The fountain in the courtyard at Oak Hill Bed and Breakfast will be one of the many highlights of the Natchez Tour of Gardens set for Saturday.
The fountain in the courtyard at Oak Hill Bed and Breakfast will be one of the many highlights of the Natchez Tour of Gardens set for Saturday.

Tours offer glimpse into local gardens

Published 12:02am Sunday, May 5, 2013

Just as a house is not the sum of a home, neither are houses the single showpieces of Natchez’s elegant past or present.

Saturday, six homes in the area will open their doors — front and back — so guests may view a glimpse of their formal outdoor spaces as part of the Natchez Tour of Gardens.

The event serves as a fundraiser for the Natchez Garden Club, and benefits NGC’s ongoing preservation work, especially at Magnolia Hall and the House on Ellicott Hill, said Doug Mauro, owner of Oak Hill Historic Inn, which is on the tour.

“We just want to inspire people to not be afraid and get out there and start their own gardens,” he said.

The six gardens on the tour are all mature, well-established gardens that could be considered “classic Natchez gardens,” and are all located in the downtown area and can be accessed on foot, Mauro said.

The day will be broken into a morning tour and an afternoon tour, each with three gardens, though those who want to want to see all of the gardens may buy an all-day ticket.

On the morning tour are Greenlea at 211 S. Wall St., the Wills residence at 500 N. Pearl St., and Cherokee at 217 High St.

The afternoon tour includes Cottage Gardens at 816 Myrtle Ave., Oak Hill at 908 S. Rankin St. and Monmouth Historic Inn at 63 Melrose Ave.

Cherokee is the residence of Mike and Sharon Blattner, and has five distinct garden areas and is listed in the Smithsonian Institute’s archives of American gardens, Mike said.

“(Cherokee) is one of the older houses in Natchez, and the Greek revial part of the house that was done in the 1800s was laid out with some pretty elaborate gardens that were lost after the Civil War,” he said. “In the 1930s, the family who lived here at the time had the gardens restored to their original configurations, and now it is kind of an ongoing process you have to maintain.”

Cherokee’s garden areas include a formal English garden, a sunken fountain garden, a side garden with a pool and a rose garden.

“Our favorite area is the rear lower garden where the fountain is,” Mike said. “It is formally laid out, there is a ring of azaleas around the fountain and we have recently reconstructed a pigeonnier that holds peacocks and doves. It is a really tranquil area — you don’t even know you’re in the middle of town.”

At Cottage Gardens, owner Jerry Krouse said visitors will be impressed with the property’s Italian-style courtyard directly behind the house.

“When you see this courtyard, I don’t think there is any mistaking the kind of Tuscan influence that it exudes,” he said.

Right now the Confederate jasmine is in full bloom, and the main focal point of the courtyard is the fountain in the back that has four sprays of water in it.”

In fact, water elements are a common theme in the garden tour, Mauro said.

“So many of them have water features here,” he said. “It is so hot here psychologically that it makes you feel cooler when you hear the water splashing.”

The gardens at Cottage Gardens were designed by famed landscape architect William Garbo approximately 15 years ago, Krouse said.

Garbo designed the gardens at the Mississippi governor’s mansion and has done work in other areas of Natchez, including Monmouth.

“My original ideas were for a very close tropical garden, but Mr. Garbo was more formally-oriented or at least thought I needed a more formally-oriented garden,” Krouse said.

“Though I was not in sync with him in the beginning, once he got it finished and it became a little more mature, I saw the wisdom in his design and the fact that it went with this house much better than the plan I was thinking about. Mr. Garbo was a born artist before he ever became a landscape architect, and the garden is all lush and green, and all of the flowers are popping out.”

Tickets to the morning and afternoon tours are $15. All-day tickets are $25.

Tickets can be purchased from the Natchez Garden Club at 601-443-9065 or Natchez Pilgrimage Tours at 601-446-6631.

They can also be purchased at the individual homes on the day of the tour, Mauro said.

“This event is going to be open rain or shine, because the flowers certainly aren’t going to care if it rains,” he said.