See 6 Wichita gardens in popular tour that’s back in person

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The grounds of the Allen House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, were revitalized in the past few years by master gardeners to complement the home’s design with native and even some original plants. It’s one of the stops on this year’s garden tour.

File photo

After a two-year hiatus, the popular garden tour organized by the Sedgwick County Extension master gardeners program is back in-person and will feature six area gardens, including one at Wichita’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed attraction that has been revitalized by volunteer gardeners.

The tour is happening 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 5. Tickets are $10 per person and available at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Office at 21st and Ridge Road, online at www.sedgwick.ksu.edu/events or at any of the featured gardens during the tour weekend. Ticket sale proceeds benefit the volunteer master gardener program and its outreach programs, which include a gardening hotline and educational talks.

Tour-goers can often get ideas and see a variety of plants, which are generally labeled. Master gardeners and homeowners are also available during the tours to answer questions.

Some of the homeowners have been preparing to welcome visitors to their gardens ever since being identified as a potential tour site three years ago, but COVID precautions kept in-person tours from happening until this summer.

Last year, the garden tour took the form of a 30-minute virtual tour through the yards of four Wichita homes, including that of Mark and Anita Ward’s Eastborough yard at 21 Lynwood Boulevard that people can visit this year in person.

The garden tour is planned a year in advance, allowing the master gardeners to find and visit gardens being considered for the tour and to get photographs of things in bloom that might not be at their full glory by the time the tour happens.

Visitors to the west Wichita yard of Diane and Randy Rubenthaler, for example, will see several plants still in their early growing stages, such as the candlestick senna, also known as candlestick cassia, bush. Planted in the northwest corner of the couple’s backyard at 125 N. Gleneagles, the plant is currently about a foot tall with green leaves, a far cry from its mature 8-foot-by-8-foot appearance by late summer, when it also showcases spikey, yellow flowers.

Visitors should look for a photo display the Rubenthalers will make available on their patio that will show what several areas look like in full bloom later in the season.

All of the gardens — except for the that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Allen House at 255 N. Roosevelt — have been years, sometimes decades, in the making by the homeowners. While the Allen House was completed in 1918, the grounds were revitalized in the past few years by master gardeners to complement the home’s design with native and even some original plants.

Once her children were grown and not needing backyard play space, Brenda Anderson started converting her backyard at 3015 S. Glenn in 2000 from a small shade garden to a gardener’s paradise. Her backyard features more than 300 plants and shrubs, winding stone pathways and a large hand-dug koi pond and second water garden. It took the Andersons nearly five months in 2017 to dig the 15-foot-by-7-foot koi pond.

“I was a lot of hard work,” said Anderson, who frequently posts pictures of what’s in bloom in her gardens on a Wichita gardening Facebook group called Wichita Ks Backyard Gardens & Farms. “We started digging at the end of June and it wasn’t until November that we got some water in it.” With materials left over from creating the koi pond, Anderson made a second water garden that is now a favorite spot for birds.

She’s even converted her front yard into garden space. She’s left a small patch of what she calls “weedy grass” as a bathroom spot for her four small dogs. If she had more dirt, Anderson said, she’d plant more vegetables. Instead, she grows tomato plants in pots and has grown vining beans along a fence.

It’s taken the Rubenthalers 37 years to achieve their gardener’s paradise. Now retired, Randy has more time to create yard art, often repurposed from other items such as glass insulators he’s turned into a totem and an artistic tree and several metal art pieces. Instead of hanging two stained glass windows on the fence, Randy made cutouts and installed them so they can be enjoyed from both sides. Visitors should look for a face he’s made in one of the backyard trees.

Some of the hibiscus plants planted along the Rubenthalers north fence are as old as 35 years, said Diane, who has been part of extension’s master gardener program for 10 years. Nearby is a pollinator garden that attracts a variety of butterflies.

“My Brazilian verbena is my best butterfly magnet,” said Diane. The couple likes to sit opposite the garden on a purple metal bench to watch the butterflies flit around the plants, which also include zinnias and Mexican sunflowers.

