great gardens

Local gardens on tour represent mature residential spaces with beautiful trees and landscapes that have been in place for years.

Being a perfectionist makes many things more difficult and time consuming, but perhaps none so much as gardening. The time, physical labor and love it takes to make a garden its best are immeasurable, but the results are easy to see.

Mt. Lebanon, often known for sprawling, lush gardens, is a perfect place to slicken gardening skills. Now, for the first time, Mt. Lebanon will be a focus of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden “Town and Country” Tour. This year’s event is Sunday, June 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It includes 15 gardens, and 10 are in Mt. Lebanon. Proceeds benefit the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, an outdoor haven located on 460 acres of land with gardens, trails and the Historic Heritage Homestead, on Pinkerton Run Road in Oakdale.

The tour does not release the locations or the names of the garden owners until the event. But Mt. Lebanon Magazine talked with one Mt. Lebanon homeowner whose garden is on the tour about the copious perennials, dahlias, trees, shrubs and daylilies in the colorful space she and her husband have tended for many years.

The home’s signature planting area is a shady garden, guarded by a large crabapple tree. Underneath is a plush carpet of hostas, ferns, coral bells and toad lillies accented each summer by astilbes with their plummy blooms. Her favorite annuals are wax begonias that line the beds and the oriental lilies and pots of colorful plants that surround the home’s swimming pool, balancing the beige-ness of the concrete patio.

On the day of the tour, attendees will be able to speak with the homeowners to get tips and tricks. “Find out what you do well, and do lots of it,” the Mt. Lebanon gardener says. “You can fix light and soil. But why kill yourself trying to do things that aren’t happy?”

She admits that her husband, who has done the majority of the work on the garden for 22 years, is a perfectionist, but she also acknowledges that their level yard provides a great canvas. “Paradoxically, this garden requires a tremendous amount of work but is immensely restful and calming,” she says. “It has truly been a labor of love.”

“Each of these neighborhood hot spots is older, residential, established and mature,” Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Development Director Beth Exton says of the 15 gardens on the tour.  So many Mt. Lebanon gardens are included, she adds, because, “The homes are architecturally sound and beautiful. Grounds have been well kept. Beautiful trees, gardens, landscapes and even parks have been in place for years. Mt. Lebanon gardens are representative of this natural and mature style. And the garden owners are savvy, experienced and thoughtful.”

The tour, which also includes stops in Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park, has several levels of participation for the expected 500 to 700 attendees. The signature tour is the all-day bus option, which costs $120 for PBG members and $135 for non-members and includes a luncheon at the PBG’s Davidson Event Center catered by Rania’s. A bus guide will be along for the ride. Pick up the bus at Carnegie Mellon University, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden or the Mt. Lebanon Library.

New this year is a half-day bus tour, which is $60 for PBG members and $75 for non-members, with morning tours of the gardens, followed by lunch at PBG. Catch that bus at the PBG Welcome Center parking lot.

The self-guided tour, which is $45 for PBG members and $55 for non-members, includes tour books with directions and garden descriptions mailed to your home three weeks before the tour.

Horticulturists founded the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in 1988, on land originally controlled by the six nations of Iroquois native Americans. As the Garden’s history account tells it, John Henry, a 16-year-old Scots-Irish immigrant, was the first white settler, in 1760, and he built the cabin. When he left the area to farm, he became a founding member of Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church and a commissioner in Upper St. Clair.

After decades of fundraising, work and expansion, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden opened on a permanent, fulltime basis in April 2015. It is now a hotspot for elegant weddings, a home for farm animals in the Heritage Apple Orchard and space for outdoor classes including yoga and tai chi.

Buy tickets at or
call 412-444-4464.