By ISABELLA SMITH
“Bee Happy” was the theme for this year’s Garden Gala held on Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors were invited to come out for a self-guided walking tour of private and public gardens throughout Downtown Jonesborough, learn fun and interesting facts about bees and the important part they play, as well as enjoy tea and cookies.
This year was the 23rd Garden Gala to be celebrated in Jonesborough. The Tuesday Garden Club and the Schubert Club take turns hosting the gala; this year it was the Tuesday Garden Club’s turn.
Dona Lewis, chair of the Garden Gala, helped organize the event.
She said the reason they chose to focus on bees for the theme is because bees play a major part in plant production.
“As the bee population decreases, so does our food production,” said Lewis, as she explained how bees contribute to crop growth through pollination.
Lewis hopes that visitors found enjoyment in the beautiful gardens and the art and music that was present at several of the stops along the tour, as well as learn some new and interesting facts about gardening and the bees that pollinate them.
Visitors had the opportunity to view seven public gardens and 10 private gardens along the tour.
A bus was provided by David Crockett High School to transport visitors to the various gardens.
The private gardens are owned and maintained by residents of Historic Downtown Jonesborough and are opened to the public during the Garden Gala so others can experience the unique beauty that each gardener has worked hard to create.
One of the first stops on the tour is the garden of Jonathan Adams and Sherrell Lyon, where visitors could enjoy a well-designed, half-acre garden with a greenhouse made out of recycled windows, a collection of antique birdcages placed strategically throughout the garden, a private dining area and an artfully designed henhouse and rabbit pen.
“I’ve always wanted to make a place where family and friends can come and relax and have something interesting to look at,” said Adams.
Each garden held its own appeal. Some were shaded and mysterious, others whimsical, while others gave a feeling of openness and serenity.
They allowed visitors to see what can be done when people and nature come together. A new world can be created and experienced.
A great example of how a garden can become a world of its own is the Thatcher garden.
The garden was created by Helen and Sam Thatcher and is a visitor favorite. It contains four different garden rooms that are in themselves unique and give a mysterious yet peaceful feel.
“It feels like I’m walking through the Secret Garden,” said one visitor as she gazed around in wonder at the small courtyard to the side of the house.
Another visitor laughingly said that going along the shaded walk path at the front of the house felt like she was walking in an enchanted forest and almost expected to meet a fairy or other magical creature.
Helen Thatcher hopes that the tour encourages people to start a garden of their own. She said it doesn’t matter what size of garden they have or what plants they choose to grow, it’s just important to spend time with nature.
Thatcher enjoys being a part of the Garden Gala and appreciates all the visitors that come out to be a part of the tour.
“I love being out in nature,” said Thatcher, when asked how she felt about people visiting her garden. “It’s so peaceful, and it would sad if no one came and enjoyed it with us.”
Every garden had a unique landscape design with artistic features such as a multicolored watering pot, a flowerbed made out of an actual iron bed, birds made out of scrap metal, and a heart shaped design made out of brick on a walk path.
Visitors also had the opportunity to buy new items to add to their garden or materials that teach new gardening techniques from marketplace vendors set up on the International Storytelling Center Plaza and in front of the Washington County Courthouse from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There was everything from stained glass, plants, garden items, tools, garden-style jewelry and other handcrafted items.
“The Garden Gala is great because it brings a lot of people to our beautiful town,” said Becky Chapman, a vendor who has been a part of the Garden Gala for the past eight years.
Chapman sells glass art flowers called reblooms that are made out of used crystal and glass.
The Tuesday Garden Club had a flea market-type booth set up where they sold plants grown by members of the club, as well as other gardening items.
Lynda Harris ran the booth and said that the benefits of the Gala is that it promotes life in Jonesborough and teaches how to grow a healthy and environmentally safe garden.
“A big part of what we do today is raise money for local high school students and programs in the community,” said Harris.
All the money made from the Gala goes to charity, such as scholarships for students going into a career in agriculture.
The Gala brought in over 400 people to town, many of which are returning visitors.
P.J. Tucker, a California native who moved to Jonesborough several years ago, is one of those returning. This was her fifth Garden Gala.
“I love the Gala because it always gives me new ideas for my own garden and it’s a great way to spend time with friends,” said Tucker
“I can’t wait to see the treasures that are usually hidden behind fences,” said Carolyn Andrews, whose first visit to the Garden Gala was Saturday.
Both Tucker and Andrews feel that the Gala is important because it brings the community together, attracts new people to town, and the money collected is used to give back to the community.
Afternoon tea took place from 1 p. m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Kennedy garden where visitors could enjoy homemade baked goods and iced tea, while listening to music played by Martha painter on her harp.
The event was sponsored by the Northeast Tennessee Master Gardeners and Southern Appalachian Plant Society.