, Newburyport, MA


June 5, 2013

A growing success

34th annual tour highlights 'City Gardens'

This weekend’s garden tour in Newburyport proves that good things can come in small packages.

Hosted by the Historical Society of Old Newbury, the 34th annual event features everything from tiny backyard oases in the heart of the city to more spacious landscapes complete with gates and towering trees.

The backyard of Elizabeth Petty’s Purchase Street home has undergone a complete transformation since she first moved in 33 years ago.

“There was no garden when I moved in,” Petty said.

Rather, the small yard of the 19th-century home was filled with burnt grass, old radiators and broken tar paths. Today, brick paths lead visitors through peonies, mountain laurel, espaliered apple trees, herbs, delphinium and Korean dogwood trees. It is one of 16 “City Gardens” highlighted on the tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The garden also holds treasured gifts from family members, including a white bleeding heart from her daughter, white peonies from her mother, a star magnolia from her son and pink peonies from her father-in-law.

The peonies just bloomed this week, enhancing the mostly blue, white and green color scheme.

“I’ve been watching them open today,” Petty said Monday.

Petty’s garden is a testament to the skills she has honed over the years, learned from fellow gardeners, volunteer work in the Historical Society’s Cushing House Museum garden, classes at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum Landscape Institute and tours of gardens in England and Italy.

“I had no clue how to garden 30 years ago,” Petty said. “My first garden was a six-pack of marigolds.”

The former teacher and tutor, 59, said she really started focusing on the garden about eight years ago, after her son, Tom, 27, went off to college and she had the yard to herself for the first time.

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