Buckthorn once dominated Ellie Brunner's back yard in Grant.
But where the invasive and noxious weeds once took root, thousands of annuals, perennials and rarities such as the lady's slipper, trout lily, bloodroot and martagon lilies now bloom.
Brunner's sprawling botanical wonderland replete with dirt and woodchip paths that snake through sun and shade gardens has been more than a decade in the making.
It's one of six that will be featured next Sunday on the 2012 Mahtomedi Garden Club Tour.
"I like going on garden tours, but I'm happy to have people come to mine and enjoy the beauty," said Brunner, who joked that keeping her gardens weed-free "is a full-time job."
From noon to 4 p.m. rain or shine, those who buy a ticket will have the opportunity to walk through gardens that feature whimsical sculptures, fountains, ponds, creeks, woodlands and pergola covered with grape ivy. Hosts will be on hand at each site to answer questions, as will members of the Master Gardeners of Washington County.
"These are gardens people will want to spend time looking at," said Mary Keil, a Garden Club member who helped organize this year's tour. "They will have to budget their time to get to all six gardens."
To make that easier, tickets come with a map and step-by-step directions.
The event is one of two major fundraisers for the club, which dates to 1943, when it was known as the Lincolntown Garden Club. The club changed its name to the Mahtomedi Garden Club in 1952, but its mission has always been the same: to promote gardening for people of all ages, provide educational programs, and encourage community beautification.
Proceeds from the tour will be plowed back into the community, funding the 39-member club's initiatives. They include an annual plant sale; a sunflower-growing contest for elementary school students; plantings at City Hall, the fire station and Triangle Park, and grants to individuals or groups that take on horticultural beautification projects.
Typical of many gardeners, Brunner started small, with a few plants here, a few species there. Then things sprouted. The fenced-in shade bed now features varieties of plants such as Japanese painted ferns, European ginger, trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit. Across a bridge, the sun garden is packed with roses, peonies, Siberian iris and star gazer lilies.
"I've got color all during the season," Brunner said. "Things are in bloom early this year."
Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib