Variety is key when Bittersweet Garden Club members select the five gardens featured in their annual garden tour.
"We have a running list of people that have been on Garden of the Month, people who have been recommended to club members, homeowners who have volunteered to show their gardens," said Jacki Johnson, co-chair of the 19th annual Bittersweet Garden Tour, which will be held from noon-4 p.m. June 24.
"We don't want to have all big gardens. We will have a larger, fancy garden and a smaller, cottage garden, with gardens at different stages of development," club President Judy Schneider added, noting they have featured some members' gardens outside Jefferson City in the past, including nearby communities such as Taos, Russellville and California. "I have never been on tour that I have had a favorite garden. I just like them all. They are so different, and I like something in each of the gardens."
This year, the selected gardens have some unique features, detailed designs, and a variety of homeowner favorite and native flowers, plants and décor for tour participants to see up close.
The only home stationed in Jefferson City's east side, the "A Mountain Stream in the City" garden includes a backyard stream with several waterfalls that empty into a pond. The homeowners enjoy lounging on their brick patio below the pond, listening to the running brook that creates a restful backdrop, according to information provided by the club. The sound of running water can be heard from many spots in the shady yard, as well as from the house. Locally made artwork and yard art give a personalized touch to the exterior of the home, along with an array of colorful flowers that completely line the house and fill beautifully designated garden beds.
The four remaining home gardens on the tour are located in the city's west end, including one called "A Relaxing Retreat." This garden provides a peaceful setting with four patios that give an amazing view of an ever changing garden. A multitude of oak leaf and a variety of hydrangeas are featured, as well as an assortment of daylilies, perennials and annuals and vintage garden furniture. Much of the turquoise furniture was inherited from one homeowner's grandmother. Other significant features include a tree planted on Arbor Day more than 30 years ago by the homeowners' son, which casts a beautiful shade to their backyard oasis.
The "Best of Both Worlds" is a 2-year-old garden where the homeowners — a Master Gardener and his wife — have employed lower maintenance gardening methods. They also have small-space raised beds with a vegetable garden. A butterfly garden that has become a pollinator's paradise houses many native plants, and hanging baskets line a fence overlooking a creek at the rear of the property. Shade and sun gardening with full, lush and colorful arrangements give this home the "best of both worlds."
Featuring a backyard labyrinth created by the homeowners who saw potential in a steep and eroding lot, "Wishing Well Welcome" creatively uses wood, pavers and Wyoming rock to build visual treats such as a wishing well, gnome village, volcanic rock planters and gazebo, according to the club's description. More than 400 hostas, plus coral bells, ferns and moss-laden paths, lead to a trio of bridges over a far creek.
Lastly, "A Gardener's Paradise" greets visitors with a neat, colorful front yard but expands out to the large park-like backyard setting, complete with annuals, perennials, succulent planters and fairy gardens. A newly installed drainage pipe this spring solves an erosion problem, providing the home with an ever-evolving garden. The couple has used many native plants, as well as favorites that provide several relaxing spots in the expansive yard, including along the back deck, in large raised beds circling mature trees, and one of their favorite spots, a firepit patio surrounded by plants, flowers and peaceful sounds of nature.
Since the homeowners confirmed their tour participation a year ago, club members have helped them maintain or even complete projects started in the gardens for the 2018 event. The club also gives the homeowners a gift certificate to acquire certain things they may need for their garden in general.
"Everybody works on a garden," Johnson said. "The members get a chance to get in there and see what the homeowners are doing."
New additions to the 2018 tour — which is the club's main fundraiser and raised $3,500 last year — are information booths that will highlight the three scholarship recipients the tour supports. Three local high school graduates interested in studying horticulture, agriculture, natural resources or a related field each received a $500 scholarship, said Jeannine Brickey, co-chair of this year's tour.
"The informational booth will have posters talking about each of the students, where they are from, why they are interested in that field of study, what their aspirations are, etc.," Brickey said.
The club also used students to redesign and craft all their tour signage, both for directions and those that will identify each of the five home gardens on the tour. Brickey and Johnson worked with a graphics communications class at Nichols Career Center, which had a contest based around redesigning the garden tour's new signs. Brickey and Johnson were their clients, and they listened to each student's presentation and selected a winner based on the one that met their specifications the best. That young lady was Avery Neeley.
"We sat down with her and worked like a customer would. She produced the final product and in turn presented that to all of her classmates. They all produced two signs using her design," Brickey said. "Now we have brand new signs to showcase this year, and they are wonderful."
After guests use these new signs to guide them to each garden, club members will welcome tour participants at the entrance and stamp their ticket. Many of the homeowners will be on hand, as well as additional club members, who will be stationed throughout the gardens to answer questions.
"They usually do ask a lot of questions and pictures are encouraged," Johnson said. "A lot of people get ideas for their own gardens."
Tickets cost $10 in advance and $12 at the gardens. Advance tickets are available at Amie B. and the Orchid Emporium, Busch's Florist and Greenhouse, D&D Main Street Market, Gardens to Go, Green Horizons Garden Center, Hy-Vee, Longfellow's Garden Center, Samuel's Tuxedos and Gifts, and My Secret Garden in Columbia.
For more information, visit bittersweetgardenclub.com or visit the club's Facebook page.