If you weren’t able to make it to any of the Historic Garden Week tours this week — or even if you were, but still want to see more inspiring gardens — head over to West Avenue in the Fan this Sunday, April 26 for the 75th annual West Avenue Garden Tour from 1 to 5 p.m.
Seventy-five years ago the West Avenue Improvement Association organized its residents to clean up the neighborhood alleys. Their success inspired them to do something more cheerful and inspiring together and the garden tour was born.
Since then, the association has invited the public to tour its private gardens, for free, on the last Sunday in April. In 1966, a competition was added, with renowned landscape designer Charles Gillette helping to develop the judging criteria that is still used today by three independent judges.
Garden tour preparation begins months in advance. The events start on the weekend before the tour with an alley cleanup where residents of all ages pitch in with rakes and brooms to clear the alleys of winter debris and trash.
Residents then dig in to get their gardens ready for judging the following Saturday. Winners are announced to great fanfare at the neighborhood’s spring cocktail party the night before the tour.
Sunday’s garden tour starts with a children’s parade of the garden tour winners’ flags. Then the children deliver the flags to the winning houses, where they may be flown for the remainder of the year. The gardens open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m.
The tour includes the three blocks of back gardens along the alley, between Lombardy on the west and Harrison on the east, and includes houses on West, Park Avenue, and Franklin Street that border that alley, as well as the front gardens on West Avenue.
These varied and imaginative gardens reflect the personal tastes of their owners. They show what can be done in small spaces, and offer inspiration to all their visitors.
Directions to West Avenue are available at www.westave.org. Free parking is available in the St. James’s parking deck on Franklin Street.