Like the child protagonists of The Secret Garden, Durango residents will gain a metaphorical key allowing them access to some of the city’s and the county’s most ravishing private gardens this weekend.
The third annual Durango Botanical Society Garden Tour features 11 spellbinding locations.
“The gardens in this group are just stunning,” said Cindy Smart, the tour’s organizer.
For tour-goers, the occasion offers the voyeuristic thrill that comes with snooping around strangers’ property and the heady joy of bearing witness to heart-stopping, meticulously curated and utterly diverse vegetation.
But for the gardenkeepers, the prospect of hosting dozens of eagle-eyed flora and fauna enthusiasts in their homes is somewhat more daunting. In interviews, some of the expert gardeners given billing on this year’s tour admitted to feeling a level of horticultural anxiety, whether flower-envy, weed-related worry and general vegetable-insecurity.
But these fears seem misplaced.
Cherri Lum, 907 Oak Drive, is the proud owner of both a front-lawn xeric garden that’s populated by deer-resistant plants that need very little moisture and a lush backyard garden with a fish-dwelling pond, fruit trees and roses.
To green thumbs, the feats Lum has achieved will no doubt seem miraculous, like an oasis in a county riven by drought. And within the more academic circles of Durango’s gardening world, Lum’s successful cultivation of a diverse range of low-moisture plants amounts to an exciting intellectual argument that, as Lum said, “xeric gardens don’t have to be dull or filled with just ornamental grasses. There are a lot of xeric, deer-resistant plants that look good.”
But Lum said she was jittery about the tour.
“I’ve gone on it the last two years. When they called inviting me this year, I hesitated – because the gardens on previous tours were just so spectacular,” she said. “I work full-time as a real estate appraiser – so my garden isn’t perfect!”
But, Lum reasoned, guests are likely to be less judgmental than she fears.
“They probably won’t see all the weeds I see. But god, I’ve got so much work to do,” she said.
Jann Karr, 7577 County Road 203, should feel confident about her composting: She used to work as a professional landscaper in Arizona. Her chemical-free garden – which has expanded onto her neighbor’s property and involves peonies, sunflowers, beets, squash and a zigzagging tomato structure – is a triumph of labor and love.
But Karr said she was especially anxious about how tour-goers would receive her beloved kohlrabi.
“They’re so tasty – a cross between broccoli and cabbage flavor, and they grow above the ground. But a lot of people have never had them,” she said.
She said she hoped those uninitiated in the glories of kohlrabi would overcome any qualms: “It’s big fun being introduced to kohlrabies.”
Carol Wallace, 601 Rainbow Road, said come Saturday she expects no war of the roses.
Wallace first started planting the seeds for her cottage-style garden in a barren former horse-riding arena with her husband, Scott, more than 20 years ago as part of their young daughter Kelly’s 4-H project
Wallace said she’s not nervous about strangers beholding her flower beds.
She has reason to feel secure. Her large garden is a riot of blooming color, overrun with red, pink, yellow and white roses in a local Arcadia that’s been featured in Better Homes and Gardens.
“Sometimes, I go out at night, and I’m stunned by the beauty,” she said. “It’s possible because we have water, and I feel very fortunate.”
“But I don’t want people to get confused: Starting a garden isn’t easy,” she said. “I work full-time as a nurse, and I spend a lot of time in the dirt.”
But even Wallace confessed to feeling some trepidation about visitors: “I think I’ll do some last-minute weeding.”