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Cape Cod’s gorgeous gardens

Hydrangea Festival

Photo courtesy of Osterville Garden Club

The Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival has received worldwide attention due to several workshops and lectures being offered by the festival’s originator, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. World-class gardening pros, like local guru and Heritage Hydrangea Curator Mal Condon and international horticultural expert Dr. Michael Dirr, will offer their valuable knowledge at Heritage Museums & Gardens’ lectures.

Several nonprofit and community organizations are hosting tours, such as the Osterville Garden Club installation at the Cobb Astro Park at Barnstable High School, a learning and growing space nestled in the school’s interior. Complementing the garden’s statuary celebrating Western civilization are several plantings, including the club’s installation of a terraced garden of shrubs and perennials, featuring nepeta (catmint), Shasta daisies, Asiatic lilies, and colorful annual plantings.

“These gardens are maintained by the club’s Civic Beautification Committee,” says committee chair Marlene Weir, noting that the garden club strives to make permanent horticultural improvements for public benefit with projects that create awareness of landscape design and gardening practices. “We hope that our work inspires the public to transform their own properties and that they will support public efforts to preserve nature.”

On the bay side of the Cape, the Osterville Garden Club lovingly maintains a Butterfly Mosaic Trail at the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Long Pasture location, which offers acres of wonders, including spectacular views of Cape Cod Bay, sandy beaches, wild flower meadows, woodland trails, farm animals, and an inventive children’s play area made of climbing tree stumps, tree limb bridges and balance beams. This Cape treasure should be on every visitor’s bucket list.

The garden club designed and installed the butterfly garden alongside the sanctuary’s antique farmhouse, where a wide variety of perennials and roses attract bees, birds and butterflies. Low-maintenance plantings are tended to monthly, during the growing season, by the club’s horticultural committee.

This garden was partially the brainchild of Osterville’s Irene Antkowiak, a dedicated volunteer who also works for Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. “A former garden club conservation chair, Linda Oberly, approached Wellfleet Bay and asked what our club could do in the Barnstable area,” Antkowiak recalls. “Wellfleet’s Bob Prescott suggested Long Pasture, which wasn’t even open to the public yet. After we designed it, we just started rototilling, getting rid of weeds, and putting down a lot of Sandwich’s Watt’s Turkey Farm manure. Many of the plants came from club members’ gardens.”

“Since serving as horticulture chair, I’ve found it is great to see these ladies in their jeans and gardening gloves and tackle this garden once a month in the growing season,” says Susan Dewey. “No task is too large—stubborn clumps of iris are dug up and divided, struggling anemones are lovingly transplanted, roses are pruned and shaped despite nasty thorns. These are real gardeners who contribute time and plants for the Cape’s greater good.”

Dewey’s gardens on Old Stage Road, surrounding a historic sea captain’s home in the charming oceanside village of Centerville, are also on the Hydrangea Festival tour. Perennial borders and well-established landscape plantings of specimen trees and shrubs include a sunny bed of lilies, salvia, heuchera, grasses, lady’s mantle, Shasta daisies and phlox, as well as a fish pond garden and a shade garden featuring numerous varieties of hosta and epimedium.

Hydrangeas are sprinkled around the property, including the much-loved macrophylla, or mophead, varieties such as ‘Nikko Blue’ and ‘Blue Billow’; delicate lacecaps; dwarf ‘Little Limes’; and tree varieties, including the paniculata ‘Tardiva.’

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