A group of women has changed the look and feel of the city, one trowel of earth at a time.
This year will mark the 20th annual Pittsfield Garden Tour — and the last one. On July 16 and 17 the tour will take a look back at eight of the most beloved gardens it has covered in its time.
The tour has done what it set out to do, said Anne Pasko, co-chairwoman of
the garden club committee and one of the tour’s founders.
Back in 1996 “Pittsfield saw itself as having a low image, compared to the rest of the Berkshires,” she said.
By now Pasko and her committee and volunteers have opened more than 100 gardens to the public, all across the city.
“I do think, in some ways, we have changed Pittsfield’s image of itself,” she said.
Knowing that it can have a garden tour has given Pittsfield a new confidence in itself, she believes, because it has green and blossoming places people will come to see.
But she and the committee of gardeners that has grown to support the tour are brightening Pittsfield in many ways.
Funds from the tour have supported master gardeners at Springside Park and funded a garden at Providence Court where people in wheelchairs can garden, Pasko said. The committee has supported Pittsfield Artscape and the Colonial Theatre.
And three years ago they gave the city a bronze dancing woman on the Common, a 13-foot-tall sculpture by California artist Carol Gold, who was born here.
Pasko’s committee of gardeners has done more than display a community of gardens. They have built a community of gardeners — and they are building gardens.
For most of the last 20 years, they have raffled off their own skills at making gardens or caring for them.
“If you win, eight members of the committee, all gardeners, will come to work in your garden,” Pasko explained. “We transplant, build walls or dig new ground. At the end, we bring out a table cloth and candles and serve a family dinner.”
The garden tour has taken long planning every year, Pasko said. The gardeners they have chosen live here, and they have all dug and planted and watered and imagined their gardens in their spare time, for the love of it.
The women on the selection committee would assemble long lists of gardens. They would ask for recommendations and get responses from all over the city; postal workers often see gardens on their routes and pass the word along. Then in late summer the committee would quarter the city, looking over plantings in sun and shade, flowers and vegetables, large and small.
“We want something people would say ‘wow’ about,” she said. “We want a place where you can’t stand in one place and see everything. … A few years ago we saw one that had 600 varieties of daylilies.”
This story has grown from an earlier one that originally ran in the Berkshire Eagle. My thanks to Kevin Moran. Photo at the top: The Pittsfield Garden Tour gave the city a bronze woman on the Common. Photo by Kate Abbott