Stepping into Robert Woods' garden is like stepping into a sylvan haven.
Everything is organized, with a shaded path winding its way through the outskirts and a few places to stop, sit and take it all in.
“The property is bound by nine [other] properties, but it’s quiet. It’s a nice oasis,” Woods said.
It’s one of the eight gardens on the Stockade's Art & Nature Garden Tour, which takes place on Friday and Saturday. The tour raises money for The Stockade Association, which helps to preserve the historic district and supports neighborhood events.
“It seems like a lot of communities have garden tours or house tours,” said organizer Gloria Kishton. But this is really the only local event that combines garden tours with art.
In each of the eight gardens, there will be art installations from artists like Ruby Silvious, Kathy Klompas, Tina Johnston, Gary Avanzato, Sandy Lommen, Francelise Dawkins, Joy Muller-McCoola and Claire Morgan. There will also be over ten Plein air artists working in Riverside Park as a part of the tour. Attendees are welcome to stop by and see their process.
In Woods’ garden, fiber arts works by Kathy Klompas will be spread throughout; with printed silk scarves hanging from the pergola, creating a maze-like effect, an installation on the porch, and a large wall hanging placed right at the garden’s entrance. Woods’ built a mount so the later piece could be displayed properly.
Klompas’ fiber artworks are a perfect fit for the space.
“I was inspired to have a naturalized garden,” Woods said. Even in the summer heat, the garden remains relatively cool by the shade of the large butternut tree, along with the gingko tree. At this time, Woods’ garden focuses on green and leafy rather than brightly colored flowers. Though there’s plenty of that in the other gardens on the tour.
“There’s a really nice variety,” Kishton said.
There will also be hands-on kids activities including workshops with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, tie-dying and a butterfly garden.
The First Presbyterian Church (209 Union St.) is opening McKeel Hall to be a part of the celebration, where there will also be a commemorative exhibit of Gail Kort’s work. As a local artist, Kort captured the beauty of Thacher Park and many other Capital Region scenes in sweeping landscapes. Kort, who passed away in 2017, was a member of the Oakroom Artists. The exhibit is a chance for attendees to celebrate her life and her works, which always focused on the beauty around her.
“Through the generosity of the historical society we’ll have quilts to exhibit in McKeel Hall,” Kishton said. Each quilt is tied to the area in some way, whether it was made by someone in Schenectady long ago or passed down to someone who moved to the area.
“There’s a lot of history here,” Kishton said, referring to the Stockade.
Woods, who is an architect, will be bringing a bit of his own local history to the tour. Several years ago, right in the middle of his backyard garden, there was an archeological dig with the Schenectady County Community College archeology program. Led by Louise Bassa, students looked for any historical artifacts they could find. It was a good spot to look, as the Woods’ house dates back to 1703. They found cannon balls, bottles, a dozen British half copper pennies and some friendship rings (which the settlers gave to the Native Americans). Woods will have a display about the findings as part of the tour.
There will also be guides or “cheat sheets” in every garden, describing what various plants are and why the garden is laid out the way it is. The focus on the tour this year is zinnias. That’s their logo, which was designed by Kishton, and it’s what’s been planted all over the Stockade by not only the Association but the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation.
Tickets to the Garden Tour are $20 ahead of time, $25 the day of for adults. $10 for students and children under 12 are free. The tour runs from 4-8 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Saturday. For tickets and more information visit historicstockade.com.