SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Eleven property owners in and around Saratoga Springs are welcoming visitors to their stunning, creative and innovative gardens for the 20th annual Secret Gardens Tour taking place Sunday, July 13.
Among the returning spaces - with new looks - are the formal Italian and French landscape styles at Michele and Ron Riggi's Palazzo Riggi on North Broadway and the ever-expanding mosaic of stone, garden and water surrounding Susan and Ted Collins' home on Clinton Street.
The self-guided tour is organized by Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, the local branch of an international women's public service organization, and has blossomed (pardon the pun) over the years into an annual tradition for hundreds of garden lovers, raising thousands of dollars to benefit women and girls locally and globally.
"The owners are incredibly generous to open their property, and their labors of love are sure to inspire visitors," said Marie Hoffman, a chairwoman of the event.
This milestone year tour includes a mix of sun, shade, city and rural gardens, several with water features, in Saratoga Springs, Gansevoort and Middle Grove.
Tickets can be purchased for $20 in advance at www.soroptimistsaratoga.org, at any of Cudney's Cleaners four retail locations (visit cudneys.com for hours), or from 10 a.m. to noon at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center, 297 Broadway, on June 28, July 5 or July 12. Pre-ordered tickets can be picked up on the day of the tour - and tickets at $25 each can be purchased, if still available - at the Visitor Center beginning at 10:30 a.
The Collinses were last on the Secret Gardens Tour for its 10th anniversary, and a great deal has changed since then, including the pond, a greenhouse and a stone patio flanked by a rock fireplace encircled by natural fields of sunflower and Joe Pye weed.
"Ted does the mowing, tree-trimming, weed-wacking and maintaining five acres of trails. For the new fireplace and pond, he hand-picked all the stones to be put in place. They're spectacular," said Susan Collins. "I want to give him kudos for all the hardscape."
She does the rest.
"I go to all the nurseries. I find the plants I like, and I walk around my yard to find the perfect place for them," she said. "I'm more about texture than color. I use a ton of succulents."
Collins calls herself a weekend gardener. "I did not know how to garden until I bought this house. I called a friend who was a big-time gardener. We had one garden and I keep adding and adding."
Preparing for the tour is a huge commitment. But, she said, "we love this fund-raiser."
In addition to the Collins and Riggi gardens, on the July 13 tour are the gardens of Lou and Christina Torres at 16 Knollwood Drive; Debra and Vic Huggard at 17 Knollwood Drive; Elaine and Rich Roberts at 27 Castleberry Drive; Meg and Jim Dalton at 284 Middle Grove Road; Sandy and Jim Wimet at 400 Middle Grove Road; Charles Morrison at 88 Court St.; the Skidmore Apartments bordered by Circular, Court, Regent and Phila streets; Suzanne Jagoda at The Garden Spa, 434 Church St.; and Gretchen and Jim Squires, hidden behind their Posie Peddler at 92 West Ave.
All proceeds from the tour support such things as Project Hope and Power, an eight-week workshop provided by Soroptimist members in partnership with the nonprofit Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County to guide violence victims toward financial independence; monetary awards for women heads of households continuing their education in the face of adversity; grants to area organizations; and projects internationally that help women and girls become self-sufficient in the face of war, natural disaster and sexual abuse (learn more at soroptimistinternational.org).
Whether or not you're on the tour, mention the Secret Gardens Tour and Northshire Bookstore will donate a portion of proceeds of garden books purchased July 12 and 13, and DZ Restaurants will donate a portion of your meal tab at Forno Bistro or Boca Bistro on July 13.