July is a happening month here in Ptown.  The party pretty much doesn’t stop until, well, September?  We just finished up July 4th of course, another memorable parade down.  And the bears have arrived on their yearly migration to town.  Girl Splash is coming, along with Family Week and more.  But I have to be honest, the event I am anxiously awaiting?  Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s annual Secret Garden Tour.

What can I say?  I’m not the party animal I once was (if I ever was one).  And I was brought up by a gardener, who came from a long line of gardeners and farmers.  So I was doomed.

I am a geek when it comes to gardens.  I have rhubarb growing in my vegetable garden that has been in my family for probably about 100 years now and has traveled from house to house to house.  We don’t have heirloom jewelry.  We have heirloom plants.  Every girl’s got her thing, right?  My mom and I have a hard time—a really.  hard.  time—going to a nursery and NOT filling up the entire back of the car with plants.  My mom has started filling up my garden because she’s all out of room at her house.  It’s a problem.  Sort of.

Not Just Another Garden Tour

In the past ten years or so, garden tours suddenly became THE thing.  Like, every single town on Cape Cod had their garden tour.  It has died down a little but for a while, they were popping up like dandelions.  And my mom and I?  We’ve been to many of them.  I wish I could say they were all fabulous.  They weren’t.  Too often, it was a disappointing display of what I call landscaper insta-gardens: the same plants in a different order—hostas, daylilies, hydrangeas, knockout roses.  Yawn.   No offense to you workhorses of the perennial garden, I love you, truly!  But I don’t need to see boring old foundation plantings done by a guy who would rather be mowing.  And I certainly don’t need to PAY to see that.  There are plenty of similar plantings in my own neighborhood.

Thankfully, the PAAM Secret Garden Tour (now in its 19th year!!) is never that.  It is a chance to walk through and enjoy some of the most original, stunning, and immersive gardens on Cape Cod.  Basically like stepping into the pages of Fine Gardening magazine.  In my many visits, I have seen cottage style colors masses pouring over the picket fence of an antique Cape, Asian inspired meditations of green, formal, European style gardens, and a yard full of serious dahlia cultivation.  Often, the houses are open as well⎯double score!  My mark of a good tour?  When I get that feeling that I just want to run home and dig in the soil.

If You Go

  • A hat, sunglasses, and comfortable shoes are basic essentials. You can walk as much or as little as you want, as there are shuttles that take you from garden to garden but inevitably you will be standing and in the sun quite a bit.
  • Don’t miss PAAM’s current exhibit of William Evaul’s white line woodblock prints (your garden tour ticket gets you admission to the Museum).
  • Bring your design enthusiast parent/friend/significant other. They will love you forever.
  • Looking at gardens is like looking at art in a museum—a little goes a long way and it’s exhausting. Sustenance is definitely needed to carry the day, so be sure to stop for lunch (and perhaps bring water and snacks).

Some years are better than others but every year is an inspiration.  I can’t wait to see what this year holds.  Added bonus?  Money from ticket sales supports PAAM, an exciting, locally grounded cultural organization.  For more information visit paam.org.