Spring is simply the best time to tour Savannah.
The weather is marvelous and the gardens are in bloom. No wonder this is the time of year when the Garden Club of Savannah hosts the NOGS Tour of Hidden Gardens.
This year’s tour, the 42nd annual, will be April 21 and 22. The walking tour includes seven private gardens and the Massie School Gardens. Guests can start at any garden on the tour after picking up their tickets and a map at the Green-Meldrim House.
“This year’s tour features all the gardens around Madison Square,” says Martha Sullivan, head of marketing and public relations for the tour. “The tea is there at the Green-Meldrim House. It will make it easy for people to get around.”
As in the past, a Southern Tea will be held each day at the Green-Meldrim House. Tea, sweets and sandwiches will be served.
“We have a good time,” Sullivan says. “The ladies all dress up with hats.”
Guests can pick up a free NOGS bookmark and view displays of gardening books at E. Shaver Booksellers, on Madison Square. The Art on Foot Gallery Tour will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
“It is so sweet for the homeowners to loan us their gardens,” Sullivan says. “This year we might have Scarlett O’Hara make a special appearance for the tea.”
The Garden Club of Savannah was organized in March 1927 and is the oldest active garden club in Georgia. The tour began in 1975, and was expanded in 2012.
“The best thing for us is that for years, NOGS meant ‘north of Gaston Street,’” Sullivan says, “but now it means ‘north of Gwinnett Street.’”
The tour runs rain or shine. Casual clothing and comfortable shoes are recommended.
“We work so hard but we really enjoy doing it,” Sullivan says. “The tour is put on by all volunteers.”
This year’s special events will include “Coming Home: The Green Collection Inaugural Exhibition.” The exhibit includes a bookcase made of Brazilian rosewood on its exterior and satinwood in the interior, with secondary woods of mahogany, tulip poplar and white pine.
The bookcase was originally found in the Green-Meldrim House as part of the collection of Charles Green, a wealthy cotton merchant, who commissioned the house and its furnishings in 1850.
Forty years later, Charles’ son, Edward, sold the house and moved his family and their belongings to Paris. The bookcase and more than 100 furnishings, plus family photographs, letters and documents, were purchased from the estate of Julien Green, Edward’s youngest son, and recently returned to the Green-Meldrim House.
Though born and raised in France, Julien, an esteemed writer, revered his American heritage. In his memoir, “Restless Youth,” he wrote about the furniture:
“In the little drawing-room… was gathered my grandfather’s violet-coloured, wooden furniture, relics of a time long ago and of a distant land, that unfortunate South which continued to live in our hearts.”
The exhibit also features the ledger of architect John Norris, which he kept during construction of the Green house. Local craftsmen who built the house signed the ledger.
Other furnishings on display include a rosewood and mahogany tilt-topped center table, sofas and chairs. The exhibit will remain on view through Oct. 21.
“We were able to buy the furniture back,” Sullivan says. “There were all these books, but France will not let you take books out of the country. It all goes to the national library.
“We’re not getting any of the books, but we got furniture and silverware and some of the original china,” she says. “We’re really thrilled to have some of the original Green family furniture back in the house.”
The tour raises funds for good causes.
“All the money goes to community projects,” Sullivan says. “We donate to the Ronald McDonald House, the Massie Heritage Center, the Savannah Botanical Gardens on Eisenhower, the Savannah Tree Foundation and many more. This year, we did a grant for Girls on the Run.”
Each garden on the tour is unique.
“I love how different all the gardens are,” Sullivan says. “A lot had damage from the hurricane.
“One house lost several trees. Instead of a shady garden, they had to plan for a sunny garden.
“It is really neat to see,” she says. “Everything should be blooming with all the warm weather.”
IF YOU GO
What: 42nd annual NOGS Tour of Hidden Gardens
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 21 and 22; Southern tea from 2-4 p.m. each day
Where: Green-Meldrim House, 14 W. Macon St.