In Leach’s Garden, tea is again elegantly served

You may be surprised to find out why some folks were ‘locked out’ of this graceful outdoor summer event …


Leach Garden Friends volunteers Bobbi Foster and Barb Ham, along with the organization’s President Gay Greger, prepare main-course tea sandwich plates for a Saturday afternoon seating of the Leach Garden Summer Tea.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
An event that signals that summertime has truly arrived in outer East Portland takes place on the patio of Leach Botanical Garden every year: The Summer English Tea.

At these “dress up” tea parties, held this year on July 13 and 14, live cello music floats through the air as guests arrive and are seated.

Colleen Isotalo shows a dessert plate, freshly decorated with edible flowers.

“These teas have been produced by volunteers at the Garden for 25 years now,” smiled Leach Garden Friends Board President Gay Greger.

This is not a “paper-plate” luncheon, Greger emphasized.

“It’s a very elegant, meticulously-orchestrated tea. Each table is set with silverware, china plates, and very special teapots and matching teacups. The flowers and tablecloths are color-coordinated.”

Laura Pitts and her 5-year-old daughter, Julia Pitts, of Raleigh Hills, smile after being seated at the Summer Tea.

Michelle Harper, retired Sr. Manager at Portland Parks & Recreation, and Palma Roberson, retired PP&R administrative assistant, chat with Leach Botanical Garden Executive Director David Porter, as they enjoy their first cup of tea.

About 70 volunteers with Leach Garden Friends, the nonprofit organization which operates the garden in cooperation with Portland Parks & Recreation, prepare the three-course luncheons and tea, and then act as servers during the event.

“People come to this from all over the metropolitan Portland area,” observed Greger.  “We have patrons who’ve brought out-of-town guests here today. Yesterday, we had some folks from France at the tea.”

It’s not a “ladies only” affair. Neil Toth joins Heather St. Clair at the Summer Tea event.

In addition to being a major annual fundraiser for the Friends group, the well-attended Summer Tea also helps publicize the organization. With most of the food items donated, nearly all of the funds go toward the support of the garden, she said.

Because it has gained in popularity every year, Greger revealed that many people who wish to attend are surprised to find they cannot buy tickets, even as early as mid-May.

“We can only host 90 people at each of two daily seatings,” Gregor said. “This year, the tickets went on sale on May 1 at 9 a.m. By the end of that day, we were ‘sold out’.”

In the shade of trees in the Leach Garden Manor House patio, these folks enjoy the “sold out” event.

What’s the best way not to get “locked out” of the Leach Garden Summer Tea next year?

“The very best way is to join Leach Garden Friends! Our members get a ‘heads-up’ when the tickets will go on sale each year,” Greger grinned.

To learn more about Leach Garden Friends, and all of the activities hosted at Leach Botanical Garden, see their website: CLICK HERE.

> From our Front Page: Natalie Daniels reaches for her scone as the Leach Garden Summer Tea begins.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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