From a Greens Farms cul-de-sac to the center of Greenfield Hill, a few hundred garden lovers admired the greenery -- and an artist's palette of colors -- in the landscaping of five properties featured Sunday on the Westport Historical Society's 23rd annual Hidden Garden Tour.
The properties in Westport and Fairfield ranged in size from a quarter-acre to nearly three acres, from full sun to largely shade, from professionally landscaped to managed by the homeowners. At each location, the visitors got an eyeful of beauty and a bounty of landscaping tips.
Allison and Rob Wussler of Westport said they came looking for ideas of what shade plants to purchase for her garden. "We have a garden that needs TLC. I can only plant so many tulip bulbs," Allison Wussler said.
She found inspiration at a house in the Gorham Avenue Historic District near downtown Westport where the owners have a mix of sun and shade. They planted hostas, peonies, climbing roses and a screen of pear trees in the small yard that they maintain themselves. They also keep bees.
Deanna Davis of Westport, who took her 10th Hidden Garden Tour on Sunday, said the Gorham Avenue gardeners had "a lovely selection of plants for the property. Very well done."
"The color variation was very pleasing," added Paul Davis, Deanna's husband.
At a two-acre property on Summer Hill Road in Westport the owners divided their formal garden into three "rooms," one with free-form flower beds, one called their Zen Central, and a white garden by the pool and patio area. The plantings were inspired by the New York Botanical Garden. It was a 25-year project done in several phases.
"There's so much thought and artistry that's gone into this," said Margery Silk of Westport.
Margaret Yingling of Westport, who has taken the tour every year almost since it started, said she needed ideas for her own garden and she found "almost every idea you can think of" at the Summer Hill property.
The tour included a true hidden garden at the Cross Highway property where the current owner, Edward F. Gerber, president of the Westport Historical Society, unearthed a secret garden behind the studio used by a former owner -- artist George Hand Wright, when he discovered "a mysterious brick stairway that seemed to go nowhere." Gerber displayed some of Wright's artwork throughout his gardens.
Gerber's property featured fieldstone walls, old apple trees, newer cherry trees, specimen plantings including a Japanese katsura, Zelkova elm, Norway maple and star magnolia, and a flower bed he calls his remembrance garden dedicated to people dear to him. Growing in that perennial garden are bleeding heart, yarrow and spiderwort "which is a weed, basically." Then again, someone pointed out, "One man's weed is another man's wildflower."
Roma Fanton's 2.7-acre property on Meeting House Lane in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield has an English garden designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York's Central Park, with a pond, stone walls, boxwood hedges and a border of vinca vine. As people wandered the grounds they listened to three flutists who performed from Fanton's terraced stone patio.
Scott Ogilvy of Fairfield performed from atop a rock garden at a nearly 1.5-acre property on Inwood Road in the Stratfield section of Fairfield. It earned praise from visitors for the owner's thoughtful use of the natural features to create a landscaped oasis that includes numerous flower beds, a pond with a fountain, two outdoor fireplaces, a dense canopy of old-growth trees, and a terraced spring-fed in-ground swimming pool.
"I loved it. This was especially wonderful," Mary Lou Graether of Trumbull said about the Inwood Road gardens, "but they were all nice. I do the house tours but I've never been on a garden tour," she said.
"I enjoy the beauty and love to see other people's ideas," said Sally O'Brien, a master gardener from Fairfield.
The event, a fund-raiser for the Historical Society, concluded with a Garden Party on Veterans Green.