Gardens to remember: Annual Sumter Spring Garden Tour is May 20


If you enjoy outdoor garden spaces, The Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter's Spring Garden Tour on Saturday, May 20, is where you need to be. Visit five gardens, each uniquely styled but with two things in common - relaxation and water. Three gardens are located on the historic Second Mill Pond, and two have lovely fountains and a goldfish pond. The soothing sounds of gurgling water along with beams of sunlight bouncing across the pond's surface instill feelings of both calmness and rejuvenation. With tour hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you have ample time to stroll leisurely through the gardens and enjoy the sounds and views from poolside, porches, patios and decks.

Garden 1

With an appealing lawn and garden, tended primarily by the homeowners, this home and landscape exude charm. You can sense the love and attention this comfortable garden receives. Many elements of the garden have been inspired by the homeowners' ancestors, who were passionate about gardening.

The garden has an assortment of spaces showcasing a plethora of flowers in vibrant color palettes, some in artfully arranged planters and others tucked into shady recesses. The well-organized front yard, brimming with neat beds of shrubs and trees, has a slightly formal feel. When you traverse under the side garden pergola into the back yard, the scene becomes more casual. On view here are a pretty garden shed, a brick fence embraced by climbing roses and a fountain. From the patio, the family can see the entire back yard while dining al fresco and listening to the birds.

For homeowners who want ideas and tips about designing and creating smaller garden spaces, this garden (.37 acre) is a great place to visit. By heavily pruning bushes to prevent overcrowding, the homeowners have maximized every inch of their landscape.

Gardens 2, 3, 4

These three gardens have gorgeous front yards and expansive back yards that slope into Second Mill Pond. Every sight line has views that can be enjoyed from several levels of decks and porches designed to connect the outdoors with the home interiors, thus giving the homeowners the best of both worlds. When the weather is good, the pond views can be fully enjoyed in the open air while one is sitting comfortably in colorful cushioned outdoor seating. When the weather is not amenable to being outdoors, homeowners have large windows allowing them a full view of the landscape and pond, even on the coldest of winter days. If your yard wish list includes a swimming pool, hot tub, outdoor kitchen, dining area, patio, garden décor, or swing, you will find plenty of inspiration among these three gardens.

Two of the back yards are wide verdant open lawns. From these vantage points, Second Mill Pond looks like a large clear lake. The view is reminiscent of the days when the pond was known as Sunset Lake, where, according to a newspaper story from July 5, 1929, a multitude of activities took place. One newspaper ad from that era read: "Dance at Sunset Lake, Friday Night, May 6, Music by Citadel Bulldogs, Come out and bring a girl, Script $2, From 10 to 2." Another described the opening of the Second Mill Pavilion as "The Seashore at Your Door." Today, Second Mill Pond, originally the site of a grist mill (1065 Old W. Liberty St.), maintains an area where people often fish, sail and kayak.

While there is no longer a dance venue on Second Mill, some of the homeowners have outdoor areas where dancing can take place. At one garden, a large infinity pool deck is made of travertine stone. The travertine surround continues into the outdoor kitchen and lounge; it was chosen to blend with outdoor elements as well as with the house, which was built in 1972.

From this site, the view of the pond looks more like a nature preserve; the cypress trees have not been cleared and grow almost into the lawn. The water's edge reminds one of Swan Lake with an iris bed beside the black waters.

The gardens are all designed as gathering places for friends and family. Grandchildren often fish from backyard docks and fly skyward from their outdoor swings. The open yards give them a place to run and romp until they are too exhausted to move another muscle.

Pictured are some scenes from the backyards of each of these three homes. Included are a few pictures from times past showing how Second Mill Pond has changed over the years.

Garden 5

If you have been to England or desire to travel there, this garden, with its mix of annuals, perennials, herbs and greenery, gives you the feel of an English garden. In the yard's center, a tabby brick English Tudor-style home, with gardens on all four sides, also reflects the English garden theme. Flowers, especially lilies, many propagated by the homeowners, are in abundance in every nook and cranny of the garden. The multiple brick pathways lead from one garden room into another. Along the walkways are fountains, a small pond, bird houses, bird/squirrel feeders, and an outdoor fire pit.

What makes this yard so unique are the terraced areas designed by the homeowners. When they bought their house over 30 years ago, shrubbery bordered the yard where it met the sidewalk. Wanting to put their own touch on their property, they removed most of the existing shrubs. Next a design was envisioned and after many hours, days and years, their vision of a layered, harmonious outdoor area materialized. Like many English gardens, romantic flowers such as roses and hydrangeas are located throughout.

Today, the homeowner's garden requires upkeep, but the hard work is rewarding. In addition to enjoying the fruits of their labor themselves, neighbors often stop by to visit and rest in one of the garden rooms. Sharing their lovely garden with visiting friends gives the homeowners a comfortable and pleasurable "sense of community."

Tour the Gardens

Come, bring friends, and enjoy your own "sense of community." Tour garden addresses are on the tickets.