Our First Master Gardener Garden Tour
By Claire Chosid, STL Master Gardener
Improve your garden- Go on a garden tour!
It’s June. With the heat and lack of rain, it feels like August. My spring perennials bloomed and got zapped by the heat, my summer perennials are blooming 3 weeks too early and all I seem to do is water my garden. I need something, anything, to take my mind off of all the drudgery of weeding and watering. What is that “something?” Eureka! It’s a garden tour!
A sure-fire way to reactivate your enthusiasm for your own garden is to go on a garden tour. Seeing different plantings, colors, bed designs and containers gets me all hyped up, ready to tackle portions of my garden that don’t seem “quite right” or overgrown. Last week I had the perfect excuse- the St. Louis Master Gardeners 1st Annual Garden Tour. Each Master Gardener was welcome to bring a friend. Most of the members of my garden club went and I brought my best “garden tour buddy” George.
The weather was sunny and the temperatures were quite pleasant. The tour began in Ladue, continued into Kirkwood and Webster Groves, and ended up in Lafayette Square at my friend, Mark’s home. In addition to the gardens on the Master Gardener Tour, George and I got to visit another garden in Ladue, belonging to his friend, Karen. Karen is a member of the Hosta Club of St. Louis and we have been trying to make it to her place to see her large selection of Hostas. With a full tank of gas, tour guide in hand, and George behind the wheel, we were off to Ladue.
The first home on the tour was off Ladue Road. It was a picturesque home with lots of mature shade trees, a lovely swimming pool, a dry creek bed complete with a rain garden and lots of vegetables and herbs grown in containers. The homeowner had large, sweeping shade beds full of Hosta, Solomon’s Seal, Ferns and Toad Lily. I made a mental note to purchase and plant more Toad Lily after seeing the eye-catching drifts of them at the Ladue home. If you’re not familiar with this plant, it forms nice clumps in the shade and produces Orchid-like flowers later in the season. It might be hard to find, but it’s worth it. After chatting with my fellow Master Gardener buddy Ned, we were off to see Karen’s home, off Lindbergh.
I was told that Karen has a lot of shade and a real love for Hosta. Pulling up in the driveway, I was surprised to see drifts of Daylilies. They were lush, colorful and major attention-grabbers. I have very few daylilies because it’s the favorite food of West County deer. I figured that Karen, living east of Lindbergh, didn’t have to worry about them. I figured wrong. As we began walking the flagstone path through the bountiful shade garden out back, I was surprised to see what appeared to be signs of deer browsing. Surely the deer don’t jump over the concrete barricades on Lindbergh to get to the other side. I was dead wrong. The deer had destroyed an entire half of a Japanese Maple. Karen’s Hosta, another of the deer favorite foods had been browsed as well. The frustration welled up inside Karen and she got mad all over again.
Karen has a real artist’s eye in her garden. She displays crystal doorknobs on metal rods in between her Ferns. They sparkle in the sunlight. She groups galvanized watering cans on tables as if she’s planted them there. A mailbox holds gloves and tools so they are always ready. Karen’s garden held surprises around each corner, including a darling Praying Mantis, looking as if it was devouring a large Hosta leaf. As George and I left, I made a mental note to add something whimsical, like the doorknobs, to my own garden.
Now, it’s off to Kirkwood and my friend, Carol’s garden. Carol is the Orchid guru that I speak so highly of in my blogs. Some of her Orchids summer outdoors and I was interested to see how she displays them.
Carol’s home is what you would expect in Kirkwood. Charm, charm and more charm. Upon entering the back yard, I was greeted by a vast amount of orchids, perfectly potted, lined up and looking their best. The Orchids that were in bloom were displayed lovingly on a table. Very little in the Orchid world blooms in June, but Carol had some stunners including George’s favorite Orchid, a purple Vanda. Additionally, she had numerous garden ornaments, a pond and a bubbling water garden housed in a large, blue ceramic container. Carol’s next-door neighbors opened up their gardens for the tour as well. What we saw next door was a huge surprise!
Apparently Carol’s neighbor loves toads. For her birthday, her husband purchased a 3,000-pound concrete toad. Yup, you read it right. A 3,000-pound toad with a crown. It has yet to be placed, but it elicited numerous smiles and chuckles from the visitors. Another interesting aspect of this garden was a chicken coup. Not just any chicken coup, but a charming antique coup flanked by closely clipped boxwood. The homeowner has a real way with the shears because he has even clipped a bunny out of boxwood. I’m not sure if I am talented enough to replicate that, but I’d like to give it a try! Onward, to Fred’s garden.
Fred has learned a lot about gardening since the late 90’s. He hired a gardener to design and plant something interesting for the front yard. Seeing how great it made the front of the house look, Fred got the spark. He continues to change, replant and tweek his little piece of heaven in Kirkwood. One of my favorite things about Fred’s house is the way Ivy covers his front door. It’s absolutely charming! I must add that Fred is absolutely charming as well. He donated some plants to the gardens in Longview Farm Park, and I, in exchange, gave him some of my favorites from my garden. Now, it’s off to Webster Groves.
On a corner lot sits a classic Webster home. Foundation plantings were full of charm and color. Walking around back, through a brick doorway found us in a lovely brick courtyard. A fountain was in the center, trickling a stream of water into the basin below. A metal sundial counted the hours in the herb garden. Continuing through the garden lead us to a sumptuous swimming pool. Tranquility at its best! This garden had it all! Off to the last home on the tour- in Lafayette Square, at my friend, Mark’s house.
Mark and his partner sold their house in Compton Heights and purchased 4 lots in Lafayette Square, intending to build their dream home. They had the good fortune to be renting the home next door, so they were always available to answer any questions the construction crew had. It took a few years, but they built one of the “greenest” and most energy efficient homes in the City. Suffice it to say that it’s stunning, inside and out and in perfect character for Lafayette Park. You would never guess that it isn’t 100 years old. In addition to the house, they built a tremendous garden. Mark’s garden boasts a pond with bubbler, (birds drink from it!) an herb garden, a vegetable garden and lots and lots of flowers. Mark and I share the same addiction: plants. You can never have too many and you can never be finished purchasing them. It’s cheaper than expensive wine, and you can enjoy them without getting a hangover!
As George and I headed back to West County, I made a mental note to replicate some aspects of the gardens on the tour. I think that the 1st Annual Master Gardener Garden Tour was a great success. When like-minded people share a passion for gardening, great things can happen. Since I became a Master Gardener I have made new friends, learned more about gardening than I thought possible and toured some great gardens. If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener, find out more here on this website by clicking on the tab above “Becoming A Master Gardener. You’ll be glad you did!
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