This weekend, trespassing is allowed: The Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers offer up a chance to visit six private gardens via their biennial tour, the Hidden Gardens of Asheville. And the selection of secret gardens couldn’t be more varied, organizers share — all offering much more to see than just pretty perennials.
“Every garden is very different and has its own very distinct character,” says Judy Deutsch, a master gardener and tour facilitator. “Each is unique to the person that created it.” For example, the Cole Cottage Vignette Garden isn’t one space, rather 12 garden “rooms” tucked away beneath trees and along winding paths. The Harter Tree Garden is, in essence, an arboretum, showcasing more than 30 varieties of Asian maples. Off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Kosma Mediation Garden is all about low maintenance and seating areas for reflection. And the Ramsey Whimsy Garden abounds with artistic elements and handcrafted structures, including a three-story tree house. Two gardens have honeybee apiaries (June is Asheville’s Pollination Celebration; learn more at ashevillegreenworks.org/pollination-celebration).
As a master gardeners’ event, the tour is meant to be educational as well as pleasing to the senses. “There’s always something that we hope people can learn from the garden,” Deutsch says, citing the Coffey Specimen Garden and Breck Terraced Garden in particular as both have had to contend with steep slopes and water runoff issues.
Leading up to the tour, a team of volunteers spends time with the gardeners in their landscapes, learning those lessons for themselves. Come tour day, visitors can chat with the garden owners and master gardener docents, plucking up wisdom to transplant back home in their own outdoor space.
Proceeds benefit the master gardeners, with emphasis on their School Garden Grants program. Since the first garden tour in 2007, the master gardeners have given away more than $40,000 to over 50 Buncombe County schools, reaching over 16,000 children.