This is not your grandmother’s garden tour. On the contrary, the Cassina Garden Club has turned its traditional one-day Tabby & Tillandsia Garden Walk event into a weeklong celebration of gardening and community-building through working together.
Titled “It’s a Southern Thing!,” the garden walk will take place nearly completely on the south end of St. Simons Island. According to garden walk co-chair JoAnn Frick, the walk will provide not only inside views of the best gardens, but insight into the culture and history of the community.
“It’s all about community,” said co-chair Nancy Muldowney. “This year’s garden walk focuses on building community through coordination and outreach. With the theme of ‘Southern’ hospitality, welcoming friends and strangers into our homes and gardens and a willingness to share with others, we hope to build good feelings in our community.”
The week begins on Earth Day. From 9 a.m. to noon April 22 at the Cassina Tabby Cabins at Gascoigne Bluff, children in grades third through fifth, accompanied by a parent, are invited to come and learn about how to preserve the Earth through reducing trash by recycling and reusing it.
Muldowney said representatives from the Georgia Historical Society, Ashantilly, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, Coastal Wildscapes, the Audubon Society and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be on hand.
“A beekeeper will be on site to describe the process of harvesting honey, (and) Hannah Williams, who is working on her Girl Scout’s Gold Star, will coordinate a butterfly release at the butterfly garden she established …,” Muldowney said.
The event will also feature craft projects and an obstacle course.
“All in all, it will be a fun day for the kids, while at the same time, they will learn about gardening, garden creatures and taking care of our Earth,” she said.
On the afternoon of April 24 a printmaking workshop “Nature’s Prints,” will be taught by Muldowney and Gee Gee Adams. Participants will learn to make prints using plant materials, and Muldowney said that even the least artistic people will be able to create beautiful things. The workshop is from 2-4 p.m. and costs $75. It will be held at Glynn Visual Arts, 106 Island Drive, St. Simons Island.
Cassina Garden Club, founded in 1928, has the distinction of being the oldest garden club in Glynn County, and since 1932, one of its chief objectives has been to preserve the two tabby slave cabins it owns at Gascoigne Bluff, on the site of what was once the Hamilton Plantation.
The club’s meetings take place at the cabins, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, Cassina is in the thick of its “Cabin Fever” campaign to raise $400,000 for the restoration of the cabins.
An evening event, “Cassina Thyme,” will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. April 27 at the A.W. Jones Heritage Center, 610 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island, to augment the fundraising efforts. Tickets are $75.
On April 28, the eve of the Tabby & Tillandsia Garden Walk, there are a number of events from which to choose. Ace Garden Center on Demere Road, will be open for people to purchase their garden walk tickets and to “scout out” plants for the sale the following day. From 2-5 p.m. Two Friends in Redfern Village will host a “Sip and Shop.”
Muldowney said 15 percent of all sales at Two Friends during that time frame will be donated to Cassina.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday of tour week, the “CoastalScapes” exhibit will be open at Glynn Visual Arts.
April 29 is garden walk day, and Muldowney said it is the epitome of the “It’s a Southern Thing” theme. Tour hours are 10 am. to 5 p.m., and tickets are $25.
Tickets may be purchased at Ace Garden Center on Demere Road, Cunningham’s Jewelers in Brunswick, or by visiting www.cassinagardenclub.org. Proceeds from the all of the week’s events will benefit the cabins restoration project.
“Our beautiful gardens showcase the unique vegetation of the South Georgia coast with emphasis on the majestic live oaks of St. Simons Island,” she said. “In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, come admire the remarkable rejuvenation that Mother Nature brings to our community with the onset of springtime.”
Muldowney said attendees will be able to visit four gardens scattered throughout the south end of St. Simons Island, and four additional gardens all in one neighborhood.
“April 29 will be a very busy day,” she said.
The first stop on the tour, from 10 a.m. to noon only, is the community gardens by McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport.
According to Muldowney, there will be members of the SSI Family Gardening Club, who all work garden plots in the community gardens, on hand to talk with visitors about gardening, organic gardening and the challenges of growing vegetables in the island’s soil and climate.
Other tour stops include:
• The Grey Owl Inn, a bed and breakfast situated at the corner of Demere Road and East Beach Causeway. Features there include a large pond, boardwalk and gazebo. The “Grandmother’s Cottage” features murals by local artist Linda Wunder, who will be present.
• Kelvin Grove, at the home of a professional and well-known local gardener. It features live oaks, a small covered garden and koi pond and a natural tidal pond.
• King’s Point, where the garden was professionally designed by David Wentworth. It features an arched entryway, walled garden and a superior view across the marshfront golf course to the mainland. According to the tour brochure, the gardens “masterfully engage the surrounding landscape.”
• A stop in The Island Club wraps up the individual property portion on the tour. Organizers said the garden at this home is more formal than the others, and was originally designed by landscape designer Candace Brewer. The owners have added their own touches with the help of their present landscaper, Joe Wrice. Features include a canopy of loquat trees, a rose bed and ornamental plants that border a tidal lagoon.
• Youngwood Court was once the site of a farm and is now home to one of the oldest live oaks on the island. The established neighborhood features a relocated beach cottage and the original Low country farmhouse. Four gardens are found here, including an Asian-themed terrace and garden.
Organizers also said Ace Garden Center will offer a 10 percent discount on all purchases the day of the tour to anyone with a tour ticket.
And even though there’s a lot to see, organizers are encouraging tour-goers to not bypass the Tabby Cabins at Gascoigne Bluff on the day of the tour.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. a small marketplace will feature local artisans and gardeners, and from 2-4 p.m. a garden party will take place on the cabin grounds. The Golden Isles Strummers, a ukulele ensemble, will provide the entertainment from 2:30-3:30 p.m. In addition, a “wet paint” sale, and raffle for floral arrangements from the gardens will be held late in the afternoon.
“We hope that many long-time friends and neighbors will join us on April 29, and that new acquaintances from near and far will want to join us also.”