The Blooming of Garden Tourism

The Blooming of Garden Tourism

The Blooming of Garden Tourism

Carol Hogen, Adair Lobdell, Pat Walsh and Bab McKinnie at a 1982 garden tour.

Carol Hogen, Adair Lobdell, Pat Walsh and Bab McKinnie at a 1982 garden tour.

Members of the Garden Club of Manchester (GCM) and Green Mountain Gardeners (GMG) in the Londonderry/Weston area have been busy preparing for events that provide visitors with an opportunity to enjoy the results of their hard work and creativity  while supporting community projects. Be sure to check out GCM’s Flower Show (left) and mark your calendar for GMG’s Mountain Garden Walks on Saturday, July 21.

Vermont’s penchant for gardening events and tours was first influenced by trends in England, where opening private gardens to raise money for charity began in 1927; similar trends took place in the United States. The Garden Club of Manchester – the first official garden club in Vermont, founded in 1920 – began hosting public tours in the 1950s to raise funds for civic beautification and scholarships for students pursuing horticulture and related fields. Today, members also participate in the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days, when the gates to over 300 gardens across the US are open to the public. Explore three private gardens in East Arlington, Manchester and Manchester Village from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 23: Rogerland, 1308 & 1268 East Arlington Road, East Arlington; Turkey Hill Farm, 317 Silver Springs Lane, Manchester; A Cook’s Garden, 98 Franklin Avenue, Manchester Village, rain or shine. Admission is $7 per garden. Proceeds go to the Garden Conservancy (gardenconservancy.org/888-842-2442).

Members of the Green Mountain Gardeners, formed in 1975, initially toured each other’s gardens to exchange gardening ideas and knowledge. In 1997, the Londonderry Historical Society, led by a core group of GMG members, organized public garden tours to benefit the town’s historic Custer Sharp House, an endeavor that continued annually for ten years. GMG has hosted garden tours since 2015 to support the Lib Thieme scholarship fund.

The beauty of Vermont’s gardens and landscape are cited most often in visitor surveys as one of the top reasons why couples select Vermont for their weddings, suggesting that those who work to create and maintain these settings are contributing to the local economy, too! According to international garden tourism researcher Richard Benfield, more people are involved in US garden tourism each year than visit Las Vegas and Disney World combined; spending an average of $185 a day in the local economy. Garden tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism, second only to food tourism. With a history steeped in agriculture, its growing farm-to-table movement – and a business economy in transition due to the advent of the internet and climate change – perhaps it’s time to consider how the Shires can dig into the trend by following the example of its local garden clubs!

Thanks to Gail Mann of Londonderry for the idea and her contributions to this story – Liz, Schafer, Editor.

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