By AMBER POMPA
The Hunt County Master Gardeners, of which Kim Quimby is a member, are presenting a free garden tour as a “thank you” to the community.
As a thanks to the community who helped raise funds, via the Greenville Follies, toward the construction of the Heritage Garden’s Outdoor Learning Center, nine Master Gardeners are opening their gardens for the public to tour, free of charge, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday as part of the Master Gardeners’ 2012 Tour of Gardens: Master Gardeners at Home.
The nine gardens on the tour each have something unique to offer those participating in the tour, from generating ideas on raised beds and fruit orchards to creating a unique garden centerpiece using fountains or bottle trees that catch the suns’ rays. There’s something for every gardener on this tour.
At Keith and Kim Quimby’s home in Quinlan, the Double K Reserve, visitors will find a hay meadow, Blackland Prairie Restoration Project, fruit orchard, vegetable garden with onions the size of a grown man’s fist, woodland trails and two small ponds. Also to be found are a Earthkind garden with rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, swimming pool and hot tub, outdoor kitchen, outdoor shower and outdoor stone fireplace built by Keith himself.
An eight-panel color brochure will be given to tourists upon their arrival that explains the Quimbys’ dedication to providing a natural habitat for both wildlife and humans, an explanation of how to create gardens that include the best organic and traditional garden principles for future sustainability.
“My garden is very natural and I’m all about views and surprises around corners,” said Quimby. “It’s natural and ever-changing.”
Former Mayor Byron Chitwood is known for his successful vegetable gardening and prize-winning tomatoes, with the Chitwood garden being featured on numerous garden tours. In fact, Master Gardeners-in-training regularly visit Shirley and Byron Chitwood’s gardens as part of their training.
Here participants will be able to view several types of composting systems, a rainwater collection system and attractive and creative trellises that support vining vegetables. A square-foot garden bed, an herbs bed and markers for plants not easily recognized will also be on view.
“Byron’s vegetable beds have been laid out for maximum yield and it’ll be hard to find a neater or more lovingly cared-for garden,” said Hunt County Master Gardener Pat Abramson.
Beverly Bosher’s garden has been described by many to be a “trial and error” garden. Bosher subscribes to the belief that if a plant dies, whether it’s your fault or not, its simply an opportunity to head to a nursery and adopt something else.
Items of interest here include Bosher’s Israeli-made greenhouse, that can be added onto in increments of four feet, and Bosher’s patio where she can enjoy her Japanese ferns and other perennials. Just a step down into the backyard, her original 4 x 16 beds that were once filled with vegetables are now interspersed with perennials including roses, and her 100-foot-long bed of 100 daylilies includes several varieties.
“A blue bottle tree, metal bicycle planter, wooden obelisks and cat statue add a bit of whimsy to her beautifully laid-out gardens,” said Abramson. “At this point, after much experimenting, most of Beverly’s plants are well established and will return every year. Her goal of designing a garden with low maintenance has been quite successful, but won’t keep her from experimenting with new specimens from friends and plant swaps.”
The garden of Bobby and Nancy Oliver gives a whole new meaning to the word “curb appeal,” as the garden starts at the curb with a newly-added stone and gravel walk which leads you to a swing or to the plant-filled front porch.
“Immediately you see lots of interesting things and you want a closer look,” said Abramson.
A covered deck in the backyard catches the eye, along with plants in unusual and eye-catching containers. Also on display are “shabby chic” bottle trees and garden art that Nancy likes to unearth at flea markets and garage sales.
Claudine Anderson and her husband, Don, built their home and gardens in Quinlan on what used to be a large pig barn. Their friends all laughed and warned them that there was nothing but slop out there, but the couple had the last laugh as their home is nestled in a beautiful pastoral setting.
Clover and irises bloom as visitors travel a half mile down the driveway to get to the home, which features a prayer garden, a buttery and bird garden, a fairy garden, a friendly-frog garden and a patriotic garden. In the front of the home is a seasonal vegetable bed and beyond that a pasture with horses and cows that enjoy the pond and a second vegetable garden.
“A rose garden will entice you with its aroma and is beautiful with a riot of colors from a large variety of roses including ‘J.F. Kennedy’ as well as ‘Abraham Lincoln’ roses,” said Claudine Anderson.
In addition to the three fountains in the back of the property, there rests a greenhouse that sports a working chandelier and the beginnings of the Anderson’s two new 500-gallon rain barrels that will soon collect rainwater.
Anita Harris’ home was established on the site of a former cotton farm and includes an established bird sanctuary where, from April to September last year some 19 fledglings were hatched from two nest boxes. It is approximated that there have been some 130 births of “Harris bluebird” since this sanctuary was first established. The birds can be viewed, if done quietly, during the tour, along with flowers, shrubs and raised vegetable beds. A special feature is the “Fireman’s Cap” plant, which should be in full bloom during the tour.
In Campbell, nestled in a wooded area are the home and gardens of June Dunn. Here oak trees keep the yard shaded throughout most of the day, with seasonal annuals and perennials in bloom in the spring and summer months. Most of the acreage is covered with fragrant honeysuckle, winter creeper and Asian jasmine for year-round greenery. Also featured is a butterfly habitat, trees, shrubs and flowers, as well as lilies, ferns, Knockout roses and ornamental grasses. Deer often stroll through the grounds and graze and a sitting areas invite onlookers to sit and stay awhile.
An “outdoor experiment station is how Arnie and Pat Abramson describe their home in Merit. They began with only four-square-foot-garden plots filled with vegetables which have now grown to include some 40 garden beds.
Theirs is a “teaching” garden, with little signs that invite visitors to “rub and sniff” or “guess what I’m called.” Over 100 markers explain plants that might not be easy to identify, such as the mullein stalk, Italian cardoon vegetables, peanuts or the elephant garlic with the pompoms.
Pat Abramson is the herbs instructor for the Master Gardeners in training and she grows over 100 herbs including curry, stevia, lemongrass and “hot and spicy” oregano. This year the pair will try suspending “moon and stars” watermelon on one of their many vertical trellises and their 1,500-gallon rainwater collection system that collects water from the gutters of one of their barns is a must see. Fruits in the dozens are grown at the Abramsons and Pat has even made wine from their grapes, tomatoes, potatoes and watermelon.
The final garden on the tour belongs to Pat Newell. Here there are many experiments going on in a rural setting. The garden beds mix herbs, vegetables and flowers and rely on drip irrigation. Newell has four beds that are “trial” beds to determine which system better deters weeds: black plastic, white plastic, fresh pig manure or old hay mixed with manure. Every “T” post has a grape or berry vine on it, to complement the beds of strawberries, with fruit and pecan trees, bee hives, bluebonnet and wildflower all have a place on the property.
Rye, vetch and winter wheat will be a fall experiment for better grass or pasture production and an extensive 700-gallon rainwater collection system provides for all Newell’s water needs, including drinking, cooking and gardening maintenance.
To request a flyer and directions to all nine gardens for this free, self-guided tour, call the AgriLife Extension Office at 903-455-9885. The same information is also available at the Garden Center on Stonewall Street and at Steve’s Nursery in Cash. Information can also be downloaded from www.huntcountymastergardeners.org.