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Annual Master Gardener Garden Tour

by Elaine Khachi

Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 18th, 11:00- 4:00, for the 13th Annual Master Gardener Garden Tour. This year Tuolumne County UCCE Master Gardeners present four delightful and varied private gardens plus the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden on the campus of Cassina High School in downtown Sonora. Bring your camera and wander through the gardens; pick up some creative ideas to use in your own landscape. Foothill-appropriate gardening techniques such as xeriscape (low water use) and native plantings will be featured. Master Gardeners will be available at each garden to answer your questions.

Here are some highlights of this year´s tour:

Whimsical and amazing, the first garden offers treasures at every turn, and demonstrates what creativity and unlimited imagination can produce. Meander down flower-lined pathways leading to unexpected destinations. Follow the path through the purple gate to enter a stunning rose garden or go through the red door into a 40-foot privet maze with a surprise in the center. You´ll see a citrus grove, dwarf conifers, a vineyard, terraced boxes for vegetables, flowers, topiary and so much more. A peaceful river flows through the garden. The homeowner has built all of the arbors and amazing garden art.

The second garden uniquely features more than one planting zone. At home with the surrounding hillsides, the front garden is a striking, full-sun xeriscape. A serene, wooded shade garden welcomes the visitor to the back. You will be viewing beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees along the paths and dry creek bed. Raised planting beds offer a selection of vegetables and herbs. Look for the attractive use of hollow logs and note the chickens that provide not only fertilizer for the garden but fresh eggs for the homeowners.

The third garden-a former bed & breakfast inn-has the look and feel of a cottage with a fragrant garden full of blooming roses and fruit trees. A vegetable garden provides healthy fare. The golf tee entertains guests and allows the homeowners to keep their golf swing in shape. Plants are all “foothill friendly” and include many that are deer resistant. And speaking of deer, follow the original deer trail to a secluded picnic area, while noting the stunning use of natural rocks throughout the garden.

As you travel down a tree-lined country road approaching the fourth garden, you will notice the gentle rolling hills, oak trees, large natural rocks and beautiful white picket fence. Color abounds in this ranch-like setting surrounded by a breath-taking 360-degree view. Majestic oaks provide cooling shade and the numerous flowerbeds add beautiful color as well as fragrance. This garden was designed with gracious entertaining in mind. A peaceful and inviting site, there are, nonetheless, splashes of color and garden art that will catch your eye at every turn. Nearby horses and goats complete the pastoral scene.

Tuolumne County UCCE Master Gardeners also welcome you to their Demonstration Garden on the Cassina High School campus (home of the “Dome”) at 251 S. Barretta Street in Sonora. This garden has been completely refurbished during the last four years as a collaborative effort between the University of California Master Gardener program and Sonora Union High School District. The garden has existed on this site in many different guises over the years, ranging from an elementary school playground to a natural science classroom and a community and organic garden. Stop by the Demonstration Garden halfway through your visits to the other four private gardens on the tour. Wander through the fruit trees and berry and grape vines (note that, yes, even demonstration gardens can suffer frost damage from unseasonably cold weather!). Rest on a bench in the shade while you catch the song of birds darting from tree to tree or watch for the resident hawk sailing over. Ask questions of the Master Gardeners. Check out the native plants in both sun and shade gardens. See what´s been planted in the veggie and herb raised beds. Investigate the plants in the rock garden surrounding the water feature and walk through the manzanita arbor on our newly-laid paving stones. We´ll have cold water and Master Gardener-baked cookies for you (and restrooms will be available).

Tickets are only $10.00 and may be purchased in advance at Columbia Nursery and The Farmer´s Friend, both in Columbia, JS West Hardware/Nursery in Sonora, The Nest in Twain Harte, Antiques Etc in Sonora, and the UC Cooperative Extension Office at 52 North Washington Street in Sonora. Tickets are also available from any Tuolumne County Master Gardener and will be available at the garden sites on the day of the tour. Call 533-5695 for more information. We´ll see you on the tour!

Elaine Khachi graduated from the Master Gardener training program in 2006 and is the Tuolumne County Master Gardener publicist. Rebecca Miller-Cripps is the Master Gardener program coordinator for Tuolumne County.