| Special to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It’s the time of year when, normally, there are dozens of home and garden tours happening in our area.
Like so much else this year, because of the coronavirus, many of them have been canceled.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still see some unique homes and gardens.
This year, there will be some exciting virtual tours as well as tours that will put social distancing into play. Among those worth checking out are the popular Historic Concordia Home Tour and the new Lake Country Art and Garden Tour.
The Concordia tour, one of the earliest in the season, will be a virtual tour showcasing more than 30 homes and other locations in the neighborhood.
“This being our 30th annual home tour, we were wondering how to make it unique. It is tragically funny how circumstances have forced uniqueness upon us,” said Scott Witte, a committee member for the tour.
For the virtual tour, Witte took photographs as well as 360-degree images of the interiors of some of the unique homes and businesses in his area. He is a professional photographer and the owner of Scott Whitte Photography and Tour de Force 360VR.
“Every home is unique and has its own personality, and its own heritage. It’s really fun going in those houses and being able to experience that, and then being able to share that experience with others,” he said.
“We are also going to have a video by historian John Gurda, titled a ‘History of the Concordia Neighborhood.’
“In the video, he goes into why people settled here, why these big houses are here, and the character of the people who first lived here. This was the area for the wealthy to move to. He also talks about the character of the people who live here now.”
The tour will premiere June 20 and will remain active thereafter.
A new garden tour for 2020, the Lake Country Art and Garden Tour, is also going virtual.
The virtual tour will include about 10 gardens in the Lake Country area, from Sussex to Oconomowoc, and it will be available through a link on pewaukeearts.org by mid-August, said Julia Jaegersberg, vice president of the Pewaukee Area Arts Council. There will also be Facebook Live videos from July 12 to 25 as the gardens are filmed.
Jaegersberg said they decided to do a virtual tour because otherwise they didn’t feel they could do it safely.
“We didn’t want to be responsible for making the situation worse, and we didn’t want people to have to walk around in gardens with masks on,” she said.
The Cedarburg Artists Guild and the Greenfield Beautification Committee will be holding their tours, but there will be social distancing.
When the Cedarburg guild hosts the 38th annual Covered Bridge Art Studio Tour in October, about 28 artists from Mequon to Port Washington will open their studios to the public, said Lynn Rix, co-chair for the event. Some of the studio spaces are created in homes.
“During this time of uncertainty, the beauty of art can bring much-needed joy. We invite the public to experience a day in the country away from crowds. (During the tour) you can meet artists, learn of their creative process and perhaps purchase an original piece of art,” Rix said.
She added that some not to be missed locations include those of artists who make pottery, wildlife art and furniture.
“Kandy Gibson in Grafton is the owner of Gardenview Pottery, and she does all sorts of pottery, including Raku, which is a form of firing that is done outside in a large fire pit, so people can be outside watching.
“James Kiesow is a nationally known wildlife artist. He has had his art reproduced on U.S. postal stamps. He does all kinds of wildlife art.
“And an artist in Grafton, Jeff Austin, makes beautiful furniture. He make things like Windsor chairs and tables, and they are just exquisite,” she said.
Will Radler, creator of Knock Out rose, creates a garden in Greenfield
Will Radler said his favorite part of the garden is one of the ponds because he “loves playing with the goldfish.”
Gil Malone, who does publicity at the Greenfield Beautification Committee, said the group believes its tour can be done safely, and it’s the group’s major fundraiser.
“We talked to the health department, and we will have social distancing. … It’s a 2-acre garden, so we feel there is enough room that people can be 6 feet apart,” he said.
The tour will be at the home of Will Radler, who propagated the famous Knock Out Roses. His home not only has lots of roses, but it also has a wide variety of other plants, as well as unique hardscaping.
“One of the benefits of seeing this garden is he labels everything,” Malone said. “People can come and if they see something they like, they can see the name of it and go out to a garden store or online and get the plant themselves.”
Kevin Liner, tour coordinator for the Lakeside Garden Tour in Milwaukee, said participants decided to hold their event because “now people are seeing it should be fine by the end of July.”
