BLACKSBURG — In Montgomery County, Fourth of July weekend is just as much about flower (and tree and plant) displays as it is about fireworks.

Up to 600 people are expected to attend the 2019 New River Valley Garden Tour, which will showcase seven private and two public gardens spread across the county, said Lynn Brammer, one of the organizers. This is the 24th year for the event.

For the first time, food trucks will be parked at two locations on the route and two public gardens – Montgomery Museum of Art and History and St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Christiansburg – will be featured as points of interest.

“We want people to make a day of it,” Brammer said.

Some of the gardens on the tour have been developing for decades.

Architect Phil Pappas said the Pappas garden in the Westover Hills subdivision in Blacksburg began as a half-acre suburban lot with a nondescript brick ranch house in 1971.

Today, evergreens shade pine needle paths that wind among ponds, waterfalls and fountains packed with plantings and a plethora of frogs and goldfish.

“I always liked to be on the water,” Pappas said. “Since I wasn’t going to live by the water, I thought I’d bring the water to me.”

This is the fifth time the Pappas garden has been on the tour, according to Brammer. Each time, something new has been added.

This year, Pappas said he has begun to develop the front yard and has installed a water fountain there.

Debbie Miller has been developing the gardens around Willow Springs Farm on Peppers Ferry Road just outside of Christiansburg for about 40 years.

A graduate of Virginia Tech’s horticulture program, she took inspiration from Gertrude Jekyll, a British garden designer and plant breeder who according to her estate’s website created 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and America during her lifetime.

“I was studying [Jekyll] and thought, ‘that’s what I want when I grow up,’” Miller said.

Jekyll broke away from English formal design and developed a naturalistic style that Miller said works especially well for Willow Springs, with its meadows, woods and its 100 acres of nursery trees produced for the wholesale market.

Set amidst rolling rows of spruce and deciduous trees, Miller’s gardens focus on low-maintenance perennials.

“Anybody can do this kind of garden,” she said. “It’s very deer-proof and bird friendly.”

Other gardens on the tour are relatively new.

The six-acre Unitarian Universalist Congregation garden off Glade Road in Blacksburg got its start in 2013, said George Lally, who along with co-organizer Susan Baker leads the effort.

The team has been working hard to get ready for the tour, Baker and Lally said.

The UUC garden focuses as much on the spiritual as it does on the horticultural, incorporating a stone-lined labyrinth and meditation areas, as well as memorial gardens for people and pets. It blends meadow and woodland features with habitats for small animals and pollinators.

Although technically a private facility, Lally and Baker said the UUC garden is always open to the public.

Four other private gardens will be open for the tour, and live music and artist demonstrations will be held at each.

Tour proceeds benefit library programs, Brammer said. And a portion of the funds goes to the nonprofit Master Gardeners grant program, which supports sustainable gardening programs for children and senior citizens.

Food and other refreshments will be served in two locations along the route. Thai This food truck will be open at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation garden and Beast of the Street pizza and gelato will be parked at Willow Springs Farm on Peppers Ferry Road.

Tickets are available at the Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Jessie Peterman and Meadowbrook libraries for $12 in advance and $15 on Saturday. Attendees can also purchase tickets on Saturday at any of the featured private gardens.

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