House & Home

Here’s your chance to tour 5 lush Mission Hills & Fairway private gardens

The Hills Are Alive garden in Mission Hills is set for a dinner party with bright splashes of color. The homeowner created this table-setting, but Trapp & Co. will set it for the Entertaining Gardens tour.
The Hills Are Alive garden in Mission Hills is set for a dinner party with bright splashes of color. The homeowner created this table-setting, but Trapp & Co. will set it for the Entertaining Gardens tour.

Gardens aren’t just for flowers, shrubs and vegetables.

They’re for parties, too. Dinner parties, cocktail parties, kids parties — you can create an aura of magic for any of these get-togethers by hosting it beneath your trees and surrounded by foliage.

The Westport Garden Club will offer inspiration with its Entertaining Gardens tour on Saturday, May 13, featuring five private gardens in Mission Hills and Fairway. Each includes a colorful, themed tablescape. Visitors may also view rooms in the homes.

Tour proceeds will benefit the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative, a partnership of more than 50 private, public and nonprofit groups working across the Kansas City area to promote native ecosystems.

Each garden has had a team of club members planting, feeding, mulching and trimming for several weeks now.

One of the Mission Hills gardens on the tour sits atop a wooded hillside, hence its theme is The Hills Are Alive.

A tiered garden covers the hillside, and roses surround a circular drive. Every inch of ground surrounding the home is covered with plants. A garden gate in the back opens onto a pathway that passes beneath an arbor where homeowner Sharon Orr has hung several birdhouses.

Round a corner and you’re met with an explosion of color in the form of a glass and metal wind sculpture by artist Andrew Carson. The brick courtyard has white molded polypropylene furniture by Italian furniture-maker Bubble Club topped with hot pink cushions with white swirls. It’s like a warm, cozy living room, only outside.

A nearby pond features a floating garden. A screened porch will be set for a children’s party, and a back terrace will be set by Trapp & Co. for a dinner party.

“When we moved in, it was a brick patio that was falling apart,” Orr says. “We tore it apart and started over.”

The Orrs get a variety of wildlife in the gardens, including foxes and big tortoises, and spend most of the summer outside.

“Even when it’s hot, because we are up high and getting a nice breeze, it’s nice all summer,” she says.

The first floor of the home will also be open so visitors can see the Orrs’ eclectic decor, which skillfully combines Asian, French and English decor with family heirlooms and a neon light collection as well as the contemporary art of Dale Chihuly, Lisa Lou and Linda Lighton.

The Orrs’ garden has a fairy-tale feel to it, but the Artful Garden in Fairway feels formal.

Enter through a white picket fence and a brick path leads to a classically designed herb garden edged in boxwood, with a 30-year-old bay leaf tree in a terra-cotta urn iin the center. The path continues to the backyard, where it opens onto a huge, well-manicured lawn.

Homeowners Carolyn and George Kroh created gardens around the lawn by laying out a wavy border, or what volunteer Jo Missildine calls lyrical lines. There’s a woodlands garden, a perennial herbaceous border and a vegetable garden with handmade wattle fencing and trellised supports.

Carolyn is an artist, so the grounds are full of whimsical touches, including a small water feature surrounded by ceramic leaves she made, garden stakes with tiny ceramic birdhouses made by her grandchildren and an old-fashioned screened porch with hand-stenciled floors.

Tablescapes will be set up around the yard and will comprise Carolyn’s handiwork in the form of painted tablecloths and ceramic dinnerware.

Another of the Mission Hills gardens, decorated with a Cape Cod Charm theme, begins in front of the home, where a 30-foot-tall big leaf magnolia adds shade and structure to an entryway courtyard. The tree has a 32-foot span and is registered as a state champion with the Kansas Forest Service.

Around the side of the home, a white picket fence fortified with chicken wire protects mini cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs from bunnies nesting nearby. A wrought-iron gate toward the rear of the house opens on to a brick path that leads to a large brick courtyard, lined with Northstar boxwood and variegated liriope on one side and a covered veranda with a stone fireplace and flat-screen TV on the other.

Ship navigation lights passed down through the family flank the fireplace. Several seating areas feature black wrought iron Parker James furniture with black-and-white striped cushions. A large coat of arms carved into a marble slab from Lucca, Italy, hangs above the fireplace.

The homeowner, who asked not to be identified, says she and her husband entertain on the veranda all summer long, even when it rains. A nearby pool is surrounded by old roses and guarded by a bronze replica of one of the terra-cotta warriors of Xi’an that the owners bought during a trip to China.

The homeowner said the backyard and its gardens drew her and her husband to the home when they bought it five years ago.

“The previous owners had planted a spring garden and would leave to go elsewhere during the summer, so nothing would bloom from May through September. We added more hydrangeas and plants that would bloom all different times of the year. It’s a beautiful late summer garden.

“Right now, we are in the wedding shower phase,” she added, referring to the types of parties she’ll be throwing in the garden in coming weeks.

Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian: 816-234-4780, @CindyBGregorian

Entertaining Gardens

10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, May 13, rain or shine. Gardens are not handicap-accessible. Tickets are $45 at Patron tickets are $100 each.