A summer safari of sights and scents

PEPPERELL —For the 18th consecutive year, the Pepperell Garden Club members and guests were on the move this spring and summer to venture out “on safari.”

Carol Canning and Jeanne Nevard led the safari team.

In 2001, the garden safari came into being when Nevard borrowed the concept from the Merrimack Valley Herb Society in Haverhill and brought it to the Pepperell Garden Club. She thought, Why take a hiatus after fall and winter lectures? It’s the prime time to see real gardens and experience the growing season.

In the past, Diane Murphy, the current club president, planned annual summer outings for the club. The safari was an extension of that with a wider focus and more opportunities to experience new places.

Learning, camaraderie and relaxation were the goals of the committee. It’s a great way to get to know fellow garden club members, in a more personal way.

The safaris are a reward for the culmination of a busy year that includes plant sales, civic garden maintenance, and interesting meetings, lectures and demonstrations. The committee’s obligations had all been met, so the members hit the road in search of new garden destinations.

This past spring and summer, club members and guests donned their sun hats and sneakers and traveled locally and beyond to see imaginative native gardens, plant nurseries, private gardens and places of interest.

The May issue of Yankee Magazine provided two destinations for the club to visit — Wicked Tulips in Rhode Island and the Golden Skep Farm in Berlin, Mass. They both were designated in the article as being in the top five “Best Flower Farms in New England.”

The kickoff safari was May 6, when the club traveled to Johnston, R.I., to view a stunning display of tulips at their peak.

Singles, doubles, fringed and parrot tulips, in colors ranging from white to striped reds and purples, were all a welcome sight.

The gardens include taking 10 cut tulip stems of your choice. The flowers were so fresh that bouquets brought home lasted for weeks.

The second May safari took the gardeners to the Amazing Flower Farm in New Ipswich, N.H., where owner, Ara Lyn gave nine members a tour of their five greenhouses packed with unusual annuals, perennials and herbs. They espouse environmental practices and use quality soils with mycrorhyzum.

A convivial lunch followed at the charming Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, N.H.

Some members continued on to a specialty nursery and display gardens at Mason Hollow, where owner Sue Anderson shared tips and the history of hosta varieties, conifers and perennials. Their plight with deer and voles revealed important tactics to combat these garden foes.

The third safari, in June, included nearby stops, the first being an open house at the historic cottage garden of chef and author Liz Barbour of the Creative Feast in Hollis, N.H. Herbs, veggies and flowers mingled and created dynamic contrasts with perennials. Liz graciously provided insight and refreshments for her annual event.

The group enjoyed their picnic lunch in the shady gazebo at the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. They toured 13 theme gardens that boast 350 species of flowers and shrubs.

The next safari was well-attended, with 13 members enjoying a perfect summer day in July at Golden Skep Farm in Berlin.

Carl and Louise Wickstrom unraveled the complex anatomies of daylilies in a fascinating way. The small nursery and display gardens were chock-full of hybrid daylilies, unusual perennials, shrubs, herbs and ornamental grasses.

A picnic lunch followed in the shade of the maples.

The last safari, in August, was a tour of three members’ gardens in the area of Shirley and Mt. Lebanon streets. The idea was to view late-season plants and preview early fall plants in bud. It was the “last hurrah” to celebrate the wrap-up of an ambitious touring schedule.

Nevard showed off her jumble of wildflowers — all for the benefit of the pollinators. Hitting their stride were bee balms in 5 colors, prairie coneflowers, fireweed, mountain mint and much more. It’s a feast for the bees, butterflies, insects and birds that continues to bloom into mid-autumn.

The second garden was at the home of Mary and Dave DeCaprio, who showed off their vegetable, perennial and shrub beds. They have a special flair for assembling unusual garden art to accent their plantings.

The last stop was at Laure Close’s shady, pond-side retreat. The story was told of the ambitious and amazing transformation from weedy to beautiful garden beds, including native plants, shrubs and a patio vegetable garden.

The group enjoyed seasonal refreshments and garden banter in Close’s kitchen.

This is one of the many benefits offered to Pepperell Garden Club members. The club is also a certified member of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts.

The next meeting of the club is Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 6:45 p.m., at the Pepperell Senior Center. The topic is the very popular “Annual Plant Exchange.”

Gardeners and visitors from nearby towns are invited to attend the monthly programs and welcomed to become members. For more information, visit Pepperellgardenclub.org.

This article was submitted by the Pepperell Garden Club.