GREENVILLE — If someone sends you sage, it’s polite to comment that you hope they, too, will live a long life. A gift of a coreopsis should make you smile. And if someone presents you with a rose, well, pucker up: someone loves you.
If you’re fortunate enough to receive a “Tussie Mussie,” you’d better get out your flora-to-English dictionary, because there’s a message buried there between all those stems and petals.
This “language of flowers” will be explored Tuesday in Greenville, when One Book One County organizers host a free garden tour. Some of the finest gardens in the city — many seldom seen, hidden gems — will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The five stops on the tour, which is self-guided, are all tied in with this year’s One Book One County selection, “The Language of Flowers,” a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The book tells the tale of a young woman who communicates almost exclusively through flowers and their secret meanings.
The tour features the gardens of Marilyn and Roy Ferguson, Julie and Don Momber, Diana Jones, Carole and Gene Weeks, and the Flat River Historical Museum.
One of the highlights of the tour is the expansive, herb-laden garden of Marilyn and Roy Ferguson, situated above Baldwin Lake. Marilyn Ferguson is a renowned area expert on all things herbal, having grown and studied the plants for decades. She became interested in herbs over 30 years ago.
“When I first got married, my husband and I loved to go out to dinner and treat ourselves to gourmet meals,” Ferguson said. “They were featuring herbs in all the (food) magazines back then, but they weren’t readily available around here. I started growing the herbs I wanted to use for cooking.”
Studying herb lore over the years, Ferguson learned that, especially during the Victorian era, many herbs and flowers had special meanings attached to them. Daisies, for instance, denote innocence; mint sends the message of many virtues; and a pansy attests to thoughts of love.
Ferguson’s understanding of herbs, flowers and their meanings is one of the reasons her garden was chosen for inclusion in the One Book One County tour. Another was no doubt the majestic, tranquil beauty Ferguson’s garden exudes. Simply standing in the middle of all that flowering splendor is a balm for any soul.
“We have lots of perennials, hostas and day lilies,” Ferguson said. “We have thousands of bulbs that come up early in the year and others that bloom later. I think it’s a lovely thing to always have something coming up. We try to always have something blooming.”
Ferguson admits that she and her husband both put many hours into the garden; maintaining a project of its size is no easy task.
“Basically, I work my garden and I watch my grandchildren,” Ferguson said. “That’s what my days are like.”
Both are activities she enjoys wholeheartedly. However, she does admit she’s a bit disquieted over Roy’s plans to expand the already expansive garden across a small creek and into the woods behind their home.
During the tour, Ferguson will focus on her large herb garden and how the plants there relate to this year’s book selection.
One Book One County organizer Maureen Burns said she is excited to be able to include the Ferguson garden in the tour. All of the gardens selected are impressive and worth viewing, she said.
“The gardens have been carefully chosen and will delight viewers and make a wonderful outing for people,” Burns said. “We hope they bring friends and have a fabulous time.
“Each gardener has worked so very hard preparing for this. Julie Momber said she lost four pounds sweating as she worked. I have visited each of these gardens and they are absolute wows. Julie Momber even has named some of her flowers. Marilyn Ferguson’s is so big, I couldn’t believe it. The others are each very beautiful and a treat to see.”
The tour is offered free of charge.
You don’t need a fern (indicates sincerity) to know this tour will be time well spent.