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 Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY RENWALD

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 (blooms­ 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’.

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