John Ward didn’t plan on becoming a gardener. In fact, he once scoffed—although he politely obliged—at a coworkers insistence that he visit and see the tomatoes he’d been growing.
However, about 20 years ago, Ward took up gardening as a hobby. Two decades and nearly 500 species of plants later, Ward's garden is the centerpiece of this weekend’s annual Garden Show in Burlingame.
“It was a evolving passion,” said Ward. “It’s a great escape.”
He began the garden show about 15 years ago and chooses a different beneficiary each year. This year, proceeds benefit Mission Hospice serving San Mateo County.
The show is technically free, with visitors donating what they wish.
“After that somebody suggested, ‘Why don’t you do it for a charity?’” Ward said.
Between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, about 300 visitors will wander through the garden, some plant aficionados, others just casual viewers from the neighborhood.
Flowers resembling shrimp, pineapples, geese and fried eggs mingle among velvety foliage, accented with antique ironwork. Many of the plants are non-native, coming from places like Australia and Mexico.
At 3 p.m., Ward conducts a guided teaching tour, showing even those with a “black thumb” how they, too, can become novice gardeners.
“You don’t have to have a black thumb if you learn some basic stuff,” Ward said. These basics include not overwatering and pinching off dead buds just above the next lowest leaf cluster.
Ward prefers doing his gardening in the morning, pruning, arranging and coaxing buds to bloom.
“It’s a combination of learning and trying to be artistic about it,” he said.
The event takes place at 792 Willborough Place in Burlingame on Sunday, August 5 from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.