Home & Garden

Gardeners in tours deal with what nature has dealt

I’ve been kicking myself for not having more plants of orange — the hot color of the year that I’m loving — but I felt rejustified in my selection of mainly pink annuals after seeing the latest incarnation of Linda Courtney’s garden in west Wichita.

Her garden is one of seven that will be on the master gardeners’ garden tour next weekend — four of the gardens on the west side of town and three on the east side. Artists will be at some of the gardens during the weekend (see accompanying box for schedule).

Each gardener on a garden tour has to deal with what nature is dishing at the time. This year, it’s rose bushes that already have been through their first flush of bloom and hopefully will be on their second wind by Friday. And cutworms eating hostas. Tour hostess Cindy Paolucci had to sprinkle all 80 of her hostas with Dipel dust this week. Charlie and Sue Lane lost three river birches and a great oakleaf hydrangea to last summer’s swelter and had to replace their whole lawn by reseeding last fall. In early spring, Charlie was disappointed with the results, but the lawn looks fabulous now.

“He spends all his time out here,” Charlie’s wife, Sue, said. The tour gives people a chance to finally see what is beyond their tantalizingly beautiful leafy-arbored gate at 508 N. Stratford — just north of Central between Woodlawn and Rock Road. The results are the work of a man who breathes only fresh air.

Tickets are $10 to see all the gardens; hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and May 19, and noon to 5 p.m. May 20. Tickets are available at each of the gardens or online at emggardentour.eventbrite.com.

On the stops along the tour you’ll see:

•  Variegated trees at Paolucci’s garden at 3837 N. Lakecrest Court — north of 37th Street North and west of Ridge Road. Cindy worked for Johnson’s Garden Center for three years, and her propensity for variegation has led to a tree collection including Floating Cloud redbud, Majestic Beauty tulip tree, Gold Dust sweet gum and Eskimo Sunset maple. She also has a chocolate mimosa tree.

And what do you do when life gives you a sinkhole? You turn it into a pond. Cindy put a richly textured screen behind it by alternating green Keteleeri junipers and Golden Spire arborvitae (thuja).

•  A garden that looks out-of-town to me — Lee Ann Sack’s at 7604 W. Shady Lane, in one of those housing developments I’d never visited before. It’s Forest Lakes, north of 29th Street and west of Ridge Road — emphasis on the forest. Firewood is stacked at the garden gate, and the clear-vision backyards lacking privacy fences give an unusual vista of unexpected slopes and tree trunks. Lee Ann also has a little greenhouse in her backyard.

•  A mini glen in the front yard around the corner from Lee Ann, in the yard of Gordon and Cindy Vadakin at 3044 Forest Lakes Court. Garden tours are great for seeing how gardeners think outside the box. This stop has an inspirational front porch and tree trunks as sculpture in the backyard overlooking the neighborhood pond.

•  Smooth surfaces — including a new large poured concrete patio — amid lush and whimsical gardens along with a jolly use of pink in impatiens, roses, zinnias, coleus — and watering cans — at John and Linda Courtney’s at 932 Toh-n-hah Trail, east of Maize Road between Central and 13th. This garden has been on tour before, but there’s lots new to see, including an emphasis by the Courtneys on planting shrubs rather than perennials for easier maintenance, and a new shed. Linda gardens according to the views out her windows, starting with something tall, adding something short and round, and mixing burgundies, golds and greens. There’s lots of garden decor. “I like stuff,” Linda said.

•  One of those cozy covered decks that begs to be used on summer nights for watching lightning bugs, in Dalene Stevens’ backyard at 215 N. Ridgewood, west of Edgemoor between First and Second streets, moving over to the east side of town. The small yard is snugged in with plants, and the deck holds white lights and crosses.

•  An outdoor living room in Eric and Jeanne Commer’s backyard at 2724 N. Rushwood Court, southeast of Woodlawn and 29th Street, complete with television and ceiling fan. They’ve used rocks and stones decoratively in the Asian-tinged garden, and their polished woods are several grades above the usual privacy fence.

•  Lush arbors at the Lanes’ at 508 N. Stratford, and large potted tropicals, including some ferns that are 10 years old, that the Lanes overwinter in the heated garage. Charlie makes pedestals for them by stacking three brick tree rings and topping the rings with a 24-inch-wide round stepping stone. A couple of the remarkable arbors: two ivy plants planted on either side of a cedar arch 13 years ago (the cedar is going to need metal reinforcement sometime soon) and flanked by two blue pots holding red-hot impatiens, and a combination trumpet vine/Virginia creeper/wisteria vine. Tiptoe around this one when you visit — a robin has her nest there.

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