The 15 gardens of this year’s Blooms for Africa porch and patio tour celebrate the neighbourhoods around Gage Park
Blooms for Africa has the warm and welcoming feel of a Porch Crawl
The man cave will be open for the Blooms for Africa garden tour, and the front porch is ready to host the weary.
David and Sylvia Avery’s garden on Kensington Avenue South captures the feel of this year’s tour — warm and welcoming.
On the Friday and Saturday evenings of July 14 and 15, the Blooms for Africa garden tour celebrates the neighbourhoods around Gage Park. Split between the west and east sides of the park, 15 gardens showcase ponds, arbours, a floral designers’ studio, vegetable gardens and the Averys’ colourful retreat.
“We lived in a condo for 10 years, but I just had to get back to a place where I could garden,” says Sylvia Avery, admitting that she’s out most days at 5 a.m. before she goes to work. “I like grooming it; I guess it’s a little compulsive.”
David’s man cave is a tribute to music and sports.
“We love it here and we’re so happy the Festival of Friends is back,” David says, pointing through the spruce and maple trees at the back of the garden, where Gage Park spreads its majesty over 29 hectares.
The Blooms for Africa garden tour (bloomsforafrica.org) always takes place in the evening. Strolling the streets around Gage Park from 6 to 9 p.m. will be lovely.
On Kensington, where three of the gardens are located, you could almost call it a Porch Crawl. I noticed from the Averys’ porch how the neighbours’ porches all line up and there is a pleasant view of rockers and hanging baskets, and Canadian flags fluttering in the breeze. At the home of Jan Max, also on the tour, Shasta daisies wave in the slightest breeze near an outdoor room created with decorative architectural pieces.
People are passionate about these neighbourhoods. I felt it from artist Julia Veenstra, who lives on gorgeous St. Clair Avenue where her citrusy green front door and big pot of clivia exude joy. Her neighbours, Michael Erb and Amanda Herman, moved here from Toronto and have become immersed in the area’s history.
It’s a history closely tied to Gage Park, where the restored fountain and rose garden and the exciting
new greenhouse under construction capture a new vibrancy.
Ann Howarth, one of the tour’s organizers, has collected stories from longtime residents of the area; some, in their nineties, describe the park as the centre of their social lives. Their stories will be on display in one of the gardens on Rothsay Avenue.
During the planning stages of the Blooms for Africa garden tour, I was introduced to volunteer Diane Kurucz. Her father, Bob Beach, was superintendent of the Gage Park Greenhouse from the 1940s until the ’60s. It was a wonderful life, she says, recalling visits to the greenhouse where her dad looked after the mums, and playing in the park where “a policeman was always roaming the grounds making sure the kids behaved.”
This is the 10th year for the tour; tickets are $20, with the proceeds going to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to help grandmothers supporting children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. Between the garden tour and other events, the group has donated $200,000 to the foundation. Tickets are available at Bryan Prince Bookseller, Canoe Trading Co, The Millionaire’s Daughter and other locations listed on the Blooms for Africa website. On the night of the tour, tickets will be sold at the south parking lot to Gage Park off Lawrence Road, from 5:30 until 6:15.
Since the garden tours started in 2007, the Hamilton locations have always been put together with care and reverence for the neighbourhoods that really capture the character of the city.
A summer stroll among porches and patios — what could be better?
Artist Julia Veenstra’s flowers and front door colour reflect the colour palette she uses in her paintings.
Sylvia and David Avery are opening their garden for the Blooms for Africa Garden Tour on July 14 and 15. It’s just a block from Gage Park but still very private. Sylvia feels her garden honours her mother, who was also passionate about plants.
Julia Veenstra’s flowers and door colour (above left) reflect the palette she uses in her paintings.
At the Max garden, outdoor rooms are created with architectural features.
Clockwise from top: tour goers will see many lovely front porches in the Gage Park area; at the Max garden, outdoor rooms are created with architectural features; artist Julia Veenstra’s flowers and front door colour reflect the colour palette she uses in her paintings.
Hanging baskets and containers are in peak bloom at the Averys’.