Garden tours abound

Typography
0410_garden“Oh, to be in England now that April’s there,” quoth Mr. Browning. Meanwhile, thoughts of April in Paris evoke romantic and nostalgic feelings.

But April in the Lowcountry is not such a bad thing, either. The weather has lightened up after a punishing winter and gardens are looking promising. So promising, in fact, that April is a popular garden-touring month hereabouts. Although our local All Saints Garden Tour occurs in May, there are several near — and not so near — opportunities to satisfy our long denied hunger for April’s springtime beauty. Closest to home is Savannah’s 35th annual NOGS garden tour, April 23-24, sponsored by the Garden Club of Savannah, which has been perfecting this event for a long time. The acronym NOGS, North of Gaston Street, has recently been renamed North of Gwinnett Street to include a wider area, but is still identified as NOGS. It consists of eight small private-walled courtyard gardens in the historic district, beautifully designed, planted, maintained and open to the public only on this special tour. The gardens are open each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $45 each (groups of 10 are $40 each), with tea included at historic Harper-Fowlkes House. For details, call 912-961-4805 or visit www.gcofsavnogstour.org. Charleston celebrates its 63rd spring festival of houses and gardens through April 17, and features, among others, a couple of intimate gardens in the French Quarter. Special tours on April 1, 3, 6, 8 and 15 include from seven to 10 historic houses and gardens all within walking distance of each other. Tickets, maps included, are $45 and can be ordered online at www.historiccharleston.org, or by calling 843-722-3405, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday.
The undisputed jewel in the crown and equal to any distinguished garden in America is Brookgreen Gardens, 132 miles from Hilton Head via U.S.17, between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island. You can visit any day at any time of the year, but April is particularly beautiful because of springtime exuberance of bloom and color, accenting and emphasizing many of the finest examples of American sculpture, both monumental and small in scale.
An additional attraction for April 24-25 is the “Plantacular” sale of horticultural species of all sorts that are raised on the premises. Just across U.S. 17, don’t miss a visit to Atalaya, the winter home of Anna Hyatt and Archer M. Huntington, founders of Brookgreen Gardens. To do it justice, visitors should plan an overnight stay at nearby Pawleys Island. Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors. The  gardens are open from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on the weekend of April 24-25. Further information can be found at www.brookgreen.org. Although too late for this issue, you might want to tick your 2011 calendar for notice of the Prince George Winyah two-day house and garden tour, sponsored by Prince George Winyah Episcopal Churchwomen in Georgetown, about 60 miles north of Charleston. The historic plantations are the real thing, the best of the old South revealed in these mostly private homes and landscapes.  What are we waiting for?