Avid gardeners, consider yourself warned: Your green thumb may earn a surprise knock at the door. Fear not, though - it's for a good cause.
Polly Shumaker is always on the lookout for eye-catching gardens to include in the annual South Church Garden Tour, and she and her four-member committee have rounded up six such landscapes for this year's third annual iteration, "Beyond the Garden Gate, a Tour of Special Gardens," set for June 23.
Proceeds from the event will support local Concord community organizations, particularly those associated with hunger and homelessness.
"Last year we had five, this year we have six," Shumaker said. "Sometimes we get suggestions from other people, but sometimes I'll just see one on the road and stop and bang on the door and say, 'Hey!' That's not the New England way, I know."
Whatever the method, the scavenger hunts seem to be working. This year's schedule is perhaps the most diverse yet, featuring on-site presentations for the first time on topics such as organic vegetable gardening and the benefits of owning a geothermal home.
The organic vegetable garden, owned by Beth McGuinn and Ruth Smith, is particularly interesting given that it was created essentially from scratch and now provides almost everything necessary for daily consumption.
"They literally cut the trees down and pulled them up and reconstituted the soil," Shumaker said. "They've given lectures around and talked to organic gardening groups about how to make the soil better, and we thought, gee, would you mind doing it for us? They really grow a large percentage of their food."
Participants are invited to begin the tour at any of the six properties, with detailed maps and directions available at each stop. The tour begins at 9:30 a.m. and goes until 2 p.m., though Shumaker cautioned that the presentations will take place at the beginning of the day, so those looking to attend the workshops should start at the appropriate sites.
There will be red balloons adorning each location to aid with directions. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling 224-2521 or by visiting southchurchconcord.org and visiting the garden tour link under the Upcoming Events heading (prices go up to $22 as of June 16 but can be purchased for that price on the day of the event, at South Church from 9-10:30 a.m.). Site location information is provided on each ticket, and brochures will be available at the church the morning of the event for those looking for more information.
The tour was born out of the committee's love for gardening three years ago, though it's undergone several tweaks since then. The first attempt featured nine gardens, an admittedly daunting total to chase down in one afternoon. ("We just wanted people to feel they had got their money's worth," Shumaker said.)
Last year there were five, and this year the gardens are all located semi-close geographically, in Concord, East Concord and Canterbury.
The committee tries to find new and unique gardens every year, Shumaker said, taking suggestions from the community and scouting them out on their own.
As for selecting an outlet for the proceeds, that wasn't a difficult decision.
"South Church has always been very focused on homeless issues," Shumaker said. "They have a cold weather shelter, and have a resource center that's been moved to another building owned by the church. They've always had a focus on homeless and hunger issues, and we just thought it would be great to help out with that."
Volunteers play a major role in the event, as well, visiting the sites to man tables, set up the balloons and generally keep the gardeners from having to do anything more than discuss their gardens. Lemonade, water and cookies baked by women of the church are also available.
"It's fun," Shumaker said. "The committee members are all avid gardeners, and each time we come back we say, 'This is just fun to go to.' And to raise money for something where the participants get a chance to just enjoy themselves, we thought, we should do this."