To say I live for the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour could quite possibly be an understatement. The motto “real gardens by real people” is a mantra for me. Throw in Mary Lou’s inspirational personal story, raising money for a great cause (The Sheepfold Women’s Shelter), and a self-guided tour of beautiful local gardens tended by the nicest people you could ever meet, and I’m in 110%.
I became a Board member of the Mary Lou Heard Foundation in 2015 and have had the pleasure of volunteering many hours with, again, the nicest people you could ever meet. I was very excited we had 43 inspirational gardens for the 2020 Tour and even scheduled a vacation the week before the tour to put the finishing touches of window washing and pathway vacuuming on my own garden when COVID 19 hit.
The Board decided to postpone to a “movable date,” but the first weekend of May – the garden tour date since 1994 – was fast approaching, and I felt lost and helpless.
I could deliver the highly coveted rock with a thank you note and even make short videos of each garden to share on The Facebook.
I visited 9 gardens on the first day (Tuesday). I didn’t realize how fortunate I was on Garden #1-slipping into a gated community in Long Beach right behind the mail truck. The first video session was a little tentative. After all, I was an unannounced stranger walking through the yard clearly making a video and there were SO MANY shelter in place people walking around, riding bikes, and talking on the phone. Still, it was nirvana. My own personal do-gooder garden tour.
I visited 12 gardens on the second day (Wednesday). I was getting bolder – making longer videos, and getting caught by keen hosts that let me (while responsibly wearing a mask) video their backyard. The dozens of likes, loves, and positive comments on social media revved my personal engine, and then I saw it. Three little words that shifted me into overdrive. They were “thanks for sharing ❤️.”
Thursday morning at about 8:30 a.m. I received a phone call from one of the garden hosts who spotted me in his front yard the first day. He suggested I add a donation link to then social media posts. Great idea! I agreed to do it. Then he said something that impassioned me. He said, “what you’re doing is really great. It should be in the newspaper, and maybe that would help bring in donations.”
I visited another 12 gardens that day (Thursday). I was going to take a break because oddities were happening. I witnessed a cat attack a dog, and a heron catch a gopher for lunch. I also had the now and again kerfuffle with the occasional curb (if you pay close attention to the videos you’ll find at least five), but now the mission to deliver rocks and post an inspirational virtual garden tour took on newsworthy proportions. I was all in.
Driving from Long Beach to San Clemente, Huntington Beach to Yorba Linda, I ventured on more streets, boulevards, freeways, and toll roads than I could count. I was blessed to encounter not only exclusive strolls of beautiful yards, but also engage in conversation with (dare I say) the nicest people you could ever meet. I embraced the many chats (and a few arguments) with my navigation system and two very enthusiastic Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
This was not the garden tour that wasn’t. THIS WAS THE GARDEN TOUR THAT WAS!
Check out the tour on our website: https://heardsgardentour.com/2020-garden-tour/
Contributed by Jennifer McInteer, MLHMGT Board member