Annual tour shows variety of gardens in Mt. Lebanon

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Now in its 23rd year, the annual Mt. Lebanon Garden Tour rarely features a garden more than once. A fundraiser for the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, the tour averages eight gardens each year.

"With an area of 6 square miles, Mt. Lebanon has approximately 33,000 residents, and we're glad that many of them are gardeners," library director Cynthia Richey said. "The community has been recognized by many organizations for its trees, gardens and green spaces, things the residents really seem to care about."

The garden tour committee's most difficult task each year is finding gardens of interest and finding garden owners willing to show them.

"We find 50 to 60 percent of our featured gardens by scouring the area by car," said David McKibben, tour coordinator. "We usually find the gardeners, they don't find us."

This year's roster of nine gardens is especially varied, which is why organizers have titled the tour "Something for Everyone."

The tour, scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, will spotlight flower gardens, perennial gardens, a school garden, gardens with ponds and water features, and an artistic garden full of sculptures and a mosaic bench.

One of the gardens will give tour takers a panoramic view of Cedar Lake, which is surrounded by private property and not open to the public.

For the first time in 15 years, a garden railroad will be included on the tour, a G-scale model that winds through the landscape.

The library's own award-winning Courtyard Garden is part of the tour and includes display gardens and vegetable gardens from which much of the harvest is used in library programs.

"The courtyard first got its start in 1998 when we had a big heap of dirt left over from a library renovation," Mrs. Richey said. Volunteer architect James Scarlett of Mt. Lebanon, who is now deceased, designed the courtyard and the library's team of volunteer gardeners designed the landscape, she said.

Almost every plant in the garden at Lincoln Elementary School, one of the nine gardens on the tour, was planted by students. Students also designed and planted the raised corner beds in front of the school and built recycled twig trellises by hand. They also built the composter and made improvements so that the garden could be certified as a wildlife habitat.

Participants this year can begin the tour at any of the nine gardens, using the program book they will receive when they buy their tickets. The book includes a map, directions and descriptions of each garden. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the event and may be purchased at the library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd.

Herbs, small trees, hydrangeas and perennials will be on sale from noon to 5 p.m. on the day of the tour at the library, and master gardeners and horticulturists, including Mr. McKibben, will answer questions at the plant sale. The library's Book Cellar will sell used books, CDs and DVDs at discounted prices to tour takers.

"People come from all around to take our tour," Mrs. Richey said. "They come for inspiration al ideas for their own gardens and to help support the library."

One of the primary annual fundraisers for the library, the garden tour nets the library about $25,000, which is used to buy books and talking books, to maintain the Courtyard Garden, and to make purchases such as new carpeting. The library's biggest fundraiser is the Book Cellar, which is open year-round and nets the library about $90,000.

"Our annual tour is not a garden contest, it's a community activity in which our resident gardeners share their expertise," Mr. McKibben said.

The day before the tour, from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, the library will host its annual Garden Party in the Courtyard Garden. All gardeners on this year's tour will be there, and members of several local symphonies, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, will perform. Admission is $30 and includes food and drink.

Details: 412-531-1912.


Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: First Published July 3, 2013 9:30 AM


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