Marion City Library’s Flower in the Flint Hills Garden Tour scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 7, is expanding its outing this year to include locations in Marion, Marion County Park and Lake and the countryside of Florence.
Janet Marler, library director and one of the tour coordinators, said garden lovers will not only be seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes in the county, but will also be part of the library’s special celebration.
“It’s a double anniversary,” she said. “The one-time Santa Fe Railroad Station is 100 years old and the library has occupied the renovated station for 10 years.”
The tour begins at the library with complimentary refreshments served, she said.
“Visitors can see the building and enjoy original garden-themed art from Gallery 101 of the Flint Hills,” Marler added.
Participants will then receive a garden tour map with directions.
The following are brief descriptions of each garden included on the tour.
‘Home on the range’
Gary and Karen Chaput live at 203 Meadow Lane in Marion and, for almost a decade, have worked to create a relaxing environment for themselves, their children and grandchildren.
With almost four acres of land, they spend close to 40 hours a week in the summer tending to the garden areas and routine maintenance.
Karen said they are able to spend so much time in the yard because they are both retired.
For Gary, the family garden is like a park, but for Karen it’s more like a zoo.
Either way, their home is a paradise for wildlife with deer, fox, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, wild turkeys, otters, a crane or two, muskrats, turtles and frogs going about their day-to-day routines undisturbed.
Karen said there are 13 bird houses and 11 bird feeders on the property with finches, cardinals, orioles and turtle doves who have taken up residency.
In addition, blue jays, blue birds and hummingbirds are regular guests. Tour guests will see and hear the relaxing sound of the running creek behind their home, view the many lilac, rose, snowball and burning bushes, beds of iris and mums, colorful flowers, a vegetable garden and the countless variety of statues and unique accessories.
The Chaputs are retired military and said they are proud that members of their families continue to serve.
Gary and Mindy Carpenter, 16 Rock Road at Marion County Park and Lake, said there place is not too big or too small, but just the right size for them.
Mindy said she limits her talents to mowing the lawn, but for Gary it’s about container gardening.
Tour visitors will find dozens of containers, many of them unusual, according to Jeanice Thomas, one of the garden tour coordinators.
“There is an old wheelbarrow, old cooler, old bike and a zillion minnow buckets,” she said.
Each of the containers is filled with plants, which Gary said like both sun and shade.
One of his favorite flowers is carnations and visitors won’t be disappointed with the numbers.
Gary said he is a collector of items related to hunting, fishing and camping and many of those things are in his garden.
“He owns enough fishing lures, old and new, to catch every fish in Marion Lake,” Thomas said.
Finally settled in
Richard and Margie Schwartz of 4 Hill Road, Marion County Park and Lake, said nothing beats the Flint Hills when it comes to beautiful places and, they should know, having traveled for 30 years.
Retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, the couple moved 21 times.
Visitors are encouraged to circle the property in order to take in everything available.
The backyard, Thomas said, is a study in contrasts.
“It is completely hidden from the road below,” she said, “a secret garden, but unlike most hidden gardens, which are in some fashion enclosed, the Schwartzes garden has a fantastic view of Marion County Lake.”
For the past 12 years, Margie has designed a retreat with hundreds of flowers and plantings, Thomas added.
“Everything must be wind proof, drought proof and heat proof,” she said. “However, despite her claims, (Margie) has a soft spot for struggling plants.”
She also has a place on one side of their house Margie terms, “the cemetery,” which Thomas said is incorrect.
“The cemetery is where she keeps anemic plants that receive healthy does of TLC before returning them to the yard,” she said.
Among her favorite plants are wave petunias and marigolds.
This tour also includes novelty and exotic containers, Thomas said, and there is a story to tell about each one.
Quirky western theme
The Mercantile Corral’s garden at 510 Main Street in Florence is adjacent to the Mercantile Store.
The business was established in 2005 by Judy Mills and her daughter, Sara Dawson, and their garden relies heavily on hardy native plants.
“Colorful coneflowers and lambs’ ear thrive amid the garden ornaments adds to the quirky western-themed garden,” Thomas said.
Tour organizers encourage visitors to check out the flower pot man enjoying his summer bath in the shade of the Mercantile upper deck before exploring the inside of the store.
The Mercantile is a favorite spot for parties and local weddings too.
Randy and Judy Mills, owners of Doyle Creek Ranch House, 1123 X Ranch, rural Florence, is the final stop on the garden tour.
The couple’s garden epitomizes the Flint Hills, organizers said. The house, constructed in 1881-82 looks much like it did when it was new. A low limestone wall funs along the front of the property and the garden is surrounded on three sides by Doyle Creek, Thomas said.
“The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000,” she said, “but this is no museum, it’s a family home.”
Tour goers are invited to look at the well maintained plantings and shady lawns.
“The greatest indication that time has stood still is the grandeur of the stately Sycamore trees trumpeting the entrance and framing the majestic old home,” Judy Mills said.
Tickets for the tour are $5 and available only at Marion City Library, 101 Library St.
For more information, call Marler at 620-382-2442.