Ten years ago when the Homer Garden Club started its first tour of local gardens, organizers wanted to come up with a colorful way to make tickets. Rather than print tickets or badges, they made felt flower pins — 140 pins.
The tour sold 170 tickets.
This year for its annual Gardeners Weekend on July 30-31, the club anticipates bigger attendance, with 420 crocheted flower pins made by volunteer Sharon Froeschle. The weekend features two talks on Saturday, July 30, with the tour and a reception on Sunday, July 31. Tickets are $10 for the talks and $15 for the tour and reception.
The tour started almost by accident when the club had a famous garden writer visiting.
“That’s what started it all. It’s gotten bigger every year,” said tour co-chair Roni Overway.
Overway said the club is particularly excited to have garden expert Tracy DiSabato-Aust. Author of “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden,” DiSabato-Aust does two talks on Saturday. Club members split evenly when asked what they wanted to hear in a speaker. Half chose garden design and half chose garden maintenance. DiSabato-Aust will do talks on both. At 4 p.m. July 30 she presents “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” and at 5:45 p.m. she speaks on “The Art of Pruning Perennials-Revisited.”
DiSabato-Aust doesn’t just speak on gardens, though. She’s also a competitive triathlete. Overway said DiSabato-Aust and her husband have extended their trip to explore Kachemak Bay.
“I think they’re going to be really entertaining and fun to have here,” Overway said.
The Sunday tour features five gardens in a variety of microclimates, from Synergy Gardens far out East End Road to Roger and Denice Clyne’s garden off Skyline Drive. A highlight of the tour will be small-plot gardens at Old Town Cottages, the Craftsman-style homes off Main Street behind Bunnell Street Arts Center.
“The beauty of having something like these Old Town Cottages is some people have small properties,” Overway said.
Variety is key to the tour, Overway said. The season seems to be about two to three weeks early, she and co-chair Brenda Adams said.
“Things have peaked early,” Overway said.
There will still be plenty of color, though.
“Things bloom in succession. There’s always something,” she said.
DiSabato-Aust’s talk on pruning perennials should provide some good advice for Homer gardeners who feature the flowers that don’t need to be replanted every year like annuals.
“We’re all about perennials these days. If we’re going to pay for these flowers, we want them to come back,” Overway said.
The annual gardeners weekend also has become something of a tourism draw, Adams said. “We have people who plan their vacations around the garden tour,” she said.
New this year will be music by a Kenai Peninsula Orchestra woodwind group at the reception starting 5 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at Bear Creek Winery. That came about when the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra tried to book the winery for its own Summer Music Festival kickoff. The winery said, sorry, the garden tour had already booked the space. Overway knew some people at the orchestra, though, and they worked out a deal in some small-town cultural collaboration.
“We put our heads together. What they are doing is a little KPO stuff on our Sunday,” Overway said. “When you put music with gardens, it’s a perfect fit.”
The Homer Garden Club meets once a month except during the summer, with speakers every month. Membership is $10 a year and includes admission to talks and a monthly newsletter. For information on joining, visit www.homergardenclub.org.