See How Local Gardens Grow


Whether you’re an aspiring gardener, experienced green thumb or just a lover of outdoor parties, garden tours hosted this summer by two local, non-profit organizations are your opportunity to see wonderful and uniquely creative area gardens…rain or shine!

Annual Garden Tour

Thursday, July 18, 4 p.m. to dusk

Established in 1929, the Rochester Garden and Flower Club is a non-profit group that connects gardeners with the community through monthly meetings, activities, community projects and its annual July garden tour.

“The garden tour started with a private club ‘members only’ tour in the 1940s,” says Connie Parrett, who co-chairs the event with Barbara Muenkel. “In the early 1990s it opened to the public and has evolved and grown ever since.”

The yearly event now draws over 600 attendees and raises funds for projects all over Rochester, including landscape planning and education for Habitat for Humanity; the Olmsted County 4-H horticulture awards; and providing landscaping assistance at the Olmsted County fairgrounds, Rochester Area Family Y, Historic Mayowood Mansion and the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial Gardens.

On the tour, participants can visit educational booths and see demonstrations while experiencing an assortment of yard and garden features:
• Impressive, beautifully designed small city lots
• Creatively landscaped hillside yards
• A unique variety of ponds, waterfalls and streams
• One-of-a-kind handcrafted garden art
• A large acreage with an impressive array of gardens for sun and shade, along with wildflowers and vegetables “One can just relax and have a beautiful evening touring the gardens, listening to music and enjoying the creative works of artists,” explains Parrett. “The tour is a showcase of ideas for those seeking inspiration for their own gardens.”

Tickets can be purchased at RCTC, Heintz Center S.M.A.R.T. Gardens, 1926 College View Road SE, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the day of the tour. The cost is $10 per person; children and students are free. Non-perishable food donations will be accepted for Channel One. “Take the Trolley” ticket packages are available in advance. For more information, visit

Tour with the Masters Fourth Annual Garden Tour
Wednesday, July 24, 4–8:30 p.m.

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener, Olmsted County program provides science-based information about gardening to the public. The title “master gardener” indicates the gardener is a volunteer for the University of Minnesota extension program, whose goal is to help others in the community with horticulture.

The program’s annual garden tour offsets the costs of the program’s projects.

“It educates gardeners about different aspects of gardening and showcases how different individuals have dealt with typical problems in their yards,” says Joyce Grier, chair of the tour.

The 2013 self-guided tour includes seven gardens, allowing tour participants to see various horticulture and water features and learn about the following:
• Ornamental grasses, shade-tolerant plants, and vegetables and flowers grown in straw bales
• Best practices for a healthy lawn by Douglas Courneya of RCTC
• The importance of rain gardens and how to create one by Megan Duffey Moeller
• Steep, shady gardens of astilbes, coral bells, hundreds of hosta varieties and more by Cindy Tomashek
• Livening up garden beds with antiques by Nancy and Dan Taylor with art by Andrew Arend
• Creating a circular garden with native prairie plants by Pat Tabor
• The gardens of Golden Hills Education Center

Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased on the day of the tour at any of the gardens on the tour or the west parking lot of the RCTC Heintz Center, 1926 College View Road SE, beginning at 4 p.m. Advance tickets can be purchased at Sargent’s on 2nd starting July 10 or from a master gardener. For garden locations visit then click “Master Gardener Program” then “events.” “Take the Trolley” ticket packages are also available for this tour. For more information, visit

Master gardener tips for a chemical-free yard and garden

“Most master gardeners try not to use a lot of chemicals,” says Joyce Grier, of the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners, Olmsted County program. She offers three earth-friendly options for maintaining a healthy yard and garden:

Homemade Deer Repellant — Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. cooking oil, 1 Tbsp. Dawn blue dish soap, 1 c. milk and 1 egg. Blend the oil, soap and egg in a blender and add the milk. Add mixture to 1 gallon of water and spray onto plants.

Compost — Use only vegetable or plant matter and leaves (no meat or pet waste). Let everything break down to become compost. Ideally, alternate layers of green material (kitchen scraps) with brown material (fall leaves) to achieve an active pile. The compost can be used as a summer mulch or mixed into the soil to retain moisture.

Organic Lawn Fertilizer — Corn gluten meal can be used as a slow-release lawn fertilizer and can help reduce the growth of new weeds. Used in the fall, it helps the yard’s root system and promotes a nice green lawn in the spring.