Mystic “Rooms and Blooms” Tour. Appears in June 2009 issue of Cape Cod Life
by Susan Dewey
Mystic, Connecticut, attracts visitors to the world-renowned Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium. People are also drawn to the picturesque village center, which is filled with quaint shops, eclectic places to eat, and sea captains’ homes on quiet river-view and hillside streets.
On June 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors will have a rare opportunity to trace Mystic’s development from a remote 16th-century agricultural community to an influential seaport when the Mystic River Historical Society joins forces with the Mystic Garden Club to host “Rooms and Blooms: A Mystic House and Garden Tour.” The walking tour will showcase some of Mystic’s historic and most unusual homes as well as some lovely seaside gardens. “Since this is a walking tour, people will have a chance to soak up the unique flavor and wonderful river views that are part of the reason why so many sea captains, artists, and early entrepreneurs chose to live in this magical area,” says Cynthia Mason, a garden club spokesperson. All proceeds from the tour will benefit the Mystic community.
The tour, held rain or shine, will wind along five closely located streets in Mystic village. Parking will be available at several convenient locations, and transportation will be provided for those in need. Visitors can start at any one of the featured homes or gardens. Many of the tour sites have an interesting historical connection. All are located on the west side of Mystic River (on the opposite side from Mystic Seaport) and are part of a centuries-old land grant. In 1654, John Winthrop, Jr. of Pequot Plantation (now New London, Conn.) gave a man named Robert Burrows a grant of 300 acres on Mystic River’s west bank. Following the War of 1812, a lucky fellow named Amos Clift acquired much of the Burrows property and began to lay out streets and house lots, developing the property into the seaside village that it is today.
A good place to begin the tour is at 15 Gravel Street, once the home of a cabinetmaker. This classic Greek Revival home with Italian Villa-style elements was built in 1835 and features colorful gardens filled with 19th-century plants chosen for tolerance to tidal river climate, including hydrangeas, inkberry holly, daylilies, beach grass, and Shasta daisies. Gardeners will also enjoy the homeowners’ efforts to give Mother Nature a boost by planting their vegetables and herbs in raised beds.
Further along on Gravel Street, several attractive gardens have been planted and continue to evolve. At #31, built in 1845 by local sea captain Thomas Eldredge, the Mystic River View Garden was planted with an eye to maximizing the peaceful view. Sturdy New England garden favorites such as shrub roses, peonies, catmint, and hydrangeas are flourishing in this demanding microclimate that is subject to saltwater and air. On the Eldredge Street side, there are three unusual, monochromatic gardens creating a dramatic montage in blue, yellow, and white.
There are several more highlights among the tour’s 13 homes and gardens. Visit the charming home of Karin Soderberg, daughter of famous Mystic artist Yngve Edward Soderberg, at 5 Eldredge Street, and be sure to notice the small cutting garden started by her mother, Nancy, with donations from friends’ gardens. Admire a three-in-one garden montage on Pearl Street and Park Place that includes a low-maintenance shrub garden of heaths and dwarf conifers, a bountiful perennial garden, and a swath of eco-friendly grasses. The grape-arbor garden at 13 Grove Avenue features tough—but colorful—rock-garden plants such as alpine perennials and bright annuals. In the barn adjacent to this elegant 1853 home there will be a Garden Boutique where plants and garden accessories will be for sale and local landscape designers will share advice. The Mystic River Historical Society and the Mystic Garden Club will also have boutique items to purchase.
Finish the “Rooms and Blooms” tour with a flourish at 85 Clift Street, where a hard-working homeowner has spent years creating a National Wildlife Habitat—certified in 2008—for flora and fauna, including praying mantis, bees, butterflies, and birds. The owner has learned to provide individual microclimates for various species in carefully maintained planting beds around the property.
“Rooms and Blooms” tickets are available for $22 prior to June 19; tickets purchased on the day of the tour will be $30. Tickets will include a booklet showing house and garden locations and other interesting tour highlights. For more information, or to purchase tickets in advance, go towww.mystichistory.org or www.mysticgardenclub.org, or call 860-271-3980.
Susan Dewey is managing editor at Cape Cod Life Publications.