CHATHAM -- "There's more gardening going on per square mile on Cape Cod than most places in the Northeast," says C.L. Fornari, the Osterville-based author of the book "A Garden Lover's Cape Cod."
It will certainly feel that way this weekend, as foliage fans traipse from one glorious patch of greenery to the next, all part of a weekend-long tour of Cape Cod gardens, a benefit for the Garden Conservancy.
The truth is, people who garden in quirky conditions especially like to check out what the neighbors are doing. Yes, everyone still plants hydrangeas here. But that's just the beginning.
"I think people are gardening more on the Cape, being more adventurous and going beyond planting the same old Nikko hydrangea," says Sarah Dunbar, who recently finished planting 40 kinds of hydrangeas on her five-acre estate here. It's called "The Gnomerie" for the three dozen 10-foot topiary Boulevard cypress that have been pruned into elfin features. They form the centerpiece of the extensive gardens that Sarah and Prescott Dunbar have developed over 35 summers at 78 Cedar St. on Oyster Pond.
The Gnomerie is one of six gardens that will be open to the public on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour benefits the Garden Conservancy, the only national not-for-profit working to preserve gardens in this country. The Conservancy's latest projects include rebuilding the Katrina-ravaged New Orleans Botanical Garden.
"Pillar to Post," the Milbier garden at 29 Weyquasset, Harwich Port, will be open Saturday and Sunday. Here, landscape designer Don, his wife, Cele, and their son, Kyle, president of Patrissi Landscaping, have created a one-acre garden that seems larger.
They've used vertical components such as an avenue of 12-foot steel archways by Don Cosavant to frame a sea view and even created a 12-foot faux castle wall of fieldstone that looks down into a hand-dug reflecting pool. Outdoor sculpture, increasingly a key element in the modern garden, is skillfully used. It is a terrific idea garden for those with small yards and big ambitions. You can get directions at Pillar to Post to go to "Clairvue," a very artistic East Orleans garden, which is open Sunday.
Six Cape gardens will be open to the public on Saturday and two on Sunday, all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per garden at the gate, children under 12 free. For information on the Garden Conservancy's Open Days Tours, including those in the Berkshires on Aug. 5 and Sept. 16, and Mount Desert Island, Maine, on Aug. 5, visit opendaysprogram.org or call 888-842-2442.