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Marion grows its own Flint Hills garden tour

Another new garden tour has been added to the summer mix, this time in the Marion area of the Flint Hills.

Six gardens will be on the tour July 24, including a house in the Flint Hills countryside and one bordering Marion County Lake.

The gardens are "not typical of Wichita," said Jeanice Thomas, one of the organizers of the first-time tour. The drive from Wichita takes about 45 minutes to an hour, she said.

The tour will benefit the Marion Public Library, which is in the town's old train station. That's where the tickets will be sold and refreshments served during the tour. The tickets are $5 and include a map and suggested itinerary for going from garden to garden. The library is directly behind the Marion County Courthouse, which is easily seen from Main Street.

Thomas describes one of the stops on the tour, the Summervill house, as "gorgeous. It's a really old house, though it doesn't look that old. The yard couldn't be more Flint Hills. It's nestled against a bluff, and it's beautiful."

Then it's on to the Wilsons', who have "a pie-shaped yard with a gorgeous view of the lake, not a scrap of grass, and she's crammed an unbelievable amount of plants" into the yard, Thomas said of Peggi Wilson.

One of the gardens in town, Teresa Huffman's on Elm Street, backs up to Luta Creek and includes an old Victorian stable that served the Victorian house next door. "Going into the yard, it's really Flint Hilly," Thomas said.

The Meierhoff family garden is fairly small but full of unique plants, Thomas said. One of them is what Janie Meierhoff's mother used to call clothesline vine, because it grew on the clothesline. Janie tried and tried to grow it without success. After her mother's death she found a jar of seeds labeled "clothesline vine" and planted them. Since then, "it's taken over the yard, and she shares with everybody," Thomas says. "We're saying it's a plant, not a weed."

Cheryl Brandsted has a new interest in plants — those that are black. She also has lots of rose bushes — and box turtles.

The Hetts' yard makes you feel like you're in the Rocky Mountains, Thomas says. It's full of limestone rocks and has a bridge crossing a spring-fed stream.

"Through Marion there's all kinds of little streams coming up from springs, and our city park has a spring in it," Thomas says. She says the park is also worth a stop.

To get to Marion, take I-35 north from Wichita to the Peabody/Hillsboro exit. Take Highway 50 to Peabody, then follow the county road marked for Marion.

"It goes right through part of the Flint Hills," Thomas says. "It's a really pretty drive."

The town also has antique and resale shops, and many buildings that are on the state and national historic registers. Main Street is lined with limestone storefronts dating to the 1880s.

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