Nine homeowners opened their garden gates to the public Saturday for the Carson City Historical Society’s “Down the Garden Path” fundraiser.
“Ticket sales were just wonderful,” Mary DeFelice, a member of the committee that organized the tour, said at a reception afterward. “It’s a beautiful day and the weather is so nice.”
Early indications were that ticket sales surpassed previous years. Funds raised will go toward construction of a carriage house at the Foreman-Roberts House to be used as a meeting room and archival storage.
The tour included a range of styles from formal gardens with fountains, rock gardens, and more relaxed cottage gardens. Home interiors drew from Carson City’s historical furnishings to treasured pieces collected around the world.
The tour included the Bliss House, one of the most historic and plush of Carson City’s historic west-side homes. Built in 1879 on Elizabeth and Robinson streets by Dwayne Bliss, the mansion grounds feature a formal garden with an ornate interior that has preserved many historic pieces.
Historical Society member Montana Cannon greeted guests at the door, answering questions and pointing out don’t-miss features, such as front-garden maple tree, one of Nevada’s oldest, she said.
Cannon said she enjoyed the smiling faces of those on the tour.
“People are amazed that in this day and age someone would just open up their house to strangers,” she said.
Sharing the history of the house “is fun,” said Cindy Brenneman, who, with husband Steve, has owned the Bliss House for six years. The Brennemans regularly open the house to tours.
“I enjoy doing it this way so I can to talk to individual people,” Brenneman said of the self-guided tour format.
Trees such as the Bliss House maple were often the stars of the garden tour.
Guests to Peggy deArrieta’s home often commented on the gnarled box elder tree in front of the Mountain Street home. In the back yard is an even older box elder. Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service believe it is the oldest in the state, she said.
“It’s wonderful,” guest Lilia King said of the tour as she paused to enjoy the shade. With an interest in architecture and gardens, King has been to numerous home and garden tours through the years, but this was her first tour in Carson City. She was especially thrilled to go inside the Bliss House.
“I really appreciated people opening their homes,” King said.
On West Robinson Street, Stephanie Shefrin welcomed guests to the 1864 cottage she and her husband purchased a year and half ago.
“The moment we walked in here, there was such a peace,” she said. “We just had to have this house.”
The garden is a work in progress, with plans to plant a rose garden next year, she said. The interior is decorated with many Asian-style pieces, blue porcelain and botanical art.
Her Realtor, John Reiser, was one of those touring the house.
“We’re having fun seeing the before and after,” Reiser said. “It’s fun seeing the history that’s present, fun seeing the historic district coming back.”
While many of the historic homes have formal gardens, Julie Maxwell focuses on a more natural style of gardening for her Mountain Street cottage built in 1875.
“I like moving with nature,” she said. “I have a lot of bees and try to maintain the health and balance of nature.”
Maxwell plants hardy plants vines, bushes and flowers with colors that rotate April through September. Pots of annuals are gathered where the large roots of several mature trees make planting difficult.
One of the trees is one of the oldest black walnut trees in Nevada.
“You see all the pots because of the roots,” she said. “I revert to pottery because there are a lot of things going on here (in the soil).”
Maxwell participates every few years in the annual Home & Garden tour. It takes a lot of work, but she enjoys sharing her efforts and answering questions.
“A garden is not exclusive, it’s inclusive,” she said. “People come and get ideas. That builds community. And it gives back to history.”
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