CHARLESTOWN — Having left behind the pressure of a high-powered career as senior vice president at CBS radio in Connecticut, Suzanne McDonald has retired to the home she shares with her husband, Michael, and their two dogs.

Surrounding the home is her beloved garden, one of 26 that will be open to the public on June 29 and 30 for the 2019 Gardening with the Masters tour, mostly in in Rhode Island. 

McDonald became a certified University of Rhode Island Master Gardener in 2016. Her property on Fort Ninigret Road isn’t a large one, just under an acre, but it is densely planted with trees and perennials, some of which were there when the McDonalds bought the property 14 years ago. Many new plants and shrubs have been added in the four years since the McDonalds moved to Charlestown to live full time. 

Rather than trying to control the landscape, McDonald welcomes its quirks and surprises.

“I like having that combination of things that I bought at the store and put in, things that pop up. Every day, there’s something new, and it’s surprising how quickly it changes,” she said. 

Behind the house is a large fish pond and waterfall, which the McDonalds installed.

“We checked with the neighbors first because of the waterfall and they were like, ‘Bring it,’” she said.

In recent years, the lawn has given way to plantings of perennials and trees. Scattered throughout the garden are shelters and nesting boxes that McDonald has provided, not only for birds but butterflies, bats and mason bees.

Asked about her favorite spot in the garden, McDonald says she is happy wherever she’s gardening. 

“Just digging in the dirt, planting things, figuring out where things are happy,” she said.

McDonald said was looking forward to sharing her garden and her love of gardening with the public.

“I feel ready, because I feel like if you drove up anytime to come and look at my garden, there’d be plenty to see, plenty to talk about,” she said. “It’s not a one-weekend thing. It’s a life.”

The tour, which takes place every two years, has been described as a teaching tool to help home gardeners develop sustainable gardening practices. Proceeds from ticket sales help fund Master Gardener public education initiatives throughout Rhode Island.

The gardens on the tour are located throughout Rhode Island as well as in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts. In the southern region, in addition to McDonald’s garden, there are two other gardens open for the tour, one in Charlestown and another in Stonington. Tickets, which are guidebooks with maps and descriptions of each garden, can be purchased for $25 each at: uri.edu/mastergardener/tour

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