Spring Celebration Garden Tour a breath of fresh air and a dose of beauty
This first Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) tour since the state COVID-19 shutdown served to soothe the weary and elevate spirits
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
CAPE MAY — A chance to get out in the world after being cooped up inside for three months was a thrill for 150 garden lovers on the Spring Celebration Garden Tour, presented by Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) Saturday, June 13. Tickets were limited to help maintain social distancing, and ticket holders were required to wear masks for safety. It was a gloriously sunny afternoon of seeing, smelling, talking, and walking along garden paths.
The tour is held once a year. Like all organizations and businesses in the state under governor’s orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cape May MAC shut its doors temporarily in March. Saturday was the first step toward reopening since the shutdown. The City of Cape May, on behalf of Cape May MAC, received confirmation from Governor Murphy’s Office that the Spring Celebration Garden Tour is a permissible activity, citing the “Community Garden” Section of the Governor’s Executive Order (EO) #147.
“We could not have asked for a more perfect day to resume our programming,” said Cape May MAC Director Jody Alessandrine. “We’ve had no income other than generous donations and pre-paid tickets for upcoming events since the first week of March. Our Garden Tour was a good thing for the community, visitors, and our staff, who have worked so hard in planning events and tours that have had to be postponed or cancelled.”
The Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., and five private gardens were on the tour: The Kurtz Family Residence, and The 1890 Maggie McKean, both on Washington Street, the Bowne Family Residence on Cape May Avenue, The Courtney Residence in West Cape May, and the Somewhere in Time property in Cape May Point.
Peter Naccarato and Zack Jensen of New York City came to Cape May for the garden tour while staying in Wildwood Crest.
“Since everything is shut down right now, we thought it would be a great opportunity to get outside,” Naccarato said.
“We come to Cape May a lot,” said Jensen. “We just find the houses are so beautiful and what a great opportunity to peek inside some of these beautiful gardens.”
“One of the reasons we decided to leave New York and come down here is that we were in isolation in our small apartment, working remotely — it was a bit crowded,” he said. “We are truly fortunate that our family has a place here that we could come to. So, we are just able to enjoy it. The weather has been amazing. We plan to stay here for a few more weeks.”
“We’re not rushing back,” Naccarato said.
The Levin Goodstine family came to Cape May from Montclair for the tour. Laurie, Sarah, and young Ruby enjoyed learning from Cape May MAC Volunteer Gardener Jan Dwyer about the gardens at the Emlen Physick Estate, which include a variety of planting themes, including a native plants garden near Hill House.
“I was interested in the milkweed,” Ruby said.
Connie Parker, Egg Harbor Township, Dolores “Dee” and Tammy Simkins of Franklinville, and Caitie Lee of Newfield enjoyed time together as a family during the tour, for the first time in months.
“I saw it on the Cape May MAC website, and we were just excited to be able to do something again here in Cape May,” said Dee. “We look forward to the house tours and festivals. We are just excited to be here … We are only an hour away so it’s not far.”
“They were all really beautiful,” said Caitie, of the gardens. “It was really neat to see the variety and get some inspiration for our gardens at home. We have a small variety of different kinds of hostas and plants. Nothing crazy like this.”
Homeowner and gardener Lenore Bowne said she plans her garden year-round.
“You have to plan throughout the year,” she said. “The latest thing I planned was the garden out front. Last October I decided that I wanted to have a garden that was really focused on bulbs … I had someone come and dig it for me because I cannot do that, but I plant everything myself. I ordered everything in the summer, it was delivered in October, and I planted hundreds of bulbs out there. In spring, they started with the grape hyacinths; they came out first. Then I had three different types of narcissus that bloomed in sequence, and the last thing were peony tulips. They are about 12 inches in diameter and they were bright orange! Beautiful. Then in the center I have all my prize irises. That’s the thing I really like the best.”
The Spring Celebration Garden Tour was planned for May 30 but postponed due to COVID-19.
“I’d like to give special thanks to the property owners for opening their gardens,” Alessandrin
e said. “And we are so appreciative that the City and Governor’s Office took the time to confirm our Garden Tour was permissible according to the state’s re-opening plan.”
For Bowne, the postponement worked out well since her favorite month in the garden is June.
“I like April, beginning of May, too, but for the entire effect of the yard, I think I really prefer about June 15 to July 15. So, we’re right in the sweet spot.”
Susan Krysiak is Director of Media Relations for Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture), in Cape May, N.J.