GFWC ‘Patchwork of Colors’ Garden Tour set for July 17

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs—Big Rapids “Patchwork of Colors” Garden Tour is set for July 17. (Courtesy photo)

Submitted to the Pioneer

BIG RAPIDS — Area residents can enjoy a variety of beautiful blooms and restful landscaping without pulling a single weed during the General Federation of Women’s Club — Big Rapids fifth annual garden tour, “A Patchwork of Colors.”

The tour will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17, rain or shine. Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased at Patterson’s Flowers, Artworks, and from any GFWC—Big Rapids club member. Tickets also can be purchased at each garden during the tour.

All money raised at this event is distributed back into the community, with half going to the Open Arms Child Advocacy Center. Ticket holders will be eligible for discounts the day of the tour at several area businesses, as well.

After the tour, participants can stop by Artworks for refreshments, music and a chance to to see the 2015 ArtPrize grand prize winning exhibit, which is part photograph and part quilt: “Northwood Wakening” by Ann and Steve Loveless.

The gardens this year include two by a lake, one on the Muskegon River, and two countryside properties. In keeping with Artworks’ special exhibit, quilts from local crafters will be shown at each garden. Melanie Henry, Beth Martz, Pam Muccio, Mary Picucci, Pat Rossi, Donna Schmidt and Deb Sweet all lent their treasures for display.

GFWC is an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer services. Big Rapids club members tend community gardens such as the post office and Riverwalk, assist with child ID programs, support the library and library programs, advocate on behalf of women’s issues, support Women’s Information Services, Inc. (WISE), and more. For more information, contact event chairperson Carrie Franklund at (231) 349-0029.

Holly Eads, 19545 Reynolds Road, Hersey 

Holly Eads’ garden, 19545 Reynolds Road, Hersey. (Courtesy photo)

As visitors approach the Eads property, guests will first notice a pond to the left featuring a waterfall. They can then walk over the wooden bridge and enjoy the variety of plants that await them.

Visitors should notice the stick potting table near the house that is both useful and unique before continuing to the river side of the house. Heading west towards the water, Eads has a vast array of trees and flowers bordering her property that include an unusual magnolia “Sunsation” tree, a colorful smoke tree with reddish-purple leaves surrounded by burgundy columbine flowers, a ninebark bush, a variety of evergreen trees and many other plants.

Of particular interest are pieces of a disassembled totem pole. It began as a maple tree that stood in the front yard, was damaged in a storm, and then carved into a totem pole using only chainsaws. Starting from the top, the pole featured a bald eagle clutching a large fish, next came a bear cub also holding the fish, then an owl, next a bobcat, and finally a wolf. Though dismantled due to weather, the pieces are attractive in their own right.

After the totem pole, notice the large garden in front of the patio. It is filled with many perennials including three different cultivars of hydrangeas, an unusual “Gold Heart” bleeding heart, many hostas, hibiscus, and an actively used wood duck house. Near the house is another colorful garden with a small waterfall and pond. This property is a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

Mary and Michael Burns, 15760 18 Mile Road, Big Rapids 

Mary and Michael Burns’ garden, 15760 18 Mile Road, Big Rapids. (Courtesy photo)

Located on Bergess Lake, the Burns property is an excellent example of blending hardscaping with plantings. While excavating to put an addition on their house, the Burns found many large boulders and rocks of various sizes so they decided to incorporate them into their yard.

The property begins with a woodland setting near the front of the house. Mary has whimsical metal garden art interspersed among the plants so be on the watch for bicycles (a common theme) and various critters such as the woodpecker in her back-yard clothesline.

As visitors continue around the house, they will see a retaining wall of boulders leading to a pond. Nearer the lake is a shade garden with a collection of hostas, ferns, and other plants ranging from very large to quite small.

Head back around the house to find other flower beds, a garlic bed and a terraced flower bed. Guests shouldn’t miss the large puddingstones in some of the beds and the fairy garden not far from the garage. Cross the road to see the Burns’ fenced-in straw bale garden. They opted for the technique because they have black walnut trees that produce juglone, a substance that prevents plants from thriving. Some straw bale gardens can have an untidy appearance but Michael has organized a fencing system that keeps the plants safe from deer and creates a very attractive garden.

