‘Secret gardens’ of Marion draw crowds

Jun 24, 2023

MARION — All across Marion are secret gardens hidden just a few short steps from the sidewalk.

On Friday, June 23, the Marion Garden Group brought participants through self-guided tours of nine gardens from expansive seaside estates to lush and detailed pockets of Marion Village.

“We know of people who have remarkable gardens … we approach the owners and ask if they’d be willing,” said Marion Garden Group volunteer Pippa Asker. “Many people find that difficult to do, [but] they are generous with their time and they make their property available.”

Asker added that each years’ garden tour features different properties and all the proceeds go back to the Marion Garden Group and its efforts to “beautify the Town of Marion and make it nice for the community.”

Many participants' first stop was the Marion Town House, which has a front lawn designed by Steve Gonsalves of New Leaf Designs.

“The whole idea of this garden was to keep in the style of the building. I wanted to have a lot of roses — not quite a victorian flair — but the whole idea was to keep with that theme,” he said, adding that the “whole idea is to keep it low maintenance yet elegant.”

To do this, Gonsalves planted “lots of unusual roses,” apricot drifts, shasta daisies, lavender and more.

“I didn’t want it to look commercial — it looks like somebody’s yard [because] who’s house is it? It’s the people’s house,” he said.

Moving down Main Street from the Town House, guests could see the gardens of homes located at 32, 31 and 12 Main Street.

At 32 Main Street, Marion Art Center member artist Jay Ryan painted a scene inspired by the garden in front of him which featured Japanese spindle trees and varieties of roses including Yellow Submarine, Anna’s Promise and Chicago Peace Roses.

Marion Garden Group volunteer Dianne Cosman, who was stationed at 32 Main Street, “really appreciates what [someone] can do with a little space.”

“They have so much variety here,” she added.

At 12 Main Street, an unassuming gate led into a lush green oasis complete with hot tub, a swing hanging from a linden tree, and a metal giraffe sculpture.

Ladies mantle, spirea, Solomon’s seal and a climbing French rose completed the garden’s look.

At 63 Pleasant Street, a garden designed by Michael Jardin, an award winning landscaper, had Japanese rhododendrons, barronwort, an Edith Bogue magnolia and more.

But for Marion Garden Group volunteer Liz Hatch, a blooming blue hosta stole the show.

“I’ve never seen blooms like that on a blue hosta,” she said. “That means it’s in the right place with the right fertilizer at the right time — that’s special.”

Away from the village, two gardens on Moorings Road offered seaside vistas.

Marion Art Center member artist Barbara Healey took the opportunity to paint a scene at 21 Moorings Road, a property with astilbe, spirea, liriope and other plants that can tolerate being planted by the sea.

“There’s really something for just about anyone who’s interested in gardening,” said Asker.