Behind the Scenes of the Summer Garden Tour

It’s no secret that we live in one of the prettiest towns in Canada. Each summer, locals and tourists alike line up for the chance to view the private gardens of some of our talented green-thumb residents. The NOTL Horticultural Society has hosted their Garden Tour for no less than twenty seven years, collaborating with locals to create an immersive and inspiring afternoon for garden enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

On July 16th, the annual Garden Tour volunteer appreciation mixer was held at Mori Gardens. Mori is the platinum sponsor of the tour, offering a helpful discount to gardeners in the lineup, plus rental items to enhance each space and pro tips for any trouble-shooting before the adoring masses come to call.

The back of the garden centre was transformed into a breezy oasis. Refreshments were provided by sponsors Konzlemann and Silversmith, there was a buffet of nibbles, and live jazz guitar. The centerpiece of the event were an assortment of delightful hats, a new tradition.

Each host on the tour dons one of these whimsical hats, and visitors collect photos of the hosts and their smashing bonnets. The 2018 collection featured beehives, bird’s nests, feathers, dragonflies and sprays of wisteria and were dreamed up by floral designer Hilary Bellis (president of Neward Neighbours) and Liz Klose of the Canadian Garden Council. Upcycled materials for the hats were donated by Newark Neighbours. In return, the Horticultural Society made a generous donation to the local thrift shop and food bank. The hats were raffled off at the mixer in support of the Horticultural Society.

This year’s summer tour was a great success. Cindy Grant, chair of the Garden Tour committee, says approximately one thousand visitors passed through and a team of over sixty volunteers made it possible for both guests and hosts alike to enjoy the experience.

Once the summer tour wraps up, the selection process for the following year begins almost immediately.

“We’re looking for a gardener’s garden,” says Gloria Thurston, head of the selection committee for the last six years. “We need to see passion and a sense of play in addition to technical skill.”

Gary Hall, (marketing and social media) explained that the ideal garden offers a balance between glitz and effort, creates an opportunity for the gardener to expand their own knowledge, and celebrates the unexpected.

Sometimes some arm-twisting is required in recruiting. Concerns like privacy, and spousal approval often come up. Thurston’s own garden was finally showcased this summer, after years of persuading her husband that they should join the lineup. Thurston says he sat in the garden for the afternoon, greeting guests, and watching the excellent job the Society’s ‘Garden Sitters’ did of maintaining order, and then rewarded Thurston’s persistence with a sincere “You’ve done good!”.

I never did find out who got to wear the crazy hat.

If you’d like to be considered for the 2019 Garden Tour, or for more information on the NOTL Horticultural society, visit them at

Photography by Amanda Luken Photography



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