Public gardens on the tour:
Extension Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens, Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St.: Gardens include raised bed vegetables, herbs, xeriscape, low-maintenance, ornamental grasses, a rain garden, a butterfly and pollinator garden, and a variety of trees. Master Gardeners will lead tours of the gardens, offer plants for sale, and answer your gardening questions at an “Ask the Expert” table.
Other private gardens on the tour:
Smart Gardening for a Busy Lifestyle: Master Gardener Jane works full-time in addition to her volunteer efforts but has found time make her yard beautiful in just two years. Special features include raised vegetable beds, plants to attract butterflies, compost bins and a worm farm.
Fairytale Garden, Historic Home: Glass globes, fairies, and artful stepping stones create a fairytale touch to Gardener Tina’s home in the historic Breezedale neighborhood. This garden offers unique ideas for an artful setting.
A Walk on the Wild Side: Gardener Bitsey has recreated the prairie in her backyard and primarily uses native plants. Around the house, gardens have a more cultivated appearance and feature plants that grow well in the shade of mature trees.
Pond’s Best Friend: A Bog: An extravagant water feature and bog fill the backyard of Master Gardeners Jim and Cheryl. Although longtime gardeners, this is their first pond and bog and it is even more beautiful with plants.
Container Edibles and More: Master Gardener Elaine takes advantage of limited sunlight and containers to grow plenty of veggies and herbs. Her landscape also offers ideas for shade and low maintenance.
Next weekend, the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners are sponsoring a tour of six private gardens to showcase sound gardening practices and good plant selections for the Lawrence area. Extension Master Gardeners will also lead tours and have plants available for sale at the always-open Demonstration Gardens at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Debbie Hutton is one rural Lawrence gardener who is opening her doors to tourgoers June 4-5. Debbie denies any garden interest or expertise before moving to this home with her husband, John, nine years ago.
The Huttons’ hard work since the move is evident in the winding berms and mass plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials. Debbie says the inspiration came from wanting to add a few plants to the top of a retaining wall after having a pool installed.
“Every year after we started, I’ve added another big garden,” Hutton says. “It’s always huge and becomes my project for the year.”
Now in her seventh year of work in the yard, Hutton notes that her lack of gardening experience has led to many lessons learned. “I want it to be zero maintenance,” Hutton says, but she also notes, “It just seems like every time I looked at the garden it needed something else.” (The gardener in me wants to tell her this is part of the joy of gardening, but I suspect she knows this already.)
Viewing the garden from the back door, drifts of deep pink rose verbena (a native perennial) soften the edges of several berms. May Night salvia is a common companion.
Annabelle hydrangeas and different varieties of viburnums fill larger spaces. In the perimeter, Hutton has used mass plantings of October Glory maples and Prairie Fire crabapples to create a buffer.
Hutton says she primarily selects plants for their ability to thrive in full sun and to attract birds and butterflies.
“There are so many birds nesting out here now,” she says.
A small waterfall and stream add ambience in the center of the garden, and the Huttons recently had a firepit and patio area installed to allow further enjoyment of the gardens.
I was also excited to hear that the garden lacks an irrigation system.
“I drag the hose around the first year or two after I plant something to get it established,” Hutton says. “But after that it’s just rain.”
Besides the extensive plantings in the back, Hutton is using new gardens to soak up water in the front and side yards where drainage has been a problem previously.
Despite having help with the hardscape (paths, retaining walls, water feature and firepit), the Huttons have invested an incredible amount of work into creating a beautiful space.
“I don’t want to give people the impression that you have to hire someone to do this,” Hutton says, “because I really, really did it myself.”
The Master Gardeners note that the Huttons have more than 250 trees and over 1,000 shrubs on their 3-acre lot.
The rest of the garden you will have to see to believe.
Tickets are available at K-State Research and Extension–Douglas County, the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, and at local garden centers. They are $8 in advance or $10 if purchased June 4-5. Garden locations and maps are included in the ticket.
Extension Master Gardeners and other local gardening experts are also offering a number of educational talks at various gardens throughout the weekend. See tickets for class descriptions and times.
All money raised from the tour and plant sale benefit Master Gardener educational programs in Douglas County, including Junior Master Gardeners, maintenance of the Demonstration Gardens, youth and adult gardening programs, and several community partnerships. In 2010, Master Gardeners gave back more than 9,000 hours to the community to provide horticultural education.