July 24 tour will be a fundraiser for Marion City Library

?Flowers in the Flint Hills? is the first garden tour of its kind sponsored by the Marion City Library.

The tour, featuring six residential sanctuaries, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 24, with proceeds benefitting the library, said Janet Marler, librarian and planning committee member.

Some highlights include a turtle preserve, along with a unique balance of plants, trees and other eclectic combinations of wildlife and native flowers.

The six homes and gardeners on the tour include: Cheryl and Erick Brandsted, 130 Eastmoor Drive; Shirley Jo and Rocky Hett, 208 Hett Hollow; Teresa Huffman, 327 Elm St.; Janie and Thad Meierhoff, 402 S. Cedar; Marge and Mick Summervill, 1626 Turkey Creek and Peggi and Jim Wilson, 117 Lakeshore Drive.

Jeanice Thomas, a planning committee member, said they have already taken steps for a 2011 tour.

?We are excited about the 2010 tour and are planning to make this an annual event,? she said.

Thomas said members of the ?Flowers in the Flint Hills? committee spent many hours visiting with local gardeners to come up with the right mix of out-of-the-ordinary plants, displays and landscaping secrets.

The six gardens, she said, were chosen for their unique qualities.

The following information was provided by the committee as a sneak preview of the tour.

Gardens on the tour

? The Brandsted garden features exotic and one-of-a-kind flowers, bushes and plants.

Visitors will see many varieties of vegetation in the Japanese and cactus garden areas. Cheryl Brandsted also has a herd of 12 turtles.

The Brandsteds come from McPherson County pioneer families. Cheryl?s first gardening experience was with her grandmother; her own 13-month-old daughter is demonstrating a love of plants, she said.

The Brandsted garden also includes old farm equipment, a collection of koi awaiting their new home in a sunken pond, coppertina ninebark, one of many kaleidoscopic plantings, lilacs, vines, bamboo and Angel?s Trumpets.

The Brandsteds say the garden is a work in progress, but they are looking forward to visitors stopping and enjoying their place as much as they do.

? The Hett garden is one of the two largest on the tour, comprising 31?2 acres of ?natural? garden.

Their home was purchased in 1990, and at that time the creek that backs the property could hardly be located. After removing more than 80 pickup loads of brush between the house and creek bank, they followed up with at least 60 truckloads of soil.

?Their property presents a real challenge?one inch down and a gardener reaches solid rock,? the committee stated.

The Hetts, though, said they have nothing against limestone and brought in tons of rocks, most big, to provide character to the site.

Garden visitors will be observing a huge table constructed of two stones. The tabletop, according to Thomas, previously laid beside the gate into one of the Hetts? pastures.

Featured at their location will be trees, such as Auss, which grows 10 feet in one year and comes from their native land of Australia. Cypress trees also grow there, along with what Rocky calls the ?despised Osage Oranges.?

The Hetts suggest people take a hedge apple home in the fall to keep out insects.

? Huffman?s home, a multi-storied Victorian style, was built in the 1950s, but the inspiration for her garden goes back to the 1800s.

The site once served as the driveway to a carriage house and stone stable at the residence.

The carriage house still exists and serves as the entry to a secret garden, which slopes through massive trees to the banks of Luta Creek.

A new deck, adjacent to the carriage house, provides an overview of the garden, protected on both sides by small trees and bushes.

Huffman has personally hauled in more than 200 feet of stone fences that border the property. The cornerstone of the original Friends Church in Independence is the showpiece in her front yard.

During evening hours, her garden is visited by deer, a skunk and a groundhog.

Other attractions at the home will include the usual bird feeders and toad houses tucked among her flowerbeds.

? Laughter and memories separate the Merierhoff garden from other locations on the tour.

For example, some of the names of their plants are ?entirely personal,? like a clothes line vine that Janie Meierhoff refers to from when her mother grew them. The vine has tiny flowers resembling those of a trumpet vine.

The Meierhoffs said they tried to grow the vines from seed but had no luck until they came across a jar labeled, ?Clothes Line Vine Seeds,? after her mother died.

Since then, the plants took off and have almost taken over.

Her mother also grew many types of vegetables with a talent for carrots, tomatoes and dill. The Meierhoffs now grow enough dill to keep a pickle factory supplied, according to Thomas.

The Meierhoffs have come up with ways to decorate their garden, including an old chamber pot, coal bucket, cream separator, light fixture and a double boiler.

? The Summervill family arrived in Marion County in 1905; Mick and Marge Summer?vill are the third generation to live in the historic home.

The house, sheltered by a small hill, is home to purple martins, humming birds, Baltimore orioles, cardinals, bluejays, mourning doves and woodpeckers.

Visitors on the tour will see the spring house with water coming from the limestone at about 240 gallons per minute. The water temperature remains at about 55 to 60 degrees year-round and the pond is home to trout and blue gill.

Other highlights at the Summervill home include stones edging the pond with cryptic letters cut into their surfaces, hollyhocks, a 1909 barn still in use, along with other old structures.

? The Wilson garden is the smallest on the tour, but visitors will feel welcome when they arrive. Their home overlooks Marion County Lake.

Once through the side garden gate, visitors will walk a path of flowers and into a miniature world. In this tiny space, shaped like a triangular slice of pie, are more than 100 species of flowers, mostly perennials.

As with most gardeners on the tour, the Wilsons have transplanted some heirlooms. In their case, it is three trees from El Dorado and garden treasures from her parents? home in Washington State.

With all the flowers, plants and trees, the Wilsons don?t have a square inch of grass on their property.

Peggi Wilson credits the use of well water for the success of the garden.

The soil around the lake is rock, but not heavy with clay, the family said. In order to make the garden possible, the Wilsons hauled in more than a ton of soil.

It took more than four years for the Wilsons to turn grass and weeds into a ?pocket paradise.?

For more information about the tour, call any of the committee members: Marler at 620-382-2442, Thomas at 620-382-3206; Margaret Wilson at 620-382-3394 or Pam Bowers at 620-382-3814.

Tickets are $5 each and may be purchased at the library, 101 Library St., Marion.

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