The Cap Cod Hydrangea festival showcases the beauty of this signature flower through tours of private gardens and horticultural education—all while helping visitors refine their gardening skills and giving back to the community.
History of the festival
C.L Fornari, nicknamed “the garden lady”, is a renowned gardener on Cape Cod and its surrounding islands. Fornari started the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival in 2015 with the goal of raising money for charity and helping bring gardening back into popular culture. She drew her inspiration for the festival from a similar event called Garden Walk Buffalo.
Cape Cod and Hydrangeas
Although hydrangeas aren’t native to Cape Cod, locals experimented with them in the mid-twentieth century, and learned that the flowers grow well here because the area has well-drained soil and more temperate winters than other places. The area’s cool sea breeze during the summer also helps the hydrangeas thrive. Without the coolness of the sea breeze, the hydrangeas could fade in color, but in Cape Cod, they remain alive and well from early summer to fall.
Getting your garden into the festival
Garden owners who live on Cape Cod partner up with local non-profits and garden clubs to raise money for the organizations with the festival’s proceeds. The festival looks for unique gardens that showcase summer blooms, not necessarily specific to hydrangeas. Gardens of any style or size are welcome, but gardens that have a clear focus on a specific plant or a distinct style are preferred.
Making the most of your time
The Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival offers workshops and lectures with internationally respected horticulturalists, hydrangea pruning classes, and paint demonstrations with Cape Cod artists, along with tours of privately-owned gardens. Festival-goers can attend local garden centers’ talks and classes, along with various museum programs. The Cape Cod Master Gardener Association also pairs a speaker with each garden on the tour.
Each year, the festival also offers Hydrangea University, which kicks off the festival. Those who enroll in Hydrangea University can tour the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society Display Garden and the North American Test Garden. Registration for Hydrangea University also includes admission to every heritage museum and garden, along with a gift bag and a hydrangea plant to bring home.
Navigating the festival
Most visitors drive themselves or carpool from place to place because each garden is required to have sufficient parking space. As the festival has grown in popularity, a few bus tours come in to transport groups throughout the festival.
The festival generally brings in anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 people. These guests have helped raise $25,875 for 16 nonprofits in 2015, $52,000 for 20 nonprofits in 2016, $43,000 for 16 nonprofits in 2017, and $46,000 for 22 nonprofits in 2018.
The Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival showcases beauty and helps gardeners everywhere hone their skills, all the while helping support deserving non-profits. The Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival is a great opportunity to learn from some of New England’s master gardeners, all while supporting important non-profits. To learn more about the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival, visit the festival website.