Sunday garden tour hits picturesque stops in Hampton, Fox Chapel

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Wear comfortable shoes for “Sunday Afternoon in the Garden,” a self-guided tour of five eye-popping backyards in Hampton and Fox Chapel.

“It's a day of just getting ideas, talking to the homeowners, and learning what works where, whether it's a shade garden, or a full-sun garden,” said Jean Bongiovanni of Hampton.

Bongiovanni's four-acre yard off Middle Road is among the picturesque stops.

All tour proceeds — tickets are $30 — will benefit the Free Care Fund at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh through the Hampton office of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.

“Sunday Afternoon in the Garden” is set for noon to 5 p.m. June 22. Tour takers will get directions to the gardens when they buy a ticket.

“I think it's just a really nice opportunity for people to see professionally done gardens and gardens that homeowners have done ... They're absolutely gorgeous,” said garden tour co-chairman Christie Talik Slack, a Howard Hanna real estate agent.

All of the gardens are minutes from each other by car. Refreshments will be available at each destination.

“They all have phenomenal ‘hardscapes' — stone walls and steps — with waterfalls and ponds,” said Bongiovanni, also a Howard Hanna sales associate.

Garden designer Tom Lisowski — known for his use of boulders and cascading water — designed three of the five gardens on the tour.

“Here in Western Pennsylvania, we work with a lot of slopes. So it's easy to get a waterfall to 'naturalize' an area,” said Lisowski, a 1983 graduate of Fox Chapel Area High School.

“I think the single most beautiful thing you can do to a landscape is add water and the sound of running water,” said Lisowski, owner of Lisowski Tree Service and Landscaping in West Deer.

Lisowski uses rubber liners and pump boxes to recycle the water that flows through his rock-filled gardens.

“You only need a little nook and cranny between the rocks to have a plant that cascades and softens the rocks,” said Lisowski, listing dwarf Nikko Deutzia — from the hydrangea family — among his favorite, flowering ground covers.

“That's a low ground cover that flowers with white bells in May and June, has nice foliage and has beautiful fall coloration, and has proven to be deer resistant,” Lisowski said.

Bongiovanni, a former docent at Phipps Conservatory, spends early mornings in her garden weeding beds, watering pots, staking up plants and removing — dead heading — expired blooms.

Her backyard features many nonstop flower makers — Knock Out roses, New Guinea impatiens, Rozanne geraniums and tropical plants — whose foliage only grows fuller as summer marches toward autumn.

“I like the delayed gratification, because I'm outside, enjoying my garden more, toward the end of the summer, than in the beginning,” Bongiovanni said. “I don't like it when things bloom, and they're done. That's why I have tropicals, because they bloom all summer.”

A verdant hollow in Bongiovanni's yard includes a pond that looks more like a lake.

Her yard also hosts a variety of colorfully named trees: copper beech, Japanese red maple and Brackens Brown Beauty magnolia.

Her mother — Daina Romualdi of Oakland — inspired Bongiovanni's passion for gardening.

“She had the most spectacular garden up on Cape Cod,” Bongiovanni said. “She had the most beautiful roses.”

Tickets for “Sunday Afternoon in the Garden” are available at Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, 5048 William Flynn Highway; LMS Greenhouse & Nursery, 3312 Wagner Road; and My Garden Floral, 3447 Harts Run Road. Tickets also can be purchased and picked up on the day of the tour by calling 412-414-7085.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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