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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News Tribune Beyond the side yard entry door is Cris West's self described eclectic and unexpected, which is most a most welcoming, multi-tiered oasis behind her home.

With an extra year to prepare, the "gardening event of the year" returns to the Capital City next weekend.

The Bittersweet Garden Club's 21st annual garden tour is scheduled noon-4 p.m. Sunday, June 27.

Five local gardens will be showcased — the same five that were supposed to headline the 2020 tour before COVID-19 concerns led the club to cancel it.

And while canceling was a difficult decision, garden club co-chair Linda Block said that extra time paid off.

"Last year, everyone was working in gardens and doing whatever they could do to get outside," Block said. "So this year, some of the gardens are a bit showier maybe because of that."

She added members of the garden club went back to see the gardens this year and found extended flower beds and more plants, something she thinks tour attendees will really love.

"We don't know what to expect this year," Block said about the tour's attendance, which in past years has brought up to 500 people to the late June event.

"It might be bigger because people are excited to get outside and do things. Put the ladies in the car and go see some gardens," she said. "All the gardens are different and beautiful in their own way."

The following gardens will be part of the tour:

Getaway Garden: With room for every mood and every season, this space offers lush green shade beds, a wisteria-covered arbor and Victorian-style raised beds. A treehouse, "secret garden" and flagstone patio complete the getaway.

A Forester's Family Garden: This unstructured backyard features native trees, perennials and colorful annuals with an emphasis on native species to attract wildlife to the woodland setting. The front of the home showcases a more structured garden space with annuals and is shaded by a Missouri- native serviceberry tree.

Layers that Beg You to Linger: The front lawn surrounding this historic home features an angular bed complete with a majestic fountain and limestone planters from Jefferson City's original Capitol building. The outdoor space behind the home has soft curves and gentle slopes rimmed by layers of trees, shrubbery and perennials in rich greens.

Wide Open Spaces: A cozy front porch welcomes you to this country-style home, but a surprise waits out back as you enter an expansive, park-like garden. Native perennials, shrubs and trees — all will different bloom times — fill the space, as do scattered potted annuals to bright the area.

Eclectic and Unexpected: Venture through the secret garden doors to discover numerous hideaways in this garden filled with a wide variety of flowers. The space includes a one-of-a-kind "she shed"and a 30-year-old playhouse turned potting shed.

Homeowners will be on hand at each location to provide information on their creations and guide attendees.

The tour, however, is self-guided, according to Block, who said attendees are welcome to start at whichever garden they'd like and flow between them at their own pace.

Tickets for the event are $10 in advance and $12 at the gardens. They can be purchased from any Bittersweet Garden Club member or from the following locations: All-n-One Outdoor Solutions, Amié B. & Me, Busch's Florist & Greenhouse, D&D Main Street Market, Gardens to Go, Green Horizons Garden Center, Hy-Vee Supermarket, Longfellow's Garden Center, Samuel's Tuxedos & Gifts, and My Secret Garden (in Columbia).

Proceeds from the tour fund scholarships for youth entering a horticulture, agriculture or related field. Block said the event typically generates around $2,500 after tour expenses.

The Bittersweet Garden Club is always looking for new members and new gardens to feature on future tours. If interested, call Linda Block at 573-694-3735. Those featured on the tour need not be club members.

More information on the club and tour is available at www.bittersweetgardenclub.com.

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