigolds and daisies cover John George’s garden.
Marigolds and daisies cover John George’s garden.

If you want to be inspired by the opulence of nature, take in the 8th Annual Soroptimist International of Schenectady Garden Tour this Saturday.

The service organization has put together a selection of nine gardens throughout Schenectady County that will dazzle visitors with their blooms, vegetables, fruits, herbs, exotic plants, ponds, outdoor rooms and sculpture gardens.

One stop is the home of John and Paulette George of Glenville. John George’s childhood home in western New York included a half-acre of gardens. He developed a love of flower gardens from his mother, grandmother and aunts, all of whom loved to garden themselves. He used to weed their gardens as well as a neighbor’s garden. That love of gardening carried over to his adult life. Over the past 37 years, George and his wife, Paulette, have created a getaway right in their own yard.

Soroptimist International of Schenectady 8th Annual Garden Tour

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, rain or shine

WHERE: Schenectady, Scotia, Glenville and Niskayuna

HOW MUCH: $12 advance, $15 day of event

MORE INFO: 885-9710, 339-3119 or

Visitors to the Georges’ home on the tour will be greeted with the sweet perfume of pure white casa blanca lilies and see evidence of avid gardening right when they arrive, as there are roses, hostas and daylilies in the front yard.

There are several garden beds, each a little different.

In the shade

One of the newest is a shade garden to the right of the house. In the front part of this garden bed, George planted a variety of grasses, as well as hostas and three different varieties of lugularia, a perennial with tall sprays that will blossom all summer. There are ferns and irises also, which he dug out of the woods behind his home. The background of the bed is made of wild lilies and lily of the valley that he also relocated from the rear of his property. “I like some of the wild plants that grow,” said George of the mix in the garden.

Across from this shade garden is another garden that borders the fence that encloses a good part of the yard, including the in-ground pool. The assortment of plants covers the length of the fence. Again, there are the grasses that he likes, stella de oro daylilies, sweet William (a cousin of the carnation), echinacea (also known as purple cone flowers) and bleeding heart plants in white and pink, which are very easy to grow, he said. There are also delphinium in blue and white, which can be “a little fussy about where they live,” George said.

His love of flowers and wildlife is evident in this garden, where there are purple and white liatris and allium, with their large spherical blooms to attract butterflies. There are daisies, lupines, phlox, digitalis and fairy tale roses that bloom the entire summer. “The fairy tale roses are pretty, showy and easy to grow,” George said.

Behind the fence is a vegetable and fruit garden that yields 30 or more quarts of raspberries each summer. Some of the raspberry bushes came from George’s father, who he described as a great gardener. The grandchildren from Ohio like to visit at peak raspberry-picking time to help harvest the bounty of this sweet fruit, which the Georges turn into pies and jam.

Farther back, to the right of the fruit and vegetable garden, is a honeysuckle-bedecked arbor that leads to yet another flowerbed that blooms in waves all summer, with daylilies, black-eyed susans, ferns, daisies, roses, grasses and Russian sage. There are also irises that came from his parents’ gardens in western New York, as well as climbing geraniums and clematises on trellises on the walls of an outbuilding that borders the garden.

Planting, weeding

George said that the bulk of the work in the garden takes place in late spring, and once everything is planted, tilled and cleaned up, he spends about four to five hours a week weeding. He admits that he is not obsessive about weeding, and he doesn’t use mulch. “I’m not a complete believer that weeds can’t grow with flowers,” he said.

Another garden borders the back of the house. This has peonies, daylilies and hydrangeas.

Interspersed throughout the gardens are hummingbird feeders and birdhouses and feeders that George built. A “bird hotel,” as George nicknamed it, stands in the vegetable garden. He constructed it from hemlock that was on his grandfather’s farm. “It’s a neat little piece of history — something to remember,” he said.

The centerpiece of the backyard is a cedar gazebo, surrounded by shrubs and adorned with hanging baskets of petunias and other flowers. Paulette takes care of all the containers, deadheading the plants every day. By mid-summer, the blossoms will triple in size and hang eight to 10 inches over the sides of their pots.

“They’re absolutely beautiful,” George said. The couple like to sit out in the gazebo to read and enjoy nature, perhaps after an evening swim.

Beneficiaries of tour

Proceeds from the garden tour go to help fund the special projects, scholarships and awards of Soroptimist International of Schenectady. These activities benefit local women, girls, and organizations supporting women’s issues.

Pre-sale tickets are $12 and day-of-tour tickets are $15. If you buy five tickets, you get one free.

The following vendors are selling tickets for the tour: The Petal Pusher, Saratoga Road, Burnt Hills; Scott’s Hallmark, Mayfair Plaza, Saratoga Road, Glenville; Oliver’s Cafe, Freeman’s Bridge Road, Scotia; Felthousen’s Florist, Van Antwerp Road, Niskayuna; The Open Door Bookstore, Jay Street, Schenectady; and Experience & Creative Design, Union Street, Schenectady.

Categories: Life and Arts

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