Garden Tour and Tea: More than a weekend in Shepherdstown
Saturday marks the 18th annual Back Alley Garden Tour and Tea in Shepherdstown. The weekend offers an opportunity for visitors and locals alike to visit 19 gardens on the self-guided walking tour.
The first stop on the tour is the Town Garden, a spot begun 17 years ago by Shepherd professors Carl Bell and Sonya Evanisko, with assistance from students. The purpose was to rescue wildflowers and other woodlands that would otherwise have been destroyed during construction on Shepherd’s campus.
Evanisko, whose home is also on this year’s tour, shared that she has plantings in her yard from those rescued.
Each garden will offer unique features and will include a variety of flowers, water accents, trees and shrubs. Those opening their gardens have put endless hours into making sure the visiting public will enjoy the experience.
Evanisko, who is participating in her fourth tour, said that she has worked some each day to get everything ready for the tour. While she has offered her garden as part of the event on multiple occasions, she said that she never does two years in a row. In addition, she tries to add something each time so that potential return visitors are seeing something new.
“Every year your garden evolves,” she said. “You’re always adding and changing and expanding with creative ideas.”
Evanisko’s garden offers a variety of features. Included in her sloping backyard are tiered layers offering a Cook’s Garden, a Nature Woodland Garden, flowers, shrubs and other vegetables.
“Combinations of plantings are very artistic,” she said. As an art professor, the artistic balance comes natural.
Jack Kendall and James “Pug” Puglisi will open their home on the tour this year as well. Also returning to the tour for their fourth year, the two also say they don’t participate during consecutive years.
Their historic home on German Street offers beautiful blooming flowers and shrubs along the front of the large front porch. Continuing to the back of the home, one will enjoy a broad backyard with lots of traditional shrubs and flowers including mock orange, forsythia, iris as well as flowering trees like weeping cherries, dogwoods and lilacs.
Puglisi and Kendall bought their home in 2006 and were on the tour the first time in 2008 when the term ‘garden’ didn’t really fit as they were just beginning to renovate and clean up the property.
“I love gardening,” Puglisi said. “There was incredible soil here and history says there were beautiful gardens back when the home was owned by the former president of Jefferson Security Bank.”
“I love a pretty garden,” Kendall laughed as he shared that ‘Pug’ is the worker bee.
“He loves the front yard socializing,” Pug said of Kendall. “I’m the digger, he’s the waterer.”
Laughing in agreement, Kendall said, “I socialize while he works.”
However the two work together, their efforts have developed a beautiful lawn featuring a ‘living gazebo’ of trees overtop chairs. The addition of a back porch on their home offers outdoor enjoyment during all seasons.
The two shared that they do not remain at home during all of the tour hours. Docents are assigned to each home to answer questions and guide tour-goers. Kendall and Puglisi take advantage of that assistance to head out and view other gardens on the tour.
Evanisko summed it up by describing the gardens and their owners as “the true gems in this town who work for months to prepare for the garden tour.” She said that she planned far in advance what was going to be ready at her stop on the tour.
“There is a lot of time, style, details and organization put into this,” she said. “It is like planning a wedding or other significant event.”
In addition to providing an enjoyable weekend for those visiting the gardens, Evanisko said it also serves to motivate the community as a whole to clean up their spaces. It is a win-win for the community and the businesses as the tour attracts many to the town.
The tour and tea serve as a fundraiser for the Shepherdstown Community Club who own and maintain the War Memorial Building and Morgan’s Grove Park.
Afternoon tea is held from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the War Memorial Building. Each admission ticket is good for entrance to one tea on either day, but not both. The hot teas are served in fine china cups and saucers from the Shelley A. Marshall Foundation. Cold tea is also served. Everyone is given a plate filled with savory bites and desserts of their choosing.
Tickets for the tour and tea are available at the War Memorial Building at the start of each weekend day. A map is also available describing the gardens and outlining travel routes for those visiting.
“The whole thing is about beautifying,” Evanisko summed up. “Lovely historic homes are beautified even more on a garden tour.”