URI Master Gardeners open their gardens to visitors for statewide garden tour this June

Block Island, too! Tickets on sale now

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 6, 2023 – What might be the best summer road trip in Rhode Island takes place this June, when 18 private and public gardens tended by University of Rhode Island Master Gardener volunteers will open their garden gates to welcome the public for the 11th Gardening with the Masters Tour, a biennial event.

This year’s tour will feature a mix of 12 private and six public gardens, each unique in their own way, and all demonstrating a number of environmentally-friendly gardening practices promoted through the URI Master Gardener Program. Four private gardens and all six public gardens are new to the tour this year. The primary garden touring weekend is June 24 and 25, with 17 of the gardens open to visitors both days. The weekend prior, interested ticket holders are invited to travel to Block Island to visit an additional private garden, have their soil pH tested, and visit other public gardens on the island. This “bonus weekend” is included with the purchase of a ticket.

All gardens will be open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, rain or shine, for Rhode Island’s only statewide garden tour. URI Master Gardeners will greet visitors in all the gardens, ready to answer questions and share science-based horticultural information about best gardening practices.

Foster residents Kathy Jenal and Larry Brown are opening their sprawling property to visitors this year and say, “We volunteered to share our garden because plants are our fascination and we know others are fascinated by them, too.”

New for 2023: Public gardens

Kate Venturini Hardesty of URI’s Cooperative Extension says public gardens have been added to the tour this year to increase their visibility as destinations for anyone interested in learning more about environmentally-friendly gardening. Public gardens open on this year’s tour are: Mount Hope Farm, Bristol; Norman Bird Sanctuary’s Good Gardens, Middletown; Roger Williams Park Produce Donation Garden, Providence; Kettle Pond Native Plant Gardens, Charlestown; Charlestown Schoolhouse Garden, Charlestown; and the URI Campus Gardens, Kingston. These public gardens are tended by URI Master Gardeners; most also produce hundreds of pounds of food each year for local food banks. 

Venturini Hardesty says, “The public gardens featured on this years’ tour are all show-stoppers for different reasons, and we want people to visit them and learn from our URI Master Gardener volunteers who lovingly tend them — they are there to teach others about what they’re doing!”

Flower ferry

This year’s garden tour offers a Block Island bonus weekend on June 17 and 18 at Jardin De La Mer. The 18th-century garden and property are a 20-year labor of love, featuring hundreds of perennial shrubs and flowers. Maude Chasse is sharing her garden to represent the active URI Master Gardener Program on the island. Chasse is a member of URI’s Master Gardener class of 2020 and has since offered information kiosks and soil testing on the island. Chasse enjoys sharing her gardens because of the unique challenges of living and gardening on the island. All plants must be carefully selected to withstand Block Island’s unique environment, including high winds, a large deer population, and salt spray. Despite these challenges, her gardens offer much to discover: fruit, vegetables and perennials; pocket gardens of native plants; a mossy “secret path;” and displays of vintage tools and equipment.

Garden path

Rhode Island’s manageable size will let participants easily visit many of the private gardens that have opened their doors, in East Greenwich, Warwick, Providence, Newport, Little Compton, Glocester, Foster, Charlestown, South Kingstown and Richmond. Visitors can explore coastal gardens, small-space oases, a secret garden,  monarch butterfly habitat, Japanese garden by the sea, and a revitalized 18th-century farm. The University is also opening its gardens for the tour. URI is proud to host nearly six acres of botanical collections on its Kingston campus.

The garden tour is hosted by URI Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program, which educates citizens in science-based gardening. Graduates of a 14-week training course and 50-hour internship, numbering more than 800 active volunteers in Rhode Island, serve as grassroots educators across the state.

Tickets for the tour cost $30 and include admission for one to the all gardens on both tour weekends. Children under 18 are admitted for free. Learn more at: web.uri.edu/mastergardener/tour.

Tour proceeds benefit the educational services offered through the URI Master Gardener Program, including the gardening and environmental hotline (401-874-4836), free soil pH testing service, and public presentations.

Sign up for the tour and be inspired to see what you, too, can do with a little sweat equity and some garden inspiration!