Charmaine Brooks has witnessed hundreds of smiles.
The tour guide for the Church gardens, located near the Church Office and Administration buildings in downtown Salt Lake City, explained that for some reason plants and flowers make visitors happy."People come here from all over the world to see the gardens," explained Sister Brooks. "There is something about gardens that bring out the best in people."
Sister Brooks is one of 52 volunteers who give daily garden tours – which are free of charge – on the Church grounds.
Christena Gates, coordinator for the tours, said the Church arraigned for the service in July 1994 – after receiving hundreds of requests from visitors wanting to know more about the gardens.
She said tour guides give gardening tips and share anecdotes that not only make the arrangements interesting, but also give them meaning in a historical setting.
For example, some early Utah settlers carried seeds in their socks and shoes as they crossed the plains to guarantee their new city would be beautiful. The gardens near the Lion and Beehive houses are reminiscent of the early English gardens these settlers planted, explain tour guides.
"We describe why we plant the way we plant," Sister Gates said, adding that many people come on the tour before they plant their own gardens. "They ask, `How do you get rid of this? What do you do about that? I want my gardens to look this beautiful.' "
Because so many people want to imitate the Church's gardens in their yards, volunteers hand out a pamphlet listing most of the perennials, annuals, trees shrubs and vines that grow in the gardens.
They probably won't get the same look, however, she added. "People just don't realize that we have artists that plan the gardens," she explained. That may be one reason the gardens have such a positive affect on visitors.
Sister Gates also said many guests have said they left the one-hour tour with a "calming feeling" – something they will never forget and want to experience again next year.
Currently, tours are given Mondays through Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Starting June 1, guests may take daily tours at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tours are also given Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. Guests should meet in the Church Office Building lobby.
Sunday tours, which start at 10:15 immediately following the Tabernacle Choir broadcast, are also available. For these tours guests should meet at the east gates of Temple Square.