To provide an opportunity for the public to enjoy and celebrate the efforts and hard work of local gardeners and their residential landscapes.
No price will ever be set for viewing the gardens. Donations received at the host gardens on tour days will go to the Sheepfold, a charity that serves and shelters women in crisis and their children. Let your heart and your spirit dictate the amount of any gift you are willing to give. Donation jars will be available at each host garden for your cash or check donations, or you can donate through PayPal on our Donate page.
Who We Are
The Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour is a yearly, self-guided charity event held by the Mary Lou Heard Foundation, a California nonprofit organization dedicated to continuing Mary Lou's life work.
This yearly self-guided tour is hosted by real gardeners — just like you — who have generously consented to share their personal creations for you — their honored guest. We strive to present the most dazzling array of beautiful and imaginative gardens assembled for one Tour: and every year it’s TRUE!
Gardens to remember for a lifetime.
This year you’ll see gardens that have graced the pages of fine gardening magazines, gardens used in films and photo shoots, and gardens to inspire the imagination.
They include incredible architectural features, creative surprises, and new approaches to even the most time-honored practices. Formal and elegant Tuscan gardens, a woodland garden dancing with Japanese maples, cottage gardens both humble and grand, xeriscape and coastal scrub gardens — all yours to savor.
To see a garden is to see the very heart of its creator.
The Tour is always a wonderful, joyous event. Everyone is searching for inspiration: the gorgeous bloom, the creative solution, the perfect new plant “find”. But if you look very closely, you realize that to see a garden is to see the very heart of its creator. And you see that it’s not size or money or horticultural prowess that makes these wonderful gardens so special — it’s the message shared by each heart.
Mary Lou's Story
Mary Lou wrote the following for her final newsletter in 2002.
It seems like just yesterday. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years. I remember thinking that I would be happy if I can have even one year to garden. I don’t know if I ever had a newsletter that was harder to write, even though I've always wanted to tell you how much I've felt blessed being allowed to do what I love and share it with others. This newsletter is still difficult, so bear with me, please…
It was in the late 1970s and I had been through a divorce that literally pushed me over the edge. My world came to an abrupt halt, and no matter how hard I tried to regain my footing, I just slipped further and further away. When it became clear that I could not even handle any of the simple tasks of caring for my 10-year-old daughter, I was hospitalized.
I'm certain there was no other choice, but it also meant that it would be like building a life all over again, one painful step at a time.
I discovered gardening when I was in the hospital. It was just the smallest patch of earth, but there was such peace there. It was in great disrepair, and sometimes I would just stand there and survey all that needed to be done. It wasn’t too long before I was on my hands and knees pulling weeds and lost in chores. Time passed so quickly when I was in the garden, and for the first time in many weeks, there were no tears. It became my special place. I would throw on my clothes at the first light of morning and stay there all day. My heart was at peace, and though I didn't know it at the time, the long road to healing had begun.
"Sometimes I would stand alone in the gardens after everyone had gone home and in the quiet - survey all that I saw, and remember the broken, wounded woman..."
Editor's Note: This is why The Sheepfold held a special place in her heart, and why it’s our mission to continue this support in her memory. Heard's Country Gardens nursery officially closed in the summer of 2002. After spending the summer with her family, Mary Lou Heard left us on September 18, 2002. She was 57 years young, but the tour she started continues.
Volunteer Your Garden
Fill out the form below to share your special garden in our next year's tour. Volunteer early! Our drop-dead date for a visit from a Board member, photos, and garden description is November 15.
How the tour began
In 1985 Mary Lou opened Heard’s Country Gardens, a soon-to-become-beloved nursery in Westminster. Many years passed, until finally in the summer of 2002 Mary Lou had to close Heard’s due to the illness that shortly claimed her life.
In 1993 Mary Lou came up with the notion of a garden tour by and for real people, a tour “for the rest of us.” And so a yearly event was born that in its first year expected 100 people but brought out 800 — and in later years brought out thousands.
Over those years we were proud and happy to offer our own gardens for the cause, and we were all bowled over by the amount your free-will donations brought Mary Lou’s chosen recipient, The Sheepfold of Tustin. When Heard’s closed, we wondered how such organizations sustain themselves when the Mary Lous of the world are lost. And so the tour is continued today in Mary Lou’s name because — well — because we love to do it. And because she loved to do it.