Three years ago Scott Miller got a knock on his door — and an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“If you like to garden, you’re showing off a little anyway,” Miller says. “So when someone comes up and says, ‘Wow, you have a beautiful garden,’ and that the neighborhood garden stroll wants to feature your garden — well, ego takes over after a while.”
That knock on the door was Miller’s initiation into the West Asheville Garden Stroll, a neighborhood venture now in its sixth year, designed to show off the gardens of West Asheville and foster walkability and neighborhood pride.
“If nothing else, it’s about community,” Miller says. “The tour brings gardeners together; it bring neighbors together.”
Miller says the West Asheville Garden Stroll (WAGS) began when a small group of gardeners was looking for a way to improve the neighborhood.
“Six years ago, West Asheville wasn’t even as nice as it is now, and we’ve still got a long way to go,” Miller says. “The idea of promoting walkability or bikeability was just starting to emerge. With WAGS, the thought was, ‘If we can show people that you can walk all over the place and see all these beautiful gardens and have a wonderful time, then that’s community-building.’”
The first year of WAGS wasn’t exactly a disaster, Miller says, but it was a struggle. The event had zero budget and zero publicity, but it did have plenty of rain. And yet, the organizers brought it back the next year and the next, bringing in visitors from all over Asheville, as well as Tennessee and South Carolina, Miller says. Last year he estimates that 400 people attended the tour.
Along the way, organizers began collecting sponsors and donations, all with the dream of someday providing grants to gardening projects in their community — a dream that finally became a reality last winter.
“That’s another way we’re working to bring the community together — by supporting these community spaces,” Miller says. “We won’t give grants to private gardens, but several schools got them, as well as the little area behind Sunny Point Cafe. It’s all part of the effort to be more of a cohesive community.”
Miller says the organizers of WAGS try to highlight a different section of West Asheville every year — a chance for neighbors to meet other neighbors and see new gardens. They also intend to show off “more than a neat yard,” Miller says, as they seek out gardeners who demonstrate principles of permaculture, edible landscaping, organic vegetable growing or backyard husbandry. This year the tour will be heading down Brevard Road on Saturday, Sept. 13.
“I think we’ve really attained what that initial WAGS group had in mind,” Miller says. “We’re showing off West Asheville, showing off all the different things that are happening here. It’s so important to promote getting together, walking around — even just chatting with a neighbor.”
For more information on the West Asheville Garden Tour, visit westashevillegardens.com.
Want even more gardens in your summer? There are plenty of farm and garden tours happening throughout the season, including:
• Bullington Gardens‘ “Secret Gardens” tour in South Asheville, June 21. $60. Info: 698-6104.
• Haywood County Master Gardeners’ “Forest, Flowers and Food” garden tour, June 21. $15. Info: 456-3575.
• Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture’s High Country Farm Tour, June 28 & 29. $30. Info: 386-1537.
• Flat Rock Historic Home & Garden tour, July 12. $25. Info: 698-0030
• ECO’s Green Homes and Edible Gardens tour, Aug. 9; $15. Info: 692-0385.
• Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Farm Tour, Sept. 20-21; $25. Info: 236-1280.