Crowds give steady applause for garden tours

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

NATCHEZ — For one of Natchez’s daughters, the Symphony of Gardens Tour offers a great Mother’s Day present.

Since the tours started four years ago, it has become tradition for Theresa Graves to bring her mother, Mary Gonnillini, to see the flowers as an early Mother’s Day present.

This year was no different. Friday afternoon Graves and Gonnillini joined a steady stream of people being spellbound by the gardens at Gloucester.

“I started bringing her because I know she loves gardening,” Graves said. “She has had a green thumb for as long as I can remember.”

But perhaps the green gene wasn’t passed to Graves, who needed mom to identify roses Friday.

“I neglected your education if you don’t know what a rose looks like,” Gonnillini chided.

Graves said Gonnillini has a garden to rival a professional’s. Gonnillini said she still appreciates the professional’s work, however.

“Inspiration is why I love to see gardens,” she said. “People say don’t give me flowers because she has so many.

“But people who have a lot of flowers appreciate them more.”

Gonnillini said she had always enjoyed flowers, but it wasn’t until she was in her late 20s when she learned she had a knack for it.

“I used to pick flowers from my neighbor’s yard when I was a little girl,” she said. “Or, when weeding, (my neighbor) would give me some of what she clipped.”

Graves said going to the gardens year after year has had an inadvertent effect on her.

“I started bringing her and I fell in love — now I want to be a gardener,” Graves said. “But I have no green thumb.

“I usually end up bringing the flowers I kill to my mom and ask her to save it.”

Gonnillini said the quality time with her daughter is as important as anything else.

“This is the time to slow down, we are all moving fast, even at my age,” she said.

“Stop and smell the roses,” Graves laughed.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., groups toured Gloucester, Wilkins Town House and Thompson Garden. Saturday’s tour, from 9 a.m. to noon, includes The Towers, Monmouth, the Guercio Garden and the Fitch Garden.

Tickets are $15 for a one-day pass and $25 for a two-day pass.

Saturday also includes an indoor garden workshop at 2 p.m. at the Natchez Convention Center.

The workshop is free with a ticket to either the Friday or today’s tour.

The tours are a fundraiser for the not-for-profit group Grow Natchez Gardens which offers gardening education on the local level.

Tickets can be purchased at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, by calling 601-446-6345 or online at