Gardening as sport for spectators

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2012 - 7:59 AM

There's a tour for every taste, featuring "hidden secrets" and Beautiful Gardens winners.

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Beverly Moore's Moorish-inspired will be featured on the free West End Neighbors Garden Tour in St. Paul.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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Now that your garden is planted (it is, isn't it?), it's a good time to see what your fellow gardeners have been up to.

The garden-tour season gets underway Saturday with the West End Neighbors' Garden Tour in St. Paul. Most local tours are held in July, but the West End gardens featured this year are in full bloom and ready for their close-up, according to spokesman Kent Petterson, owner of Terrace Horticultural Books.

"We view it as a spring tour," he said. "The gardens are a little fresher, and it's a little more comfortable than touring in the heat of the summer."

It's also one of the few free garden tours in the Twin Cities, designed not as a fundraiser but to promote the neighborhood, Petterson said.

This year's tour, the fifth annual, will feature 16 public and private gardens of varying styles, including a formerly abandoned property that has been reclaimed and turned into an urban oasis, a community veggie demonstration garden and, back by popular demand, a private garden with more than 100 examples of bonsai. "That's the one people have commented on most; it's one of those back-yard hidden secrets," Petterson said.

If you can't make time for garden-gawking this weekend, there are lots more garden tours coming. You can visit gardens designed and maintained by Hennepin County master gardeners (July 14), gardens of the St. Croix (the Family Means tour July 14-15) or gardens with water features (the Pond and Landscape Tour, July 21-22), to name just a few.

At least three of last year's Home + Garden Beautiful Gardens winners will be featured on public garden tours this growing season.

The Bright Gardens for Fraser Garden Tour, a July 21 fundraiser for Fraser School, will include two, both in St. Paul: Beverly Moore's Moorish-inspired garden, and Lee and Jerry Shannon's "collector's garden" featuring plant specimens from around the world.

It's Moore's first time being on a garden tour.

"I'm trying not to stress about it," she said. Her garden is anchored by hardscape and won't require a lot of pre-tour preparation, but she'll probably give it some extra attention. "I might do more than I would if it was just the neighbors hanging out."

The Shannons are tour veterans, having had their garden featured on many over the years, as well as on HGTV. But even with four decades of gardening experience, the couple still make time to go on garden tours because they're always on the lookout for interesting annuals, trees and shrubs to try. "We look for new plant material," Jerry said. "You're never through learning."

Beautiful Gardens winner Kate Podobinski's Minneapolis cottage gardens will be featured on the Bryn Mawr Garden Tour July 14. They include heirloom plants passed down from her grandmother.

As for visiting other gardens herself, "I try to get to a tour when I can," she said. "It gives me ideas," such as plant combinations to try at home.

If you're seeking ideas, inspiration -- or just a break from chores, you'll find a detailed garden tour calendar in coming weeks in Home+Garden.

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784

  • related content

  • Kate Podobinski's Bryn Mawr city garden

  • The garden of Jerry and Lee Shannon in St. Paul.

  • WEST END NEIGHBORS' GARDEN TOUR

    What: Self-guided tour of 16 gardens, public and private, in the historic West End of St. Paul, near W. 7th Street, followed by a plant sale staffed by master gardeners.

    When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

    Where: Garden tour maps will be available at three locations along Fort Road -- Mancini's Char House, Fort Road Federation and Mississippi Market -- or at www.fortroad federation.org.

    Tickets: Free.

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