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Behind the scenes

Hingham tour mixes gardens, art

By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent / June 7, 2012
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The Garden Club of Hingham calls its fund-raising tour “Garden Palettes,” a reference to the artists who will be painting from nature during the tour.

But the title might also refer to the art of flower-gardening itself.

New “ever-blooming” varieties of old-fashioned favorites — irises, day lilies, roses — give gardeners an expanded opportunity palette, said club president Carol Pyles last week.

“Gardening is changing,” Pyles said. “The new varieties of old plants bloom all season.”

Visitors can see ever-blooming or “repeat blooming” varieties in her garden set on a historic property, one of seven sites in the “Garden Palettes” tour.

Every few years the Hingham club puts on a garden show. An old town with lots of showplace gardens, this weekend’s tour displays gardens from the historic town center, a horse farm, restored 1900s formal gardens, and a garden with an infinity pool that gives the illusion of flowing into the Weir River. Andrea Wilson, who chaired the tour committee, said, “Gardeners and non-gardeners will experience a day of color and beauty.”

And at a time of year when all backyard gardeners have a chance to admire their own work and perhaps sneak a peak at a neighbor’s yard to see if the grass is greener or the roses redder on the other side, garden tourists will draw inspiration from a look at some of Hingham’s finest.

“Avid gardeners will most definitely get new ideas for their own gardens,” Wilson said.

The tour’s gardens include a fenced horse pasture with whimsical plantings, formal perennial bed gardens, woodland walks, and flowering terraces with pond views. Adding to the tour’s palette are restored early 20th-century gardens and rose, rock, and organic vegetable gardens.

Pyles’s garden is located on a 4-acre property where Henry Cushing built a house in 1791. “We only garden half of that,” she said. The rest is woodland. “It’s gorgeous, if I say so myself.”

That garden grew over many years. While Pyles and her husband did not change its format, they have upgraded varieties of plants to include ever-blooming New England staples such as day lilies, which typically bloom in late June. Now they’ll bloom through July and August, Pyles said, if fed with fertilizer.

A Main Street property described by the garden club as a working horse farm up until recent years has also been upgraded with a new terrace and water feature, rose arbors, and brilliant Mandeville flowers climbing an ancient swing set.

Also on the tour is a Howland Lane garden designed by Mike Walsh and Love Albrecht Howard of Horticultural Concepts to be in tune with nature. The garden now offers four-season garden displays, including a pond view.

A Clark Road garden is founded on the current owners’ effort to restore the original gardens of the early 1900s, including textured garden walks bordered by a “living fence” of classic shrubs and tied to the surrounding landscape by shade and ornamental trees. It also features a specimen of the white fleece flower, a shrub native to China with large, showy flowers.

A second Clark Road garden features a formal rose garden enclosed by boxwood, modeled on a 1907 design. A row of ornamental pear trees in front of the house pays homage to the area’s traditional name, Pear Tree Hill. The Ringbolt Road garden features the infinity pool that creates the illusion of water flowing all the way to nearby Weir River and beyond. The view offers sunsets and marsh views.

Finally, a Weir Street Extension garden also takes advantage of a natural setting bordered by woods and fields and overlooking salt marshes and water. The garden’s unusual varieties include a “forest” of dwarf conifers.

To reinforce the connection between gardens and the arts, plein-air artists will be painting in gardens on tour days. Garden club members Jane Strone and Ginny Pomeroy, Hingham artists Margaret McWethy, Marjorie Whorf, and Susan Ahearn, Trish Turner of Hull, Morgan Davis of Quincy, and Dianne Panarelli Miller of Abington are among garden artists.

The tour is a fund-raiser for the club’s projects including caring for gardens at the Old Ordinary house museum and the Hingham Public Library, Founders Park, the newly planted Jackass Park, and some Hingham Center traffic islands.

The colorfully named Jackass Park was a turnaround for street cars. When the town bought it for a park back in the day, some local farmers thought it was “the most jackass idea they ever heard.”

Taking a more hopeful perspective, the club donated $27,000 to plant trees there, landscape, and put in water service.

“We’re not just some people who get together to talk and then go to lunch,” Pyles said. “We’re super people that weed.”

Robert Knox can be reached at

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Behind the scenes

“Garden Palettes of Hingham”

Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

$20 in advance; $25 on tour days

Tickets available at Hingham Public Library