While Diane tends to the flower gardens, Randy maintains the couple’s vegetable and herb garden. He’s set up a vertical metal structure for bean, cucumber and melon vines to wind upward. He’s repurposed chimney flues of varying heights into pots for the herb garden.

Gardens on the 2022 Wichita garden tour

Here is the full list of stops on the garden tour, with some noted features:

125 N. Gleneagles Road. Look for a river rock bed that runs along at least the north fence that helps with backyard drainage. A bubbling rock that has run year-round for 17 years, except for an occasional electrical outage, is a calming sound feature and favorite watering spot for birds. A small peace garden with angels and cross statuary is in the southwest corner.

950 Toh-N-Hah Trail. Featuring a sunken garden, this backyard was 25 years in the making, said Brenda Aldinger. “We did it all ourselves,” said Aldinger, whose been a master gardener for the past three years. Her husband has four years of experience as a master gardener. That work included the removal of an overgrown weedy patch that turned out to be a children’s sandbox, an area the Aldingers turned into the koi pond visitors will see during the tour. Her husband hand-dug the area to create the pond, which is 5-feet-6-inches deep in one area. They’ve replaced the decking and gazebo, created raised vegetable beds and installed a large bird fountain. Shade gardens at the rear and side of the half-acre property — including an area the Aldingers call the woods — are filled with alliums, clematis and hostas. They are Hosta Society members. The Aldingers’ yard art includes about a dozen vintage lightning rod balls.

3015 S. Glenn. Anderson has created various sections within her backyard, which has been converted entirely to flower gardens. She has a variety of pollinator and host plants to attract butterflies and birds.

6915 W. 35th St South. When their daughter Rachel died, Phyllis and Lee Fletcher decided to create a garden in her memory to help them process their grief. Shasta daisies, Rachel’s favorite flower, feature prominently in the garden. Fifteen years later and a year after Lee’s death due to COVID, Rachel still finds peace in remembering her loved ones. The garden served as the setting for Lee’s celebration of life service. She has a picture of an older man holding a young girl’s hand in both their memory. Look for peony plants, hostas, ferns, Soloman seal, elephant ears and coleus. Cedar trees that partially line the back of the property are the backdrop for blue false indigo, coral bells, ajuga and sedum.

255 N. Roosevelt. In 2016, master gardener volunteers started helping transform the outdoor gardens of this Wright-designed home that is now a museum owned and operated by the Allen House Foundation. The resulting gardens showcase native Kansas plants, plants favored by Wright and Henry and Elsie Allen, the original residents of the home and some contemporary plants.

21 S. Lynwood Boulevard. The Wards’ front and back yards are the result of 28 years of problem-solving. Occupying one of the smallest sized lots in Eastborough, about 95% of the yard is in the shade, so visitors will see several succulents, hostas and other shade-loving plants. A west-side pergola provides a better-looking shade alternative than the metal awnings that were above windows when the Wards purchased the home. Look for repurposed sewing machine legs and a 1910 stone monument from a building within and nearby the pergola. As the Wards landscaped their yard, they would pile up the clay soil excavated to create the holes for the shade-loving plants they installed. Eventually, they used the clay soil to create the foundation of a berm that is now one of the few sunny spots in the Wards’ yard. Look for a vintage stone grinder, once used by Larry Ward’s grandfather to sharpen knives, now repurposed into yard art.

If you go

What: annual garden tour sponsored by organized by the Sedgwick County Extension master gardeners program

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday & Saturday, June 3 & 4, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, June 5

Where: Six gardens located at 125 N. Gleneagles Road, 950 Toh-N-Hah Trail, 3015 S. Glenn, 6915 W. 35th St. South and 255 N. Roosevelt in Wichita and 21 S. Lynwood Blvd in Eastborough

Cost: $10, tickets available at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Office at 21st and Ridge Road, online at sedgwick.ksu.edu/events or at any of the featured gardens during the tour weekend.

More info: 316-660-0200 or sedgwick.ksu.edu/events