17th annual Gig Harbor Garden Tour rakes in money for literacy

Staff writerJune 25, 2014 

Rocks, like the one shown here, mark host gardens. The Gig Harbor Garden Tour runs on June 28 and 29.

WILL LIVESLEY O’NEILL/FILE PHOTO

Walking through the path into Rudell and Jay Hegnes’ garden is like entering another world.

The backyard is a mix of tall trees, colorful perennials and paving stones, the product of the Hegnes’ years of work.

“I just get lost in (the garden),” Rudell said.

This weekend, ticket holders of the Gig Harbor Garden Tour will have the chance to enter the Hegnes’ oasis-style garden. The paths are made of crushed granite; the stones even come from a quarry near Mount Rainier.

The Gig Harbor Garden Tour is a nonprofit that benefits literacy efforts for adults and children in the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas.

In total, the tour will have seven gardens this year. The gardens are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets include entrance into expert talks as well.

Each house will host vendors as well. Rudell is excited to have artist Kate Larsson on her patio. Larsson painted the flowers featured on the tour’s programs and handouts.

House number one is a collaborative effort. The garden makes its debut in the garden tour this year. Owned by Jennifer and Eric Gonzalez, it is maintained by Jennifer’s parents, master gardeners Linda and Keith Nelson.

“They gave us free reign,” Linda said.

Green thumbs are hereditary in the family, it seems.

“My mother was a gardener and she used to drag me to the nursery,” Linda said. “Then all of a sudden it just hit.”

The nursery wasn’t a chore; it became a fascination, a hobby.

The garden has a feature that was planted long before the garden tour or most of Gig Harbor was even a thought.

In the backyard stands a maple tree. An arborist estimates the tree is between 200 and 300 years old.

The tree carries a piece of the Nelson’s history as well: The tire swing hanging from it belonged to their daughter when she was just 3 years old, Keith Nelson said.

Unique pieces like the maple tree make the garden tour fun, said Beck, a gardener herself. It’s also rewarding to see how many organizations benefit from the tour.

The nonprofit was formed in 2011 when longtime sponsor Tacoma Community College was forced to drop the tour due to the economic recession. Before TCC discontinued the event, proceeds went to the school’s GED programs.

“It could have just died right there,” Beck said.

Instead, she and a group of volunteers took the tour on. As a callback to the legacy of the GED programs, the tour continues to work with literacy issues, but now the focus includes children, Beck said.

And while it’s a way to raise needed funds, it’s also just a lot of fun for green and less-so-much-green thumbs alike. It’s a forum to encourage other gardeners and share tips and advice.

For example, Rudell Hegnes is very organized about her garden. In her garden room connected to the house she keeps a spreadsheet inventory of her plants. She also tags each plant.

“In the spring, if you don’t know what’s there you end up digging (the flowers) up,” she said.

It’s expertise that has come from experience. The Hegnes have been married for 40 years and have maintained gardens at every place they have lived.

It’s all about practice, she said, a love of the garden.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 karen.miller@gateline.com Twitter: @Gateway_Karen

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