“People are very enthusiastic and anxious to see people again. And because it’s outside it should be safe, from everything we have heard,” he said.
Gardens on the tour have been part of the event in the past, and tour-goers can see what’s new and what they can do in their own yards, he said.
“They can see how they can fill their gardens vertically or do different themed gardens. Some are very small, but the homeowners do wonderful things with them. … Over 90% of the gardens are done by the homeowners,” he said.
He added that the gardens will be exceptionally beautiful this year as everyone has had time to do extra gardening.
“They’re putting in new gardens and fences. Some of them are still working full time, but there are also those who were forced to stay home and those who are retired. They stepped it up even more. They did things on their wish list. It (the pandemic) was a nice catalyst for that.”
There are also home tours scheduled for later in the year that have a holiday focus. Those tours are still on at this point, but may be canceled if the pandemic is still with us at that time.
For any of these tours, call or check the websites closer to the dates to be sure the events are still being held.
Historic Concordia Home Tour: This year’s event will be a virtual tour (hcni.org/home-tour) featuring more than 30 homes and other locations in the neighborhood, most with 360-degree virtual tours.
The virtual tour also will include newly restored buildings in the Concordia (Potawatomi) campus, the State Theater (pre-restoration), and the Tripoli Shrine.
The neighborhood roughly runs from North 27th to 35th streets and West Wisconsin Avenue to West Highland Boulevard. The tour premieres June 20.
Greenfield Beautification Committee: A Day at the Radler Garden: From 9 a.m. to noon July 18. Self-guided tours will be offered at Will Radler’s garden, 10020 W. Meadow Drive, Greenfield. Tickets day of tour are $10 at the garden. For more information see gbcinfo.org or call (414) 545-3381.
Lakeside Garden Tour: A free, self-guided tour includes about 15 gardens on Milwaukee’s east side from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 26. Visitors can meet gardeners who created unique small spaces, and free raffle entries are offered at selected gardens. For maps and more information, see lakesidegardentour.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (414) 331-1270.
Lake Country Art and Garden Tour: A virtual tour of about 10 gardens in the Lake country area, from Sussex to Oconomowoc, will be available through pewaukeearts.org by mid-August. Videos from each location will feature the gardens, and the gardeners will give information on landscaping and plants.The gardens will be filmed from July 12 to 25 (check the Pewaukee Area Arts Council Facebook page later this month for times). The filming of each garden will be posted on Facebook Live, and there will also be an auction item with each garden.
38th Covered Bridge Art Studio Tour: Visit the studio spaces of 28 Cedarburg Artists Guild members from Mequon to Port Washington. Most of the artists will be creating art during the event and will explain their artistic process and inspirations. From noon 5 p.m. Oct. 9, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11. Free; reservations not required. To download a map of the tour, get a list of the participating artists, or follow the blog, go to: cedarburgartistsguild.com/coveredbridgeartstudiotour.html. For more information, email email@example.com.
Christmas Tour of Homes and Craft Sale: Tour four homes and the historic Octagon House in Hudson, all decorated for the holidays. Tour options include: The “Dazzle Tour,” nighttime tour from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov 20. Traditional tours will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 21 and noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 22. The traditional tours will include optional transportation, and there will be a craft sale from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21 Tickets will range from about $25 to $35, with proceeds benefiting next year’s tour. For advance tickets call (715) 386-8411. For more information see hudsonwi.org.
37th Annual Monches Artisan Holiday Open House: The free, self-driving tour includes about six artists shops, studio, and specialty farms within 10 miles of the artist community of Monches. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 6 at most locations. (Interiors of the homes are not open to the public.) Holiday music, bonfires and refreshments will be available at some location. For information, call Krauski Art Glass at (262) 966-7500 or see monchesartisans.com.
Hartford Historical Society Home Tour: Historic homes in the Hartford area will be decorated for the holidays. From noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 12. Sponsored by the Hartford Historical Society. Proceeds benefit the society. For more information call (262) 457-2300.