An upcoming garden tour promises a walk on the wild side.
A group of natural landscape advocates wants to show the community that there's an alternative to manicured gardens and turfgrass lawns.
From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, the Lawrence Organic Gardening Society and Wild Ones Natural Landscapers will host a free, self-guided tour of yards that showcase prairie grasses, wildflowers and other nontraditional plantings.
Michael Almon, a member of Wild Ones, said the tour will give the public an opportunity to see why his organization is pushing to amend the city of Lawrence's weed ordinance.
Wild Ones hopes to see the ordinance amended to allow natural landscapes and unmowed plantings that exceed 12 inches in height. The city commission has asked its staff to meet with the organization to seek a compromise.
``The tour is to give us some exposure at the time we're negotiating, but we had wanted to do a tour anyway,'' Almon said.
People who take the tour will see a variety of natural landscapes designed to be self-sustaining and to require no irrigation, fertilizing or mowing.
``It's non-polluting, it's economical, it's low maintenance,'' Almon said.
The concept of natural landscaping, which was defined in 1979 with the founding of the first Wild Ones chapter in Milwaukee, takes several different directions.
``Mine is edible landscaping,'' Almon said. The path that winds through his yard at 1311 Prairie passes a rambling series of nut and fruit trees, berry bushes and edible flowers and plants.
A block away at the home of Mark Taylor, 1205 Prairie, about 20 beds display an assortment of native grasses and plants such as castor bean, horsetail fern, tamarisk and blue sage. On some beds Taylor has broadcast wildflower seed.
In addition to Almon and Taylor, other hosts and addresses confirmed for the tour are Carol Thrasher, 2025 Vt.; Ron Swall and Terry Dove, 1846 Learnard; and Beth Ann Mansur and Dickie Heckler, 1217 Prospect.
Tour participants are welcome to walk through these yards. In addition, tour hosts at these addresses will give participants a list of addresses to drive by.
Taylor says he has put the tallest plantings around the perimeter of his yard.
``I mainly use it for cover. I don't want to have to put up a privacy fence,'' he said.
Where natural landscapers often run afoul of the weed ordinance is in the height and apparent randomness of their plantings. Almon said that people who are oriented toward symmetrical, ornamental gardening sometimes mistake the unorthodox plantings for weeds.
On the contrary, he said, there are elements of design in a natural landscape.
``It's all intentional,'' he said. ``Everything that's here I put here.''