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Sister Gardens Featured on Tour

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Among the five gardens featured on the Master Gardener 18th annual garden tour, June 2, 10:30 – 4:00, are gardens belonging to sisters Mary and Jean AmRhein. Their neighboring properties are two that you won’t want to miss.

Both sisters and their husbands moved into the Columbia area-Jean in 2009 and Mary about a year later. Master Gardener Lori Daniells provided design guidance and project oversight for both gardens that utilize native Sierra plants while conserving water, one of our most precious resources.

The AmRhein-Macauley garden began with three fenced acres enclosing rolling hills, beautiful native oaks and weeds. Mary and Patrick envisioned a cottage-style garden where they could walk and sit when they found something special to enjoy. They wanted a relaxed life of leisure in retirement, not a high-maintenance garden.

Their garden features a “Lasagna Garden”-aptly named for its composting, weed-smothering layers of paper or cardboard and mulch. Another interesting garden area is the “Christmas Garden,” a Colorado blue spruce surrounded by red and white roses and forest pansies. All watering is done by drip irrigation (with the exception of the lawn); trees and shrubs are protected by gopher baskets. A vegetable garden and compost bin were added last year, and above the back slope you will see an assortment of fruit trees.

The AmRhein-Herrick garden surrounds a Mediterranean/Tuscan-style home. Jean and Bob wanted a Tuscan garden that would take advantage of the mountain backdrop with minimal upkeep. They decided against a lawn and planted a flower garden and olive trees in the front. Next, they placed hedged rectangles, with roses as anchors, around the back. The garden has evolved from a formal garden of roses, day lilies and sedum to a naturalized landscape filled with native plants, such as sages, fuchsias and penstemon.

Bob’s passion is his food garden-four raised beds full of herbs and veggies, including green and purple asparagus. Containers produce a variety of berries; espaliered plants grow apples, pears and persimmons. Peach, plum and pluot trees are planted at the rear.

To make your tour more pleasurable, bring a hat, sunscreen and water; plan to take a lunch break. Wear comfortable walking shoes; carpool if possible. Restrooms are not available at home gardens; restrooms and refreshments are available at the demonstration garden, 251 South Barretta Street, Sonora. Bring a camera, but ask permission from Master Gardeners on duty before taking any photos. Remember to ‘be generous with your praise, gentle in your criticism.’

Tickets, at $10 each, are available at the master gardener demonstration garden on the day of the tour.