GEORGETOWN — David Quick thinks it's "nothing short of amazing" that Royal Spring Park, a small greenspace in the middle of Georgetown, has been preserved for more than 200 years.
"Promotion of Royal Spring Park is important to downtown because it is currently an underutilized cultural and historical resource," says Quick, executive director of the Georgetown Main Street program. "The dry-stack stone bridge in the park was built back in 1795, and Royal Spring was Georgetown's original water source."
Royal Spring is the site Saturday of the Scott County Cooperative Extension Service's master gardeners group's third annual Lawn and Garden Expo. This year it's called A Garden Day in the Park and is a collaboration with the Georgetown Main Street program's volunteers to promote a new project, the Historic Gardens of the Georgetown Cultural District. The Main Street program is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
To date, five sites are included in the project (more are being considered), and the expo will be an opportunity for the public to learn more about the gardens. Some are just a short walk from Royal Spring, and none is more than about a five-minute drive from the city center.
Quick credits volunteer board members Amelia Cloud and Janis AtLee for identifying and developing the focus on the project's participating gardens.
Although the sites for these gardens are well-known historic places, and can be viewed from the road to gain some perspective about the project, the idea of developing specialty gardens with different characteristics at each one, and grouping them together with a unified promotional plan has just begun to be realized. Gaining public awareness and support is a main goal of the expo, but no tours are planned.
The gardens are:
Royal Spring Park: At West Main and South Water streets, the park centers on a major spring where settler Elijah Craig built a grain mill and began distilling bourbon in 1789.
Last year, barrels containing herbs were placed in the park.
AtLee says she and Cloud will develop more permanent raised beds around two historic log cabins, which also would allow comfortable access for mobility- challenged visitors. Traditional medicinal and culinary herbs, including perennial mint, chamomile, rosemary and comfrey, will be part of these areas, dubbed Pioneer Garden.
Scott County Arts & Cultural Center: Housed in an 1870s-era jailer's home with a massive old county jail attached to the rear at 117 North Water Street, the center is graced with a Victorian cutting garden.
The red brick house was renovated and opened as an exhibition and community arts center in 2006.
AtLee, the center's director, enlisted community members such as Girl Scout volunteers who helped plant the garden; board members who shared iris and day lily divisions; and local growers like Bluegrass Hosta Farm owner Chris Miller, who donated some of her shade-loving perennials.
The cut flowers are used to decorate at gallery events.
AtLee also worked to get banners hung from city lampposts. Sponsored by local businesses, they feature artists' illustrations and photographs of Scott County landscapes, and will hang through about Memorial Day.
Ward Hall: About 11/2 miles west of downtown is a stately Greek Revival antebellum mansion built by Junius Ward in 1857. Large greenhouses filled with tropical plants and flowers once stood to the west of the house; bald cypress trees and statuary now dot the estate's lawns.
Yuko-En on the Elkhorn: The design of the six-acre Kentucky-Japan friendship garden, built in 2000, reflects the tradition of Japanese stroll gardens.
Bamboo rustles in the breeze, a reflecting pond is stocked with koi, a footbridge arches over a dry stream bed, waterfalls gush, and rolling knolls offer a quiet place to appreciate nature's beauty. Less than a mile from Main Street on North Broadway, the site was once part of the adjacent Cardome complex, which in 1896 was a monastery and academy for girls, managed by the Sisters of the Visitation.
Scott County Native Plants Arboretum: Where the Memorial Drive entrance to Georgetown College intersects with East Main Street, a small native plant arboretum, less than an acre, was established about 20 years ago.
Mature tree and shrub specimens — including spicebush, button bush and yellow buckeye — create a shady grove.
Cloud also has created four stone-bordered raised beds filled with native perennial species, sourced from Shooting Star Nursery in Scott County.
"We're working toward sustainability and learning how to teach the next generation how to preserve and keep these gardens going," Cloud says.
Also for the expo, Cooperative Extension agent Sharon Flynt and master gardener Pam Jenkins have assembled businesses, including Sunshine Grow Shop, Triple J Farms and Daylily Patch; nonprofit organizations such the Georgetown Garden Club; and speakers who will discuss composting and beneficial insects.
Jenkins says master gardeners will be on hand to answer gardening questions; there also will be seed and plant giveaways, and drawings for door prizes donated by local garden businesses.
Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: gardening.bloginky.com.