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Annual Master Gardener Garden Tour

Sunday, May 20, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuolumne County Master Gardeners will host the annual Garden Tour. This year, we offer six delightful and varied gardens for your strolling enjoyment and exploration. Bring your camera, come wander through the gardens, and take home creative ideas to use in your own landscape. Various Master Gardener-supported techniques, such as xeriscape (low water use) and native plantings will be featured.

Tickets are $10.00 and may be purchased at Columbia Nursery, JS West Hardware/Nursery, The Nest, Antiques Etc. and the UC Cooperative Extension Office at 52 North Washington Street in Sonora. Call 533-5695 for more information.

Here are some highlights of this year´s tour to whet your appetite:

Oaks and rolling hills, situated on 40 acres, are home to a large spring-fed pond where wood ducks are raised. The entire yard is irrigated by a drip system and features many drought tolerant plants. Look for the interesting stones, aged iron artifacts, the small rock garden containing lavender and sage, the wooden arbors and iron garden sculpture. On a conservation note, this home is completelyPG&E-free” thanks to six solar panels on the hill near the home.

At the front of the next garden, created for a daughter´s wedding, sits a white arbor in a garden of smooth river rock and drought tolerant plants. A large stone fountain, the focal point of the front garden, lends a bit of a formal air that continues with the boxwood along the front porch. Although there are formal touches, this garden also has a country flare. Whimsical garden art is dispersed throughout and pink roses climb on a trellis on the side of the garage. The covered porches surrounding the house invite you to sit and enjoy the view. The slate steps at the front door of the house are a particularly beautiful non-plant feature.

One of the gardens appears to literally volunteer to grow. Poppies, irises, brilliant verbena, foxglove and wallflower pop with color in the planted circle at the top of the driveway. Interesting rocks are used as a border in the front of the house. Amazing rose bushes line the fence above a quaint vegetable garden boasting an enormous and very healthy looking artichoke in one of several raised beds. The old and beautifully gnarled fig at the back of the house reminds one of a fairytale tree and provides cooling shade. Also at the back of the house is a fabulous composting bin, made of cinderblock with a hinged door at the base for easy access.

The next garden, situated on five acres, incorporates at least a dozen beautiful and relaxing sitting areas. A seasonal creek runs through the property and divides the gardens from the surrounding oak woodlands. The homeowners maintain a large vegetable garden which has only recently been planted, an orchard where they harvest peach, nectarine, plum, pear, Asian pear and apple, and a composting area that would be the envy of any gardener.

The fifth garden is a great example of a low maintenance country garden. Iris is used throughout the garden and in profusion in the iris garden at the side of the house where at least 15 different colors of iris bloom in the spring. The side yard off the patio is terraced with rock walls and drought tolerant plants such as lavender, unique hot lips salvia and of course iris. You will hear the tinkle of goat bells, (goats are used as a wonderfully organic method of brush clearance), and the cooing of doves in the aviary. The property also boasts a vegetable garden and composting area all bordered by a great rail fence accented by woodpecker holes.

And last, but by no means least, is a small garden that doesn´t give the impression of being small. Filled with a variety of beautiful roses, its fragrance is amazing. The roses carry evocative names like Fragrant Perfume, Honey Perfume, and Melody Perfume, Frankly Scarlet, Perfect Moment, and Red Simplicity. Other flowering plants include gardenia, clematis, hibiscus, azalea, Bradford pear, and crape myrtle. Through the wooden gate into the backyard you will find a trickling waterfall ending in a pool and a redwood tucked into a corner.

Be sure to pick up your garden tour tickets in advance and come out to see the beautiful May flowers that our recent rain showers have provided. Master Gardeners will be available at each garden to answer your questions. We´ll see you at the Garden Tour.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is the Master Gardener program coordinator for Tuolumne County. The garden descriptions were written by Master Gardener Kelli Fraguero.