Weekend tour features two Bristol gardens

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Bristol resident John Allen has always had a green thumb. From raising Black-eyed Susans, to cultivating Escargot Begonias, Mr. Allen's garden features a mixture of lush vegetation, sprinkled with colorful flowers. "I have always enjoyed growing flowers," Mr. Allen said. Mr. Allen's garden is one of three gardens in Bristol County that is on show this weekend, as part of the Gardening with the Masters Tour. The tour, sponsored by the University of Rhode Island Master Gardener Foundation, opens 35 public and private gardens to anyone who is interested in seeing them. The cost is $20 per program/ticket, and gardens are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Programs can be purchased at any local gardening center. "The idea of the tour is to show people how these plants can be used in their own gardens," said Ms. Rosemary Smith, a master gardener and member of the tour committee. "Having green space is important if you want to cool the area around your house or business in the summertime." Mr. Allen became a master gardener two years ago, after taking a 16-week course offered by the foundation. "I learned a lot about the native plants, but more importantly about pests," he said. "They give you a very good, basic knowledge of soil and gardening." When Mr. Allen moved to his home on Church Street 13 years ago, the garden was a hodgepodge of plants and hard-scaping. He consulted with Sunflower Designs to create a basic garden footprint, which he has since grown into curving paths of pavers lined with a wide array of plants. A unique aspect of Mr. Allen's garden is the lack of grass. "We laid down turf because of our two golden retrievers," he said. "Every time we had let them out, they would leave brown spots all over the grass." Recognizing the nature of his garden, tour committee members reference Mr. Allen's garden as "Dog Friendly Garden in Downtown Bristol," in the program. Also on display are the gardens of Judy Arruda of Bristol, and Ramona Silk of Barrington. "Getting my master gardener certification has always been on my bucket list," said Ms. Arruda, who completed the course alongside Mr. Allen. Ms. Arruda's garden, dubbed "Serendipity" in the tour program, features a woodland pond area, a memorial garden bench, and a small waterfall. Ms. Arruda's participation in the garden tour is done in honor of her husband, who recently passed away. "I never thought my garden was worthy of showing," she said. "(The tour) is something my husband has always wanted to do. So, I do this for him. It's something that keeps you going, when you don't really want to." Two weeks before he passed, Ms. Arruda's husband power-washed the house. "He so loved working in the garden,"  she said. "He loved sitting on the memorial bench, just listening to the sounds of the waterfall."

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