Patti and Charlie Lemson, 15730 18 Mile Road, Big Rapids 

Patti and Charlie Lemson’s garden, 15730 18 Mile Road, Big Rapids. (Courtesy photo)

Located on Bergess Lake and right next door to the Burns, the Lemson property features lush gardens. The sheer number and arrangement of plants is fascinating. Many of the plants have metal labels which provide their names.

A variety of hanging plants, hostas, and hydrangeas will greet guests. Visitors should notice the unique stone dog house to the right made by Charlie. Other items that Charlie has made, with assistance from Patti, include two rain dolls that look almost human and a “wine time” stool. Patti also has garden art such as butterflies and other creatures placed throughout the property.

Traveling around to the left, the house is encircled by garden beds of peonies, hostas, bleeding hearts and other plants. There also is a climbing rose bush from Patti’s great-grandmother. Note the many cultivars of heuchera nestled around a tree. All labeled, the display gives a sampling of many varieties. Continue to walk nearer the lake and visitors will see the property is terraced to allow easier access to the fire pit and the dock. The terracing allows space for long garden beds full of flowers and bushes such as baptisia, iris, jack in the pulpit, chocolate Joe pye weed, ninebark, barberry, red weigela, various clematis cultivars, and roses. One recent addition is an AT LAST® Rose, a reblooming shrub rose with scented apricot-colored petals.

Next to the lake, guests will find a small patio with a real working water wheel, another example of Charlie’s handiwork. Take the time to walk all the way around, as one side of the patio has a metal fist artwork.

Terry Kozak, 14079 Wildwood Dr., Big Rapids 

Terry Kozak’s garden, 14079 Wildwood Dr., Big Rapids. (Courtesy photo)

Known as a collector of new and unusual plants, Kozak has a garden filled with many varieties. As visitors begin the tour in the front of the home, they will first see the shade garden. Prominent in the garden is a tri-colored beech tree bearing purple leaves with a variegation of pale rose color. Nearby, a bleeding-heart bush echoes the pink theme. Interspersed in the garden are many hostas, including a Paisley Print hosta, and other plants such as Japanese Forest grass, sedum, succulents, Rooguchi clematis, lupine, ferns, purple allium and other spring bulbs, along with a few geraniums for a pop of color.

Next, stroll out to the garden near the road where roses, fothergilla, Asiatic lilies and geum bushes enjoy the sun and provide a boundary for the front yard. As guests continue around to the back, they should notice some of the lesser-known plants such as the China Snow Peking lilac, Snow White mock orange, trellised honeysuckle, a Cornelian-cherry dogwood and wild cherry tree. Check out the espalier apple tree — a fruit production method of pruning and tying branches to a frame — with both Jonagold and Gala apples on it.

The back yard has  a stone pond surrounded by iris, spring bulbs and water-loving plants. Kozak also has interspersed yard ornaments and art throughout her property. As a collector, Kozak has many distinctive plants such as a pink diamond hydrangea tree, a splendide tree lavender, a buckeye tree and a new evergreen that is a cross between a Frazer and balsam fir tree.

Sally Thompson, 21250 13 Mile Road, Big Rapids 

Sally Thompson’s garden, 21250 13 Mile Road, Big Rapids. (Courtesy photo)

As the former president of the West Michigan Day Lily Society, Thompson has 300 day lilies on her property. To the right of her driveway, guests will see a large day lily bed as well as a number of trees including a dwarf Amur Maple, a Weeping Spruce, and a huge white pine tree. While the plant favorites situated around her home are lovely, the fenced in “secret garden” space is the real jewel.

In addition to the many varieties of day lilies, the perimeter of the garden is lined with perennials including well-pruned lilacs, two cultivars of hard-to-grow heather, bright Sunjoy Gold Pillar barberry, flowering almond, ninebark, and a Jens Monk Rugosa rose bush with huge roses. In the center of the garden an antique stove spilling with colorful annuals commands attention. Also, interspersed among the plants is metal yard art, a wooden arbor and outhouse, unique containers filled with flowers, intricate wooden bird houses and classical sculptures such as the bronze pair of ibis near the center of the garden.

One sculpture not to be missed is a replica of the “Bird Girl.” Sylvia Shaw Judson, an American artist, sculpted the original work in bronze in Lake Forest, Ill., in 1936. It gained attention when it was featured on the cover of the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” by John Berendt. It is surrounded by a variegated dogwood, a large Empress Wu hosta, mini hostas, a variety of day lilies, and a huge puddingstone.

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