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Grandmas' Garden Tour features mystic wonderlands

Karen Feldman stands in her backyard garden, which will be featured for the first time during the 10th Annual Grandmothers' Garden Tour this month. Reminder Publications photo by Katelyn Gendron
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

SOUTHWICK Nestled adjacent to the bottom of a sloping fairway at The Ranch Club golf course is a house unlike any other on its street. Over the past three years, golfers have watched the transformation of one homeowner's patches of grass and dirt into a mystical wonderland of landscape architecture.

Saying that Karen Feldman loves her garden would be a tremendous understatement. During her two days off each week, she leaves her stressful job as a nurse manager behind and digs her hands into the dirt for some gardening therapy.

Little did she know that golfers at The Ranch Golf Club were watching her hard work. In an interview with Reminder Publications, while seated within the garden, Joyce Bannish, co-chair of the Grandmothers' Garden Tour Committee in Westfield, said she recruited Feldman to be a part of this year's 10th Annual Grandmothers' Garden Tour, after her husband kept returning home from rounds of golf raving about a house at the end of the fairway.

Just one of seven gardens on the tour, which takes place from June 28-29, it will allow those in attendance to enjoy an elaborate venue Feldman and her husband have created in their own backyard.

This masterpiece of landscape architecture begins with a two-tiered stone retaining wall and pathway leading from the driveway down into the backyard, where a fence lines the property separating their land from the golf course's pond. Lining the fence is a row of roses and other perennials leading into a cul-de-sac designed specifically for an enclosed gazebo overlooking the pond. Numerous colorful flowerbeds illuminate the entire backyard with hundreds of pink, yellow and purple flowers and ornamental grass. A second two-tiered stone wall frames the other side of the home leading to the front yard, complete with overflowing flower pots on the front stoop.

"I've lived in Southwick all my life," Bannish said. "Having my hands in the dirt [gardening] have been my happiest times." Feldman said.

When asked what kind of time and money it would take to produce such a garden, Feldman chuckled. She said the first year she spent $3,000 on perennials alone and bought 64 yards of mulch.

Feldman said being on the Grandmothers' Garden Tour this year is not about showcasing her work but about the cause the tour is Grandmothers' Garden's largest annual fundraiser.

Grandmothers' Garden was established in 1934 within Chauncey Allen Park, a 10-acre parcel of land donated to the city of Westfield by Albert Steiger in 1930. The garden was dedicated in memory of Steiger's grandmother, Mary, known to all as "Grandmother Steiger."

However, years of neglect caused Grandmothers' Garden to succumb to the elements until 1994, when a group of concerned citizens formed the non-profit Friends of Grandmothers' Garden (FOGG), with a mission to restore the garden to its former beauty. In 1995, FOGG signed a 75-year lease with the city of Westfield to maintain the garden and Chauncey Allen Park.

Committee member Mary O'Connell, also a Westfield City Councilor, said she's been involved in the rehabilitation of the garden since the committee's inception, when the idea for the tour was born. She noted that during the first year, the tour raised approximately $2,000. The tour has also evolved into a weekend-long series of events, complete with a concert, two-day tour and "Garden Party."

O'Connell noted that last year the tour raised approximately $20,000. She explained that over the years the funds have been used to put in lighting and a sprinkler system to better aid the volunteers in the garden's upkeep.

The 10th Annual Grandmothers' Garden Tour will feature seven different gardens in Westfield, Southwick, Suffield and West Suffield, Conn. The Third Annual Garden Party and concert will take place at the Watkins Garden on June 27 at 6 p.m. The cost is $40 per person. The concert will feature Curran & Company.

The tour will take place on June 28 and 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. The cost of the tour is $20 per person and $15 for seniors. A combination package for the Garden Party, concert and tour is also available for a cost of $55 per person.

For more information about the tour or to obtain tickets go to Tickets can be purchased at With Heart and Hand or Pepperberry's Flower Shop in Westfield, or at Southwick Florist and Greenhouse or Notch Travel Centre in Southwick.