April 2023

Azalea Garden Tour 2023

Nature Inspired Artistry

This weekend, April 14 – 16, the much-anticipated 2023 Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour© kicks off with a bang. Don’t let the absence of azaleas keep you from exploring 13 magnificent Wilmington properties, ranging from the classical gardens of Forest Hills to the more contemporary landscapes of Landfall. The 70th Anniversary Tour is going to be a standout.

The Ribbon Cutting & Azalea Queen’s Garden Party© will be held Friday, April 14 at Garden #1, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Percy Robinson Smith, Jr., at 615 Forest Hills Drive. The property, which encompasses five acres along Burnt Mill Creek, is of great historical significance as it was the birthplace of the very first garden tour 70 years ago.

In 1953, Bess Smith (wife of Percy Smith, Sr.) met with a group of women from the Cape Fear Garden Club in the Smith’s carport and during that meeting the first Garden Tour was formed which included eight properties. The Smith residence served as the site for the first Ribbon Cutting (and many more to come, including the 50th Anniversary Tour in 2003).

In 1980, Percy Smith, Jr. and his wife, Lillian James Smith, moved into the Forest Hills house and for the last 43 years have been the caretakers. Their story, as well as the tale of their predecessors, Percy Smith, Sr. and his wife, Bess, is lovingly told by Carrie Seck in April’s Wrightsville Beach Magazine on pages 24 – 29. The cover story, Percy’s Garden: Bridging Generations, is a tribute to Lillian’s late husband, Mr. Percy Robinson Smith, Jr., who passed away peacefully at home on February 21, 2023.

The grounds of the Smith’s Forest Hills residence are as spectacular as they are vast, with surprises around every corner. The photos below capture just a small glimpse of this amazing property with 83 remarkable years of horticulture at its best.

You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time to Wilmington’s first suburbs when Forest Hills was an urban forest.

Take a brief rest on the upper terrace to notice the traditional garden art, the wrought iron furniture and the exquisite sculpture, then stroll down the great lawn toward the creek, where a three-tier fountain, recently replaced by Stone Garden, is an exact replica of its previous self.

Enjoy the trickling sound of water and the intricate details in the cast limestone fountain, installed by Ted Deller at Deller Water Works.

We are grateful to Lillian Smith for sharing her timeless property and its glorious history with us. We know you will appreciate walking the grounds of this 70th Anniversary Azalea Ribbon Cutting Garden. The late Percy Smith, Jr. will enjoy the view from above.

Special thanks to the incredible Elaine Henson, Cape Fear Garden Club historian.

More Gardens

All 13 gardens on tour deserve special recognition. We will touch upon a special few. The rest will be tantalizing surprises for you!

Garden #5 – Green Acres

Gregg Thomas & Tom Faust

2318 Blythe Road

This formal and elegant property has much to explore (as seen in Stone Garden’s March Newsletter). From the gazebo on the front lawn to the side Rose Garden; the tranquil koi pond; as well as the new pool area featuring a pavilion, with a fireplace, kitchen, and bar.

Homeowners Gregg Thomas and Tom Faust have invited tour participants to visit their ultimate outdoor playground:

“We look forward to answering questions and sharing our happy place with you all.”

Garden #9 – Frank H. Kenan Chapel at Landfall

For the first time since 2012, the Landfall neighborhood is back on tour with four private homes plus the Kenan Chapel and grounds. Adjacent to the Chapel, a decorative gate opens onto the Memorial Garden. Two bronze children overlook the raised seasonal flowerbed. Here, families can scatter ashes of their loved ones. This sacred spot has become a space of refuge and relaxation for many.

In Chapel Woods, winding pathways extend into the landscape, interspersed with gifted plantings, ranging from Japanese Maple and Oak to camellia, crepe myrtle, magnolia and flowering dogwood.

Sculptures by local artists have been thoughtfully integrated into the plantings. A ring of boxwood surrounds the peaceful Labyrinth. This meditative pathway culminates in a bronze heron atop a weathered boulder.

Garden #10 – Karen Root, Landfall

Karen Root is a horticulturist at heart. She has created her own botanical garden right here in Landfall. It surrounds the contemporary home she and her late husband, Chuck, designed and built 25 years ago when they retired from Philadelphia.

The property boasts winding pathways, stone staircases, and stunning water features. You will see hundreds of cultivars throughout the grounds.

Garden #12 – Brook & Pete Dorosko, Landfall

Longtime Wilmington residents, Brook and Peter Dorosko, joined the Landfall community in 2019 when they discovered a hidden treasure on Radian Road.

The cascading waterfall takes your breath away as it streams over the outdoor living room and kitchen.

A contemporary vibe makes the Root and Dorosko properties in Landfall a striking contrast to those in Forest Hills, or to the waterfront Beaux Arts mansion known as “Live Oaks at Masonboro.” (See Garden #7 below)

The Tour runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so don’t feel that you have to do it all in one day. You’ll want to see all 11 private gardens, plus Kenan Chapel grounds and Airlie Gardens. Enjoy!

2023 Azalea Paint Out

25 talented artists will be working in the 13 featured gardens in the 70th Azalea Garden Tour. Their artwork will be available to purchase on the website as soon as Friday, April 14. New artwork will be added every day throughout the duration of the tour. 

On Sunday the art sale will be held at Garden #7, Live Oaks. Admission is free to ticket holders.  The general public may attend for a $5 cash donation.

Azalea Art Sale

Art lovers can also meet the artists and view their work in person at the Azalea Art Sale under the verandah.

Garden #7 – Live Oaks

7527 Masonboro Sound Road, Wilmington

Sunday, April 16 from 10AM – 4PM

Wishing you all a wonderful 2023 Azalea Garden Tour!

The Cape Fear Garden Club

Profits from the tour are reinvested to promote the beautification, education and conservation of the New Hanover County community through the Cape Fear Garden Club’s grant program. Grant applications received between May 1 and June 15 will be rewarded in October 2023.

If you haven’t purchased tickets yet, feel free to stop by Stone Garden today through Saturday. Tickets will be available in each of the Gardens and at the shuttle stop in Mayfair Town Center.*

*Payments are by check or cash only. Children under 12 are admitted free with a paid adult. Please note Landfall Gardens #9 – 13 are accessible via shuttle only.