by Pat Munts

Some of the reasons that the Inland Northwest is such a great place to live include our great landscapes and the many gardens that flourish in our parks and yards. Perhaps because we're inspired by nature or by the warm summers, gardening remains one of the Inland Northwest's favorite activities. No matter how small the plot, there's always room for a rose bush or a hosta, or a planter full of bright annuals at the front door. And gardeners are social: They love to share their backyard war stories, their passions and their hints with amateurs and pros alike. And is there any better way to celebrate our area's gardening passion than to show off some of our best local gardens? I don't think so.

Get your tickets early -- and don't forget a notepad and a camera -- because the garden tour season is on!

Liberty Lake -- The Fifth Annual Liberty Lake Garden Tour and Art Show takes place on Saturday, June 21, from 10 am-4 pm. This year's tour features five gardens: three lakeside gardens that draw on their proximity to the water to create unique settings, a garden in one of the newer areas of the city, and a unique naturalized garden on the Spokane River. This latter garden is a twenty-one acre setting planted with water conservation in mind, but that doesn't mean it's bland: This garden has lots of color, even though the grounds focus on plants native to this area. Master Gardeners will be on hand to explain the garden and answer questions, and there's an optional guided boat tour around Liberty Lake.

Tickets are $6 ($10 includes the cruise) and can be purchased on the day of the tour, at Pavillion Park, Molter Rd. and Country Vista Dr. Local artists will be on displaying their work in the gardens. All proceeds of the tour benefit Pavilion Park. Call: 255-9233.

A Shady Experience -- The First Annual Shade Garden Tour, sponsored by the Spokane Hosta Society, is on Sunday, June 22, from 10 am-4 pm. This tour fills an important niche in Spokane gardening by showing how even shady, "difficult" or neglected spots can be good growing spots for plants. Six gardens will be open, ranging from an estate garden on the west side of Spokane that was recently featured in Country Living Gardener to gardens with shaded woodlands and hillsides. Several of the gardens have rare and unusual plants. Tickets are $5, and are available at each garden. Call: 448-3174.

Painted Hills -- On Sunday, June 28, the Inland Empire District of the Washington State Federated Garden Clubs hosts a tour of an entire neighborhood just south of the Painted Hills Golf Course. Seven gardens will be open amid the pines and firs on this north-facing slope, featuring as many growing environments as there are gardens. One cultivated area is a playful mix of formal and rustic elements that you can explore on a series of wooded paths. And don't miss the wonderful entry gate to the English garden or the pavilion that overlooks a woodland garden. Another is a statement of simplicity where the surrounding native woods serve as the focal point. Three of the houses are fairly new, so they are good examples as to how gardens can be developed in stages.

The tour site is reached by taking Madison Rd. south from either Thorpe Rd. and Dishman-Mica or Pines (not Highway 27). This is a walking tour, but limited shuttle transportation will be available. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased on site. All proceeds go to scholarships for the Horticulture Department at Spokane Community College. Call: 928-7928.

The Coeur d'Alene Tour Is Back -- After taking a year off, the Coeur d'Alene Garden Club is back with its very popular tour on Sunday, July 13, from 10 am-4 pm. This is one of the area's best tours, and this time it features six gardens spread across Hayden Lake, Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls. This combination of gardens displays the range of gardening styles in this area, where the environment shifts from the drier Columbia Plateau to the moister foothills of the Rockies. One garden is the playground of a nursery professional who openly admits that she cannot resist either new plant varieties, or plants that are not supposed to grow here, or neglected 'orphans' that need a better home. Yet another garden is shared by a city boy and farm girl who divided the yard so that both could garden the way they wanted. One garden in Hayden Lake is a good example of how to utilize existing on-site elements to strike a balance between the desires of the owners, the topography and the deer. Tickets, with limited availability, are $10. They can be purchased in advance at garden centers in Coeur d'Alene, Hayden and Post Falls, as well as at Stanek's and Northwest Seed in Spokane. Proceeds go to help several Coeur d'Alene charities. Call: (208) 665-9930.

Valley Gardens Bloom as Well -- On Sunday, July 27, from 10 am-5 pm, the Spokane Valley will be the site of this year's Spokane in Bloom Tour, sponsored by the Inland Empire Gardeners. This year's focus is on animals -- whether they are pets or wildlife -- and five fabulous gardens are open to exploration. Two of the gardens will give you a chance to learn about the Wildlife Sanctuary Program of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Old-fashioned country garden elements and the unique collections of an avid plant aficionado round out the tour. Two special bonus visits to The Herb Farm and Leisure Lavender Farm are available, too. Both of these home-based nurseries were favorites at past Spokane in Bloom tours, and local artists will be set up in each garden.

Tickets are $7, and can be purchased in advance at Northwest Seed and Pet, Stanek's, Mel's, Tower Perennials, Gibson's or at each garden on the day of the show. Call: 535-8434.

The Grand Old Dame -- On Sunday, August 3, from 10 am-5 pm, the Associated Garden Clubs host their classic tour, the oldest in the area and one which always features some of the best gardens in the area. This year's tour will feature six lovely gardens on Spokane's North Side, including the gardens of a well-known local garden writer and one of Spokane's horticultural masters. Tickets are $5 (children under 12 are free) and will be available at each stop on the tour. The list of locations is still being compiled. Call: 838-1275.

Publication date: 06/19/03

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