Laughing in Flowers

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The German home.
The Keating home.
The Marks home.
The Wymer home.
The See home.

By MJ VANDEVENTER

Take a collection of period homes, planted with unusual trees, shrubs and flowers, add a whimsical fountain and a turn-of-the-century rock gazebo and you have all the ingredients for a spectacular garden tour.   “The earth laughs in flowers,” goes an old saying, and your funny bone will certainly be delighted with the lush, unique gardens on the tour this year.

The Oklahoma Horticultural Society will sponsor its 2012 Garden Tour for Connoisseurs September 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with proceeds providing scholarships for students at area universities planning careers in horticulture and landscape design and architecture.

Six period homes in the Crown Heights, Mesta Park and Edgemere Heights areas are on the tour, along with the Employee Garden at Chesapeake Energy. Most of the tour sites are on the National Register of Historic Homes. All of the homes express an architectural style that was unique to the era in which they were built ~ the late 1920s and 1930s. All are within comfortable driving distance of each other.

The Crown Heights Area

Jim and Rosemary Keating’s traditional home exterior is complemented with a traditional garden design plan that includes front paths, blue spruce, a desert willow, a smoke tree, Chinese hollies and crepe myrtles. A small sheltered back yard includes an intimate hexagon-shaped “room for two” gazebo and a fire pit. The landscaping is a blueprint for classic garden design, complementing the architectural design of the Tudor-style home

Rebecca and Robert German’s home features a charming rock and brick winding stairway leading to this two-story fairy-tale mansion. The home is surrounded by a massive oak, large pecan and Japanese maple trees. A sunken back lawn area ~ once a pond ~ leads the way to a stoneplaza  that is now home to an elegant new pool and outdoor entertaining center. Don’t miss the vintage red rock gazebo and the weeping deodoras, magnolias and mature Japanese maples. Look for the second story retreat, where Rebecca and Robert relax and enjoy a magnificent view of the new pool and lush gardens.

Randy Marks and Sharon Astrin reclaimed their Tudor Revival style home and garden and tour visitors will find a true ‘work in progress’ garden. What they achieved in both the front and back bleak and dismal garden spaces is an exciting case study in xeriscaping. Using plants and trees that will thrive in Oklahoma’s mercurial weather, they have added flagstone paths, walls and walkways, accented by playful metal sculptures. A variety of ground covers add texture and color interest. In season, the buffalo grass waves in the wind, creating a half-moon border near the front driveway.

A Mesta Park Oasis

Carson and Marsha See’s Georgian-style home is graced by one of the world’s oldest Japanese maples, which presides over this garden that is full of natural and man-made surprises. An arbor of wisteria leads from the back of the home to a sheltered garden featuring an eclectic fountain fashioned of shells, glass and treasures found on the couple’s travels.  The circular fountain area and flagstone walkways give the garden a refined sculptural feeling. Several pocket gardens within the larger space suggest a tropical oasis. Sheltered areas make visitors feel they are enjoying the garden at a country estate. There’s even a hidden garden area for al fresco cooking in this outdoor paradise.

Crown Heights Jewels

          Rick and Susan Wymer’s vintage home features landscaping that is a perfect combination of trees, shrubs, boulders, seasonal flowers and a dry river rock stream bed that winds and flows gracefully through the well-manicured front lawn. The back lawn continues the curving theme of the front lawn with meandering flagstone walkways and well-placed boulders. Like the front garden, the rear area is a study in varying heights with tall, stately old fir trees, Japanese yews, blue spruce, and deodor and Serpentine cedar trees. Landscaper Mike Lindsey created a dramatic, involved design that makes the small house suggest a much larger presence, creating a stunning first impression.

Phil and Maggie Clayton’s home already had a swimming pool when they purchased it six years ago, but there was no koi pond, a must for Phil, a connoisseur of koi. Now a well-stocked koi pond is beautifully landscaped and sheltered with a variety of specialty plants, including two gingko bonsai from Asia. The home’s back and front lawns both feature a lyrical design theme, especially in the front lawn, where several half-moon shaped gardens with low plantings surround large mature trees shading this setting. Landscape designer John Fluitt used red leaf weeping peach trees, a four-trunk Nellie Stevens holly, a weeping Blue Atlas cedar and silver falls maples to highlight the front garden. Look for the stone pineapple sculpture near the front entrance ~ always a welcoming signature at this home.

The Chesapeake Employee Garden

          Now in its third year, the Chesapeake Employee Garden provides 65 plots of ground where 285 employees on 85 teams till, fertilize and nurture their spaces, hoping for a successful harvest this fall. Kat Goodwin, the employee garden coordinator, said, “This summer, the tomatoes garnered a lot of attention. The first year, we had no tomatoes.”

There’s always a “first” going on in the Chesapeake Garden. Goodwin notes several teams grew vertical this year. One team created an A-frame trellis for plump watermelons to rest on; on another trellis, fruits rest in mesh sacks. Miniature peaches and table grapes were other firsts in the perennial garden this year; 2012 was also a first for a good strawberry harvest.

A culinary herb spiral was a new attraction shared by all the garden members. They planted tarragon, oregano, chives, thyme, lemon balm, dill, basil, horseradish and Corsican mint, which tastes like cucumber.  In a nearby plot, one team grew Armenian cucumbers, which could easily be mistaken for a slender, green and white striped slithering snake.

The teams enjoy the fruits of their labors, but a percentage of the harvest supplies fruits and vegetables for the local BritVil Food Pantry.

All gardeners use only organic gardening methods and compost is the key to their success. At the 2011 end of season garden party, awards were given for the “hottest” compost pile.

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 the day of the tour at the tour locations. Tickets go on sale Sept. 1 at eight garden centers including: Farmer’s Grain, Edmond; The Greenhouse, Norman; Marcum’s Nursery, two Precure Nursery loations, TLC Garden Center, Wilshire Garden Market, and Wild Bird’s Unlimited, all in Oklahoma City.

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