Ellen Garvey pulls weeds from her Swampscott garden as ReachArts Swampscott Garden Walk participants tour her backyard. (Jacob Menendez)
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SWAMPSCOTT – The Garden Art Walk, planned by local art center ReachArts, made its triumphant return Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., giving residents an opportunity to enjoy a tour of gardens throughout the city, while also enjoying artwork and family-friendly activities during the second annual event.
“The purpose of the event is multiple; started with the pandemic exit to show artists an opportunity to work in a safe way,” said ReachArts Board Member Ingrid Pichler.
Pichler said the organization asked artists and gardeners to participate. In some cases, the artists had their own gardens, and in others they were matched with gardeners from ReachArts. Other times, the match between the gardener and the artist was a sign of a long friendship.
Nora Walker owns the garden at 25 Sheridan Rd. and she and her friend Jessica Vogel decided it was the closest they’d come to running a business together, which they’d long joked about.
Vogel makes beaded jewelry, which she sells in person and on Etsy, but said she prefers to sell in person because “with jewelry you have to see it and touch it and try it on.”
That was why she decided to display her jewelry in her friend’s garden. Walker said she got into gardening about two years ago when she wanted to plant some privacy trees in her back yard.
Walker likes that on walks she can get to know neighbors and share gardening tips. Both Walker and Vogel attended the event last year, but not together.
“We grew up in Swampscott, both of us, it makes us proud to be a part of this community,” Walker said.
Margaret Bachini’s garden at 17 Sheridan Rd. featured a cozy array of colorful flowers and artistically arranged herbs such as fennel carefully hidden in flower pots. Along with daylilies, hibiscus, sea grass, hydrangea and hosta, her garden offered visitors a glimpse of bright pink vinca flowers.
Bachini said she started gardening a few years ago and likes the Garden Art Walk because it allows her to “be part of the community, be a good neighbor” and share gardening ideas.
Bachini said she and her neighbors planted flowers on the island at PFC Ralph E. Williams Square, and in the spring tulips and hyacinths bloom there now as a result of their joint efforts.
Ellen Garvey’s garden and artwork at 85 Monument Ave. were among the most impressive at the exhibition and visitors also noticed that the owners paid special attention to making their garden environmentally friendly.
“This is the most unusual and richest garden, not because there is so much land here, but because it is very environmentally friendly,” said family friend Gura Strimaitis.
Garvey said she and her husband are avid gardeners and have three apple trees, some of which are grown as espaliers — one ancient FARM the practice of controlling the growth of woody plants for fruit production, by shearing and connecting the branches to a frame.
They also had raspberries and blueberries in their garden. Garvey said they did not use chemicals on the apples and instead covered their apples with a thin layer of clay to protect them from insects.
“The apples look like they’re white and they have dust on them, it’s the clay that we spray with, we don’t use any chemicals on the apples,” Garvey said.
Garvey’s husband also kept bees in their garden, and Garvey said he had a new bed of native pollinators. Garvey exhibited her glass artwork for the event, which was made in various techniques such as fused glass and blown glass.
The garden at 148 Elmwood Road impressed visitors with the team spirit of the family that owned it—Joe Douillette tended the bees, his wife Beth Balliro tended the garden, and their daughter Ella Douillette made jewelry.
“We are friends with the people in charge [the event]and we’re super supportive of what people are doing in this community to build relationships and friendships,” Joe Douillette said.
Balliro said she thought it was an important community event because that’s how people learn about what artists lived in their community and it created other opportunities to have more artists in the future, “because the world needs more artists.” , Balliro said.
“I think people like to show off what they do, too,” Douillette said.