Gardens are treasures that are meant to shared and for a 16th consecutive spring the gardeners of Jonesborough are preparing to throw open their gates.
“You can drive by a place and admire it a thousand times but you never see it unless you get out of the car and walk around,” said Nansee Williams, chair of this year’s Garden Gala in Jonesborough coming up on Saturday.
It’s creative work people put into their lawns and gardens, the variety of trees and blooms that line their trails and creek sides, their fountains and bridges and art, and the Victorian presence Jonesborough residents have been careful to preserve that Williams said set Jonesborough apart.
“This is not your typical town and these are not your average cookie cutter gardens. People get good ideas in Jonesborough,” she said.
Sponsored and hosted by the town’s Schubert and Tuesday garden clubs, this year’s gala will include a walking tour of 11 private gardens, 12 featured artists from Jonesborough’s Fine Arts Co-op, two seminars, a workshop, a vendors market and a tea with punch and homemade sweets prepared by the clubs’ members, a harpist and a one-item silent auction of a piece created and donated by Steve and Tava Cook of Jonesborough Art Glass on Main Street.
The event will coincide with the weekly farmers market at the courthouse. Jonesborough merchants will be offering special discounts to anyone bearing the Garden Gala swatch. And the schedule of events is lined up so that guests can stop for lunch and visit the shops while they’re in town.
A cooperative effort of the town and its residents and merchants, the event requires the cooperation and coordination of many people the garden clubs applaud for their generosity and hard work and the homeowners who open their lawn to the public, the volunteers who work as greeters, the women who make the treats for the teas and the husbands who lug out their tables and chairs in particular.
All told, an estimated 125 volunteers will be working together to make the gala possible this year and, as always, all the proceeds will be passed along to local charities and programs, including the Jonesborough library, the regional food bank and David Crockett High School.
“That’s the whole purpose, we want to give back to our community,” Williams said. “It’s all for charity, and it’s a lot of fun too.”
Over the years, the event has become widely known and is expected to once again attract guests from several surrounding states.
“The beauty of our town is reflected in the pride homeowners take in their gardens and our town’s commitment to continue to beautify public areas for visitors to enjoy,” Williams said. But “it’s the clever things people do with their gardens and the heritage we have in Jonesborough that people come to see.”
While the line up of private gardens is kept secret to pique everyone’s interest, there are a few favorite spots in town, including an antebellum garden near the Eureka Hotel and the children’s garden at the library that cannot be left out. As for the rest, Williams said, “It’s a mix. There’s a nice combination of larger and smaller properties. All of them are old. And there’s one old house and yard that’s been completely rejuvenated that’s absolutely fabulous. It’s drop-dead gorgeous. People are going to love it.”
The day will begin at 9 a.m. with back-to-back seminars at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, both for the single price of $5.
Chef Joe McCroy will present “Cooking from the Garden” a demonstration of edible garden cooking, and floral artist Donna Boyd will present “Roadside Ditch Design,” a demonstration of floral arrangement techniques featuring wild flowers and plants found along local byways.
The workshop, a hands-on pressed flower class led by national known juried artist Pat Smith, will begin at 11:15 a.m. at the visitors center. The cost is $8 and includes an 8-by-10-inch original piece of artwork for participants to take home.
The Garden Marketplace, to be located downtown on the west side of the courthouse, will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and will offer a variety of plants and garden accessories, including noted flowers from the Orchid Society.
The self-guided garden tour will be held from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Registration, detailed maps and gala swatches for admissions and special shop discounts will be available at the visitors center. Transportation will be provided for those with disabilities.
Admission to the tour, which includes the tea, is $13.30 in advance or $16.30 on the day of the event.
Reservations for the tour or to ensure a spot in the workshop can be made by calling the visitors center at 753-1010 or by visiting www.jonesboroughtn.org.