Biannually since the 1950’s, the Hillsborough Garden Club partners with the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough to open up the town’s secret gardens to visitors.
The Spring Garden Tour will take place this year on May 4, showcasing a range of gardens both old and new.
The idea of the 2019 tour is to keep a Hillsborough tradition going, while also growing and evolving with changing times.
“There’s a lot of focus right now on saving the pollinators, horticulture and the environment and the tour really goes with that focus,” Frances Harris, chair of the tour, said. “But then it’s definitely about traditions we love, too.”
This year, the tour has later hours than ever before, and guests will be able to tour local botanic gems from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. rain or shine.
Alice and Joe Moore own Evergreen, a sprawling garden that backs up to Ayr Mount historic home on a nearly four acre yard surrounding the couple’s 1930’s-era home. The couple have hosted tour-goers in their garden since just after they moved to Hillsborough from Chapel Hill in 2003.
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I said yes to the tour,” Alice Moore said. “I didn’t really do a lot of gardening until I came here and I had all of this open space and lots of sunshine.”
The previous owners of the property planted several shrubs and trees ranging from several American holly trees to a looming beech to hundreds of daffodils. Moore decided to work with what she calls these “good bones” and has since planted 200 additional trees and shrubs at Evergreen.
Growing her garden over the last 15 years has been a process that requires experimentation and patience.
“It was serendipitous,” she said. “Sometimes the choices worked well, other times the site might not have been right — too much sun, not enough sun, too wet, too dry. My goal was to try to have something of interest and blooming throughout the four seasons.”
Moore has added boxwoods, Japanese maples, water lilies and several varieties of viburnum — a flowering plant that the many deer on her property do not find appetizing — among countless other plants and trees, with the goal of expanding on traditional southern flora and fauna such as azalea, magnolia and camellia and crafting new horticultural combinations.
She structured many of her gardens around the original contours of the landscaping and beds that the home’s previous owners had set out, creating a courtyard garden, tropical pool garden, pond garden, grape arbor and more.
Moore doesn’t use herbicides in her gardens, instead hand-weeding across the property in an effort to retain and promote pollinators. This is a trend that attendees will see at many of the gardens on the tour.
“Most of our garden members are aware of the declining population of bees, butterflies and other pollinators,” Moore said. “It is hard to pull weeds by hand, or just let them grow, but in the long run we will be rewarded with healthy insects and wildlife.”
This year, she has also added identification signs to several of the trees and shrubs around
the property. She and her husband will be present during the tour, mingling with guests to answer any questions about their green thumbs.
Those behind the tour hope to not only circulate horticultural ideas through a group of seasoned local gardeners, but also to keep bringing in new attendees.
“It’s a way to draw the community and visitors alike into the town and have them participate and share in that beauty,” Sarah DeGennaro, executive director of the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, said.
Tickets for the tour are $25 and can be purchased in person at the Hillsborough Visitor’s Center or at the online ticket link.