Hilltop set to host Spring Garden Tour

Despite the winter deep freeze that impacted almost all gardens in the area, thanks to several brave and dedicated gardeners, the Hilltop Spring Garden Tour will go on. So mark your calendar for Sunday, May 18, and get ready to be inspired.

The tour, Flora After the Freeze, will feature eclectic gardens in the River Bend, University Lakes and Hundred Oaks areas, including a backyard fern oasis with outdoor art, a woodland garden with a meandering rock-lined stream and a camellia collection, a whimsical garden with lots of surprises that will lift your spirits, an extraordinary landscape designer’s garden and a lush urban garden of varied textures and color.

Hilltop’s Hodge Podge Nursery also will be open for business from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on tour day.

Gardens on tour are:

Dr. Joel Podolsky, 2598 Dalyrmple Drive: This unique garden park surrounding the Frank Lloyd Wright-style home has evolved and unfolded over the past 20 years. Surrounded by only a St. Augustine lawn when it was purchased in 1993, Podolsky has transformed the landscape into an “artscape.” The garden park contains a variety of themes of different cultures, art and myths — Asian, rustic, Caribbean, wildlife, tropical, semi-tropical, mythical, whimsical and spiritual. There are garden beds, ponds and archways, as well as metal and steel sculptures. There are large areas with shades of green, other areas with bursts of pink, red and yellow, and then patches of violet and blue with a touch of yellow or pink. And then there are those funky garden folk art signs that include abstract African, Polynesian and Native American-influenced wooden masks. Brightly colored bird houses with all kinds of designs are another striking feature of this garden experience.

Patrice and Richard Ellis, 1402 Kenmore Ave.: A gated front entry opens to a gravel path that winds through evergreen landscaping shaded by live oaks. An antique bench and chairs provide a place to rest and enjoy the lush greenery. The path leads through an iron gate that opens to an outdoor living area. Perennials, annuals and tropical foliage define the walkways that wander past a sugar kettle, fish pond, gazebo and a garconniere. The covered porch spans the back of the home and includes both sitting and dining areas as well as a swing and a fireplace. A collection of bird feeders, concrete sculpture and wrought iron are nestled within view from the porch. A red tuteur, or trainer, is the focal point in the enclosed perennial and herb garden located at the side of the home.

Mary Johnson, 3155 Hundred Oaks: Except for a small flower garden in an area close to the road which gets sun, Johnson’s garden is predominately shade and semi-shade. As a result most of the remaining plants are adapted to these conditions, including shade-tolerant natives, ferns, hostas and ligularia. And, while there are few flowers, the yard is rich in textures. Also, look for the subtle garden art.

Denise Van Schoyck and Terry Tuminello, 6236 Riverbend: This residence features numerous, mature hardwood trees plus a gentle slope that provides a shady backyard retreat. Situated on almost an acre, the lot posed a number of challenges compounded by the hurricanes which periodically altered the best of plans. A grove of mature camellias, some more than 30 years old, cluster under deciduous trees providing color in the cold months and verdant cool in the heat of summer. A waterfall and stream were recreated to emphasize the slope of the land. Plant selection has been eclectic with heavy emphasis on native and naturalized species punctuated by exotics. And for those who choose to wander down the flagstone paths, there are places to sit as well as a surprise beyond the garden gate for enthusiasts of vegetable gardens and fruit orchards.

Carol and Pete Newton, 1587 Richland Ave.: The Newtons bought their home in December 1992 after searching the area for some time. What they purchased was a much older, mostly frame home with jalousie windows and no insulation. In 1995 they began renovations on their home, and then Pete Newton drew a schematic landscape plan that still guides their efforts today. Large existing sweet gum trees give a wooded feel to much of the backyard providing shade for a mixed bag of plants. The other half of the yard has evolved over the years with sweetbay magnolias and tulip magnolias around their home and pool. An existing back house now anchors a vegetable garden that has rare moments of glory.