History in bloom

Jul 2, 2011

Two local organizations with shared interests will combine to sponsor a house and garden tour July 10 in Batavia and Corfu.

“As the Landmark Society has been supportive of St. James Church’s restoration project for some time, this was a natural pairing,” said Laurie Oltramari, president of the Landmark Society of Genesee County.

Proceeds of the event will benefit St. James Episcopal Church’s Restoration Fund.

“Although the congregation of St. James Church has been doing a tremendous job donating their time and money toward the cause, I am hoping our community will step forth to recognize St. James as a landmark on the Main Street of Batavia,” Oltramari said. “If we want our city to maintain its historic heritage and sense of identity, then we all need to come and support it.”

There are 12 homes and gardens included on the tour, each with a historical background or unique garden.

Oltramari considers Art and Carla Wahl’s c. 1914 saltbox home and gardens at 5 Richmond Ave. to be extraordinary.

“It was a big surprise to discover such a jewel in the city,” she said.

Multiple paths with hidden statues lead through the garden which Carla describes as “whimsical.” Little seating areas, a wisteria-covered deck, blue grass, bottle table and gazing balls create atmosphere, while trickling water from koi ponds beckons visitors to sit and soak up the sun.

“Our friends call it an escape,” Carla Wahls said.

A Polynesian garden features bamboo and tiki statues.

Her husband Art is the avid gardener, who turned a back porch into an orchid room with 40 varieties currently growing there.

Denniston Wood’s home is located at 3323 West Main Street Rd. He calls it “the most peaceful three acres in Genesee County.”

A water garden and bog garden feature swamp iris, while yew and bushes create a “woodsy” feeling, Wood said.

His house is called “quirky” and combines elements of work by local craftspeople with an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Other properties featured on the tour are:

The c. 1910 home of Earlotta Karam, 39 East Main St., Corfu, where the gardens only will be open for the tour. A tree-carved Statue of Liberty, sunken gardens, gazebo, and playhouse are highlights of this property.

Jill Babinski’s c. 1882 home at 5 James St., Batavia, will be open for the tour, as well as the gardens. The home, located in the James Street Historic District, was built using bricks left over from the Johnston Harvester buildings on Harvester Avenue.

In Corfu, Elizabeth Saleh’s garden at 54 East Main St. includes vegetables and herbs, grapevines and container gardening.

Also in Corfu is the home of June Abramski at 82 East Main St. The c. 1900 home and colorful gardens are both included in the tour.

Don and Sharon Burkel’s gardens at 138 Bank St., Batavia teem with more than 75 varieties of Hosta. They say their backyard fosters a friendly atmosphere to relax and unwind.

Bob Terry of 40 Porter Ave. lives in a c. 1900 house considered of National style. Although the home itself is not on the tour, the Landmark Society recognized this three-color home in 2009 for Outstanding Exterior Restoration. A landscape architect worked with Terry using historically appropriate plants to create a setting which blends the order of a formal garden with the unpretentiousness of a cottage garden.

The gardens of Dr. Fred Powell and his wife Antoinette of 23 Washington Ave. neighbor those of Jen Reardon of 21 Washington Ave. The Powell’s front-yard garden features flowering urns which flank a wide brick walkway.

Reardon, a Master Gardener, got many of the ideas for her gardens from reading magazines. She describes herself as a “let’s see how this works” gardener.

Maureen Scoville’s c. 1880 house and gardens at 19 Ellicott Ave. are both on the tour. The Queen Anne house boasts a five-color paint scheme, two leaded-glass windows and recently added wrought iron fence around the front yard.

Tour participants may visit the homes in any order, but should plan to end up at St. James Episcopal Church, said Marcia Gann from St. James Church, who chairs the tour with Oltramari from the Landmark Society.

At 4 p.m., a dessert reception will take place at the church, followed by a presentation at 4:20 p.m. by Cathy Judkins titled “How Did They Do That (and How Can I Do That Too).”

Ginny Tiede will conduct a question-and-answer period from 4:40 p.m. until 5 p.m., when door prizes will be awarded.

Tickets for the tour are $15 for Landmark Society members and $20 for non-members. They will be sold by the Landmark Society and St. James Church at the Picnic in the Park on July 4. They are also available from Harrington’s Greenhouse, the Landmark Society and St. James Church.