By Kathy Henderson
The gardens that will be part of the St. Anthony Park Garden Club’s garden tour will remain a mystery until the tour takes place on Saturday, June 24.
While the garden locations are kept secret, what is known is that tickets are $15 and are available only online at stanthonyparkgardenclub.com/garden-tour.html There is no charge for children ages 10 and under.
When you buy your ticket, you’ll also be able to select a timeslot. Tour start times are scheduled every 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The tour closes at 3 p.m.
As in previous years, the tour map and brochure should be picked up at the tables on the St. Anthony Park Library lawn, 2245 Como Ave. Prior to their scheduled tour time, garden tour guests can pick up a map that shows the garden locations, provides a brief description of each garden and includes some basic garden etiquette guidelines (please, service animals only). Typically, guests visit each garden for around 15 minutes.
The 11 gardens on the tour are situated in four cluster areas. While the tours are self-guided, garden club volunteers and Master Gardeners will be at each location, ready to answer questions (“What is that plant?”), point out garden features or offer advice for personal garden projects.
“St. Anthony Park is known as a wonderful walking and bike-riding neighborhood,” said tour co-chair Karen Pervo. However, she added that your vehicle may still be useful to get you from one cluster area to another.
In addition, she advises that since these are homeowner gardens, some are easily accessible, while others may not be. When it comes to locations and pathways, always assess your own ability; and use your own best judgment.
The St. Anthony Park Garden Tour has a reputation for going beyond offering patches of pretty flowers.
“The gardens here are dramatic and interesting,” Pervo emphasized. One reason why is that gardeners in this neighborhood make use of the area’s unique natural ravines.
“Gardenscapes can be up on a high hill or scaped down,” Pervo explained.
Another feature is the variety of specialty and ecological gardens, such as water gardens, native plant and pollinator gardens, rock gardens and gardens that incorporate both edibles and flowers.
A third reason is that this garden tour celebrates neighborhood connectivity.
“The gardens are real people’s gardens, typically self-planted and self-maintained by the homeowner,” Pervo said.
For example, one gardener with a focus on providing a family friendly garden of edibles said tour guests should not be too surprised if they encounter a child’s plastic pail or garden tool half hidden amidst the hydrangea bushes.
Funds raised from ticket sales go to scholarships, pay the garden specialists who lecture at the club meeting and provide funds to support community beautification projects, such as the garden on the grounds of the St. Anthony Park Library. At the club’s May meeting, scholarship funds were awarded to University of Minnesota plant science student Ava McCune.
This is the 13th time the club has hosted a garden tour since 1999. The fundraiser takes place on odd-year biennial summers. Most gardens on the tour do not belong to a garden club member.
Garden Tour Strategies
While no one at the St. Anthony Park Garden Club’s May 2 meeting would reveal the locations of gardens on the tour prior to June 24, they were willing to share their garden tour strategies. Here is some advice from club members:
Let’s start with Pervo who offered the practical: Consider scheduling your time to start mid-day when others may be taking a lunch break. Bring a hat and remember to apply sunscreen.
“Look for the whimsical garden art and planters,” is Colleen Healy’s advice. Along with her fondness for creativity, Healy also noted that, “This is a neighborhood with lots of shade, so I am interested in what people are planting in shady areas of their yards.”
“There are so many plants featured,” said Ann Sisel. “I used to think that there was only one kind of hosta plant. Now I know there are many varieties!”
How gardeners combine edibles and flowers interests Wayne Sisel, who is also on the lookout for what gardeners are doing with steep slopes and other unique yard topography.
Retired Master Gardener Ann Stout enjoys seeing the different visions people have for their gardens and how their gardens are organized.
Rick Sundeen had a smile on his face when he said his garden tour strategy is to look for walnut trees — leaving one to wonder if that was the lead-in to some kind of garden code or joke. Turns out that he is serious about that quest.
Sundeen finds the area beneath the walnut tree on his property a challenge to plant, and thus is on a mission to seek out what plants may be thriving beneath other walnut trees in the neighborhood.
Molly Reinemann of St. Peter, who was a guest at the club’s meeting in May, said her garden tour strategy is to “Think ahead of time about what you want to change or add to your own garden and then look at how others have done that.”
Club membership chair Verena Larson appreciates how excited people on the tour get about gardens — and then join the club.
She notes that membership is a bargain at $20. And one of the perks is that after the garden tour event day, the club volunteers have their own exclusive tour and host a pot luck.
A final garden tour strategy comes from Jean Larson, manager of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and a University of Minnesota professor teaching therapeutic horticulture this summer. Larson, who could easily provide a long list of all the health benefits that come from observing gardens, instead offers a succinct strategy: “Have fun!”
She also suggests, “Take a notebook and make sure your phone is charged — you’ll be taking lots of notes and photos as you get ideas from others with the same passion for plants as you.”
Kathy Henderson lives in St. Paul and is a freelance writer for the Bugle.