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Peek inside private gardens

| Friday, July 23, 2004

If you're curious about what lurks behind the hedges of Vandergrift's most upstanding citizens, wonder no more. This weekend's eighth annual garden tour, sponsored by the Vandergrift Garden Club, will open six backyard gardens to the public eye for $8 per ticket.

Four of the six gardens are in Vandergrift proper, with two outliers in Apollo for the adventurous.

"These are gardens you'd never get to see otherwise," says Barbara Ferrante, president and co-chairwoman of the tour. "We want to show people what they can do with just a little backyard lot."

The tour has taken place every year since the club was founded in 1997, featuring different gardens each time. The gardeners volunteer to put the results of their yearlong labor on the tour, some getting more stressed about the process more than others.

"We try not to have people get too nervous about it," Ferrante says. "Some people will stay up 'til the last bit of sunlight, weeding and mulching and moving plants around, but we encourage people that they don't have to spend every waking moment thinking about gardening."

Gaylene Toland, whose featured garden is described as "neat as a pin" by Ferrante, is not one of those who panics the week before the tour.

"Getting ready for anyone to see your garden is a continuous process all year long, keeping it groomed and looking nice," Toland says.

Toland, who is not a member of the club, describes her garden as very traditional: symmetrical, colorful and well-ordered. This contrasts nicely with Jane Barger's garden, which comes right before Toland's on the tour, and is "full of lots of little things to enjoy," Barger says. These 'little things' include two fountains, a waterfall, numerous benches, an arbor, various statuary and a brick walkway. Her garden features all kinds of flowers, from canterbury bells to stargazer lilies, a mix that changes every year.

"A lot of times, I just use what's left over from planting the urns in the parklets," says Barger, who is the founder of Vandergrift's garden club and garden tour. "I worked at a theme with them, yellows and purples and whites. It's a totally different look than we had last year."

The tour has attracted between 90 and 100 people for the past several years. Surprisingly, the bulk of them were not from the Vandergrift area.

"I think maybe it's because people who live in Vandergrift don't realize we have these little treasures," Ferrante says.

All funds raised in the event are used by the club to beautify the town by planting flowers, installing benches and maintaining the parklets that dot the streets within the town limits.

"A lot of people tell us how much they appreciate what we do, in the parklets especially," Ferrante says. "They say that it really improves the look of the town."

Apart from the gardens, there also will be refreshments, door prizes and plants for sale at the historic Casino Theater in Vandergrift, with master gardener Karen Zimmerman present to answer gardening questions, and a local artist's exhibit inside.

Additional Information:

If you go

What: Vandergrift Garden Club Eighth Annual Garden Tour.

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Casino Theater, and gardens in Vandergrift and Apollo.

Admission: $8 in advance; $10 the day of the tour.

Details: 724-568-2068.

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