The Garden Art Walk is back in Swampscott

Ellen Garvey pulls weeds from her Swampscott garden as participants in the ReachArts Swampscott Garden Walk tour her backyard. (Jacob Menendez)

SWAMPSCOTT – The Garden Art Walk, planned by local arts center ReachArts, made its triumphant return Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., giving residents the opportunity to enjoy a tour of gardens throughout the city while enjoying works of art and family activities during the second annual event.

“The purpose of the event is multifaceted; started out of the pandemic to show artists an opportunity to work in a safe way,” said ReachArts board member Ingrid Pichler.

Pichler said the organization asked artists and gardeners to participate. In some cases the artists had their own gardens, and in others they were matched with ReachArts gardeners. Another time, the meeting between the garden and the artist was a sign of a long friendship.

Nora Walker owns the garden on Sheridan Rd. 25 and she and her friend Jessica Vogel decided this was the closest they’d get to running a business together that they’d been joking about for a long time.

Vogel makes beaded jewelry that she sells in person and on Etsy, but she said she prefers to sell in person because “with jewelry, you have to see it, touch it, and try it.”

So she decided to display her jewelry in her friend’s garden. Walker said she got into gardening about two years ago when she wanted to plant some trees for privacy in her back yard.

Walker likes that during the walk he can get to know the neighbors and share gardening tips. Both Walker and Vogel participated in the event last year, but not together.

“We grew up in Swampscott, both of us, it makes us proud to be a part of this community,” Walker said.

Margaret Bacchini’s Garden at 17 Sheridan Rd. it featured a cozy array of colorful flowers and artistically arranged herbs such as dill, carefully hidden in pots. Along with daylilies, hibiscus, sea grass, hydrangea and hosta, her garden offered visitors a view of bright pink vinca flowers.

Baccini said she started gardening a few years ago and likes the Garden Art Walk because it allows her to “be part of the community, be a good neighbor” and share gardening ideas.

Baccini said she and her neighbors planted flowers on the island at PFC Ralph E. Williams Square, and in the spring tulips and hyacinths bloom there as a result of their collaborative efforts.

The garden and works of Ellen Garvey on Monument Ave. 85 were among the most impressive of the exhibition, and visitors also noted that the owners paid special attention to making their garden environmentally friendly.

“This is the most unusual and rich garden, not because there is so much land here, but because it is so ecological,” said family friend Goura Strimaitis.

Garvey said she and her husband are avid gardeners and have three apple trees, some of which are grown as espaliers – ancient agricultural practice of controlling the growth of woody plants for the production of fruit, by pruning and tying branches to a frame.

They also had raspberries and blueberries in their garden. Garvey said they didn’t use chemicals on the apples and instead covered their apples with a thin layer of clay to protect them from insects.

“The apples look kind of white and they have dust on them, it’s clay that we spray on, we don’t use any chemicals on the apples,” Garvey said.

Garvey’s husband also keeps bees in their garden, and Garvey said he has new beds of native pollinating plants. Garvey displayed his glass work for the event, which was made in a variety of techniques such as fused glass and blown glass.

The garden at 148 Elmwood Road impressed visitors with the team spirit of the family that owned it—Joe Douillet tended the bees, his wife Beth Balliro tended the garden, and their daughter Ella Douillet made jewelry.

“We are friends with the people who run away [the event]and we are extremely supportive of what people are doing in this community to build relationships and friendships,” said Joe Douillette.

Balliro said he thinks it’s an important event for the community because it’s how people learn about what artists have lived in their community and it creates additional opportunities for more artists in the future, “because the world needs more artists,” Balliro said.

“I think people also like to show off what they’re doing,” Douillet said.

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