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Couple turns 'gravel pit' into oasis of tranquility for garden tour

Date: 7/7/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Some wooden boards, hundreds of lilies and piles of stones might appear collectively as a heap of rubble but strategically placed with the eye of a landscape architect, they can turn any backyard into a horticulturists' masterpiece.

Karen and Gary Couture have labored for a decade to turn their yard into to an oasis of peaceful tranquility. The Coutures' half-acre of landscape will be one of six featured during the 11th annual Grandmothers' Garden Tour this weekend.

"When we first moved to the house [30 years ago we found out] we were living on a gravel pit," Karen explained, adding that she and her husband have worked together to create the area complete with spa hut, ponds, stone walls, a vegetable garden and hundreds of flowers.

"I throw things at the landscape and if it grows too big, I move and shift [the plants or flowers]," she continued. "I just love putting plants in the ground and watching them grow."

Gary called the area "a place for us to get away from everything now and then."

Bernadette Toomey, co-chair of the Grandmothers' Garden Tour, noted that this year's featured gardens in Westfield, Easthampton and Southampton offer quality and diversity. She added that gardens are chosen by a selection committee one year in advance.

Toomey noted that all proceeds go toward the maintenance of Grandmothers' Garden, a 10-acre parcel of land originally donated to the city in 1930 by Albert Steiger in honor of his grandmother. The Friends of Grandmothers' Garden are responsible for the approximately $22,000 netted annually by the tour.

The annual Garden Party and Concert with music by Curran and Company will kick off the weekend of celebration on July 10 at 6 p.m. at Watkins Gardens, 76 Honey Pot Rd., Southwick.

The garden tours will take place on July 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tour registration will begin at Grandmothers' Garden on Smith Avenue from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Admission to the Garden Party and Concert is $40 per person. Tickets for the garden tour are $20 per person and $15 for senior citizens. Admission to the Garden Party, concert and tour are $55 each.

Tickets may be purchased at PepperBerry's, Flowers by Webster, Southwick Florist and Greenhouse or by calling Joyce Bannish, co-chair of the Grandmothers' Garden Tour, at 569-3232. Tickets may also be obtained by contacting Toomey at 562-9404 or