homepage logo

Hundreds visit Shepherdstown for 22nd Annual Back Alley Garden Tour and Tea

By Staff | May 24, 2019

Winnie Bernat, of Shepherdstown, takes a break from helping with the Back Alley Garden Tour and Tea in the Shepherdstown Community Club on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The 22nd Annual Back Alley Garden Tour and Tea started with a bang on Saturday, as sunny skies and temperate weather promised attendees a pleasant day exploring 14 gardens in downtown Shepherdstown.

Held by the Shepherdstown Community Club, the event once again attracted hundreds of visitors to town on the two days it was being held, Saturday and Sunday.

“It looks like we’ve had maybe 350 people on the tour today. We’re on track for 450-500 people this weekend,” said SCC Treasurer Mike Kohut on Saturday afternoon. “Four hundred seventy-nine people has been our best showing in the past.”

According to SCC President Nancy Stewart, proceeds from this year’s event will continue to support maintenance of the War Memorial Building and Morgan’s Grove Park.

“I would say this was a great success. We were just busy since the time we were opened,” Stewart said, mentioning SCC’s intentional marketing of the event draws attendees from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. “As you can see, we have people come from a long ways away just to come to this event.

Karen Glennon, left, of Shepherdstown, talks with Lori Robertson, as Robertson prepares her garden for visitors with the Back Alley Garden Tour and Tea on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“People like this time of year, going and seeing gardens. We have such terrific gardens in town,” Stewart said. “It seems like a natural combination, of gardens and tea.”

While local flowers bloomed outside in many of the tour stops, they were also featured during the tea, thanks to the work of Meg Spurlin and Sheila Vertino, who collected flowers from local gardens and created floral arrangements with them.

“I collect many of the flowers from my own garden, but then other very generous people from the community let me collect from their gardens, also,” Spurlin said, mentioning she has helped as a flower arranger and docent with the event for many years. “Flowers have always been my passion, and I grow flowers a lot. I love arranging them.”

For a few attendees on Saturday’s tour, the event was an opportunity to celebrate a late Mother’s Day together.

“I just thought it would be a great way to see the town and spend time together — it’s a belated Mother’s Day,” said Alison Preston, of Boonesboro, Maryland, who came with her mother, Joan Heft, of Frederick, Maryland, and grandmother, Barbara Heft, of Walkersville, Maryland.

The Princess Street Urban Garden, located at 102 S. Princeess Street, was featured on the tour as an example of organic, urban gardening. Tabitha Johnston

While many of the servers, kitchen staff and garden docents were SCC members, the event has turned into a community event, with two Shepherdstown Middle School students and other Shepherdstown residents pitching in to help with the tea or offer their gardens as tour stops.

According to SCC member Winnie Bernat, while the tour draws many visitors from outside of Shepherdstown, it can be of a more practical use for Shepherdstown residents.

“New people in town, if they’re interested in growing flowers in their gardens, this is the place to come, because they can see what thrives here,” Bernat said, mentioning a second reason viewing local gardens can help new gardeners. “A lot of us have clay soil, and not everything grows in it.”

Back Alley Garden Tour visitors to the Brown House's garden, located at 105 S. King Street, took in the garden's manicured landscaping, which also featured a portion of Town Run. Tabitha Johnston

Some families made a day of the Back Alley Garden Tour and Tea festivities, including from left, Alison Preston, of Boonesboro, Maryland; Barbara Heft, of Walkersville, Maryland; and Joan Heft, of Frederick, Maryland. Tabitha Johnston