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How old is the Azalea Garden Tour? What gardens were on the first tour?

Ben Steelman
StarNews

The 59th annual Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour opened with the ribbon cutting ceremony and Azalea Queen’s Garden Party at the home of Ronnie and Cyndi McNeill in Wilmington on April 13, 2012. Staff Photo By Matt Born WILMINGTON STAR NEWS

According to Susan Taylor Block’s “Belles and Blooms,” the first Azalea Garden Tour was presented by the Cape Fear Garden Club during the 1953 Azalea Festival.

Gardens on the first tour included those at the Bellamy Mansion at 503 Market St. (with the first floor also open to the public), the A.G. Milligan home at 2304 Metts Ave., the P.R. Smith home at 615 Forest Hills Drive, the J. Henry Gerdes Home at 722 Forest Hills Drive, the Peter Browne Ruffin home at 754 Forest Hills Drive, the Ruth Loman home at 206 Audubon Blvd., the Martin Pearsall home on Airlie Road (now known as Gray Gables), the Miriam Burns home at 1417 Hawthorne Road and the Henry B. Rehder home at 2217 Oleander Drive.

Pleasant Oaks Plantation, off River Road in Brunswick County, was also on the tour.

The tour was held March 27-29, 1953, with Mrs. Charles Cavenaugh as chairman, Mrs. J.W. Grise, chairman of hostesses and Mrs. John J. Burney Jr., ticket chairman. (Ladies went by their husbands’ names back then.)

Before 1953, the Cape Fear and other area garden clubs participated in a flower show during the Azalea Festival, beginning in 1948. The first festival also offered tours of Airlie Gardens, Greenfield Lake and Orton Plantation in Brunswick County.

RELATED LINKS:

What is the Azalea Festival Garden Party?

What type of perks does the Azalea Queen recieve? Does she get paid?

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