The pond tour not only has ideas for those of you who have or want to have water gardens. And what other kind of garden could you possibly want in this heat?
It also shows how a suburban lawn in Goddard can stand out from the cookie-cutter dullness around it, even in this heat, and how one Mulvane man built a high-bed garden — enclosed and gated — so that he wouldn’t have to bend over to weed. This is brilliance.
The pond tour is going on this weekend from Wichita south to Belle Plaine and west to Goddard, while the Marion garden tour is taking place Saturday about an hour northeast in the Flint Hills. Marion is an easily reachable breath of vacation with its limestones and lake, history and springs.
Both tours are appropriate even in the heat, offering shade. But an umbrella for a little portable relief in between trees wouldn’t be a bad idea. (Umbrellas for your trees is another story, elsewhere on this page.)
One stop on the pond tour even manages to offer rain — a beads-on-doors type of water curtain pouring off a tin roof and into the pond of Tom and Mary Fagan in Mulvane. You can stand under the roof and pretend you’re being watered, too. The “rain” helps oxygenate the water, especially good on hot days, Tom Fagan says.
His large yard, which backs up to English Park in Mulvane, also includes a rain garden that catches water rather than allowing it to carry the yard’s mulch into the creek; a natural filter system for the pond; fountains that pulsate in rhythm with whatever music is playing (“the poor man’s Bellagio,” Tom Fagan calls it); and lights at night — the garden is open until 9:30 Saturday night as part of the tour.
“We wanted to make the trip to Belle Plaine to the south a little more worth it,” Tom Fagan said of the evening hours. The Belle Plaine garden and most of the other stops on the tour are open until 6 p.m. Saturday. The tour starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, and runs from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, but check the tour map/ticket for exceptions at some of the stops.
The Fagans also will have a PowerPoint presentation set up about their water-garden experience.
“We’ve done a lot of it wrong at least once,” Tom Fagan says.
Reading through the descriptions of the stops on the Flowers in the Flint Hills Garden Tour in the environs of Marion brings these noteworthy highlights:
• Gary and Karen Chaput, in Marion: a spring-fed creek, a parklike paradise for wildlife, green lawns and huge trees, gnarled Osage-orange trunks of great beauty, swings, horseshoe pits, a collection of old pumps, a limestone grill, raised beds of limestone. Gary and Karen are retired military, and members of their family continue to serve.
• Richard and Margie Schwartz, at Marion County Lake: a hidden garden that offers a fantastic view of the lake, a magazine-worthy garden of weather-proof plants, unique planters, a pond and a row of limestone fence posts marching across the yard. Richard spent 30 years in the Marine Corps, and the couple moved 21 times during his career.
• Doyle Creek Ranch House, in the Florence countryside: a beautiful two-story limestone building built in 1881 and 1882, a real ranch and a family home, well-maintained plantings and shady lawns overlooking a field of neat “loaves” of hay.
Sometimes it’s well worth getting out of the air conditioning.