The annual Gig Harbor Garden Tour brings hundreds of visitors into private residences to admire the handiwork of the area’s amateur gardeners and to support literacy programs.
Karen Beck, the tour’s past president and chair, said the host gardeners get as much, or more, out of the experience than their guests.
“Everyone loves their garden. It’s like their baby,” said Beck, who now serves as the tour’s marketing director.
Beck hosted her garden on the tour in 2007.
“A thousand people come through to say, ‘Nice job. I love your house. Great job,’ ” she said. “It’s just a joy.”
This year’s tour, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, features seven gardens – six in private homes, plus the demonstration garden at Sehmel Homestead Park.
All proceeds from ticket sales go toward literacy programs. Last year, the volunteer organizers of the Gig Harbor Garden Tour Association donated $30,000 to adult literacy classes at Tacoma Community College’s Gig Harbor campus, Communities in Schools and other causes.
The self-guided tour will take attendees through front yards, vegetable gardens, back patios and everywhere in between as more than 60 volunteer docents describe the gardens’ features. New homes are featured every year, giving different homeowners the experience of a garden showcase.
Beck twice approached Diana and Paul Wimber about featuring their garden on the tour. The timing was never quite right, Diana said, but this year, when the committee’s garden selector chair Patti McFerran asked again, the Wimbers said yes.
“We love to share our garden and share our home,” said Diana, who has lived with her husband in Gig Harbor’s Canterwood neighborhood for nearly 11 years.
The Wimbers enjoy entertaining in their large back garden, which features a wide patio that faces a clean, closely edged and pruned lawn. All around the grass, the Wimbers added features such as a rock waterfall and beds with rhododendron bushes and a variety of flowers to give the garden texture.
“I would say we have kind of an eclectic garden,” Diana Wimber said. “It’s not really formal. Our goal is to have a really tranquil, peaceful feel to our yard.”
Like many hobbyists, the Wimbers have developed their garden over time as a form of recreation as much as an aesthetic improvement. The home’s previous owner had preferred a wilder, less structured look, and the Wimbers gradually pared back their property, installed the lawn and added touches, such as Japanese maples, vegetables and berries, to provide the more soothing look they wanted.
They’re looking forward to inviting the public in this weekend to take a look at an ever-evolving yard. Last week, Diana was pruning bushes and putting the final touches on her garden in advance of the tour.
Beck reassured her this was a natural part of the tour — to showcase living, growing gardens.
“A finished garden is a dead garden,” Beck said.
Across town on a bluff that overlooks Puget Sound and Tacoma’s Point Defiance, Liz and Peter Morkill’s home will display a very different kind of garden. The house, built by a neighbor six years ago, is designed in a Tuscan style, inspired by the architecture the couple had seen on vacation in Italy.
The home, with its large front courtyard, rustic doors, peach-tinted walls and sweeping patio view of the water, will be as much on display this weekend as its surrounding garden, Liz Morkill said.
“I think the architecture and the view present the artistry of the house the most, and then the landscaping flows with it,” she said.
Morkill said she’s always been interested in garden and landscapes. Since they’ve moved into the European-style home, she’s developed a formal front yard that features large hedges and a more casual backyard with plenty of room for lawn chairs, tables and a grill.
A retired oncology nurse, Morkill and her husband, a retired property manager, also have hosted a number of fundraising events at their home, and they’ve taken advantage of the house’s open space.
Liz said the garden tour’s charitable element is what motivated them to participate.
“It’s so rewarding,” Beck said of the tour’s fundraising efforts.
The tour association held the annual Dig the Gig! Plant a Seed to Read Dinner and Auction on June 14, featuring a live auction and meal at Canterwood Golf & Country Club. That event, which unites different garden groups from the area, is as important for fundraising as the tour itself, Beck said.
The Gig Harbor Garden Tour Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed in 2011 after the economic recession forced Tacoma Community College to drop its sponsorship of the event. Beck and the other volunteers who form the tour’s organizing committee and board of directors have not yet decided which organizations to donate to this year, but the tour’s focus on literacy programs has remained as it’s come into its own as an independent event.
Beck said the gardeners get the benefits of helping raise money for a good cause and from letting the public see the hard work and creativity that has gone into their garden.
Beck remembers the feeling from the year her home was on the tour.
“I think it was one of the best weekends of my life,” she said.
For more information about the tour, or to sign up as a volunteer, visit www.gigharborgardentour.org or contact Karen Beck at 253-241-6698.
Tickets for the Gig Harbor Garden Tour can be purchased at the following ticket outlets:
Ace Hardware, 4816 Point Fosdick Drive NW, Gig Harbor
Rosedale Gardens, 7311 Rosedale Street NW, Gig Harbor
The Garden Room, 4729 Point Fosdick Drive NW, Gig Harbor
Tacoma Community College Gig Harbor Campus, 3993 Hunt Street, Gig Harbor
Wilco Farm Store, 3408 64th Street NW, Gig Harbor
Wild Birds Unlimited, 3120 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor
Sunnycrest Nursery, 9004-B Key Peninsula Highway N, Vaughn
Garden Sphere Nursery, 1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma
Willow Tree Gardens and Interiors, 7216 27th Street W, University Place