Garden Tours

Orange County’s Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour

Tour 39 of Orange County’s most incredible gardens in full bloom

Each of these gardeners has generously consented to share their passion for gardening with us and I urge you to attend as many of the gardens on the tour as you can.

A bit of history about the Mary Lou Heard: In 1985, Mary Lou Heard opened Heard’s Country Garden Nursery, a magical nursery tucked away on a seldom traveled road in Westminster, California. The gardens were full of unique and often old fashioned annuals and perennials such as “Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate”, “Bleeding Heart” and “Four O’Clocks”. These, along with whimsical garden art, English and old garden roses, scented geraniums, herbs, vines and small trees made the nursery a delightful and special place to visit. In the center of the pebble-dusted paths was a small quaint old wooden “cottage” filled with gifts, books, potpourris and small bags of the finest organic fertilizers available. In the far back of the garden was another old wooden building, it too, filled with antiques, gifts and more home decor….it was for me, a gardeners’ shabby chic shopping heaven.

In 1993 Mary Lou came up with the notion of a garden tour, “real gardens by real people”. This is a self-guided tour, where you drive from home to home at your leisure to view the gardens listed on the tour. The Heard’s Garden Tour was an instant success, bringing in over 800 garden lovers the first year and in later years, drawing in thousands of visitors. In 2000 Mary Lou Heard was diagnosed with cancer and two years later she would close her beloved nursery, and in her final Heard’s Country Garden Newsletter she wrote. “Though there are still many more gardens in my heat that have to be planted – the body is calling for a rest. Saying good-bye is the hardest thing I have had to do.”

The annual garden tour continues today, thanks to the Mary Lou Heard Foundation.

For those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Mary Lou Heard, this memorial garden tour holds a special place in our hearts. And for me, it’s especially significant, because it was at Heards Country Gardens Nursery, where I found my passion, butterfly gardening! Immediately upon attending a butterfly gardening class at the nursery, I was forever obsessed with butterflies. I was so fascinated with every detail of the butterfly class, taking notes and asking questions, that I could hardly wait to get home and start “gardening for the benefit of butterflies” myself. I especially remembered waiting in line to purchase a chrysalis from the teacher, Cathy, the “Butterfly Lady”, but to my disappointment, by the time I made my way to the front of the line, Cathy was out of butterfly chrysalises. She did however have a couple of caterpillars, and upon assuring her I was growing pesticide free fennel in my garden, she sold me one of her Anise Swallowtail caterpillars. I ever so carefully took it home, fed it, fretted over it, until finally that memorable day came when my Anise Swallowtail Butterfly emerged from it’s chrysalis, I knew I was hooked.

Butterfly Garden – Wood’s Wildlife Wonder

This story brings me to tell you about one of the gardens on the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour, it’s at the home of Helen and Ken Wood. The “Wood’s Wildlife Wonder” is filled with plants and trees selected to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Helen is a master gardener, her garden is certified as a North American Butterfly Association certified butterfly garden, Monarch Way-station and Native Habitat. Last summer I had the pleasure of attending a “butterfly tea” at her home and was amazed at the number of butterflies visiting her garden. If you live in the Orange County area, I urge you to take the Heard’s Garden Tour, and don’t miss stopping by the Woods Garden, I’m sure Helen would be happy to talk to your about butterfly gardening. Be sure to bring your camera!

Mary Lou introduced me to the world of butterfly gardening, I hope to inspire others to take the tour and begin gardening for the benefit of butterflies.