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Tour spotlights five gardens

Hollyhocks tower against a white picket fence in the garden belonging to Sharon and Ron Svihel. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)1 / 6
Wayne Johnson leads the way through his huge garden, which will be one of five gardens featured in this year's Tour of Gardens. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)2 / 6
Insects traverse the stamens of this day lily, one of hundreds of day lilies in the garden of Wayne and Bonnie Johnson. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)3 / 6
Linda Lorenz has been working on her garden for decades. This feature is in her front yard, a reminder of the son she lost at age 19 to cystic fibrosis. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)4 / 6
A sculpture of Lonesome George, a world-renowned resident of the Galapagos islands, greets visitors to Wayne and Bonnie Johnson's garden. The actual tortoise died in 2012, marking the extinction of his race. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)5 / 6
Bee balm attracts bees at Wayne and Bonnie Johnson's garden in Alexandria. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)6 / 6

The weather has warmed, your gardens are planted, weeded and growing; and you're ready to kick back and see what's cookin' in someone else's garden bed. What better way to spend a summer day than touring local gardens?

On Sunday, July 14, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the Douglas County Master Gardeners present their annual Tour of Gardens.

The tour offers a glimpse into a variety of horticultural practices in Douglas County, and five local gardens are included in this year's tour.

Sharon and Ron Svihel

2109 Irvine Place, Alexandria

Shady beds with ninebark, sand cherry, weigela, spirea, hydrangeas, hibiscus and day lilies line the driveway to this neatly-manicured yard.

Containers of colorful annuals invite you to explore more of the front and back yards. The flower beds use natural elements of rocks and weathered wood and feature a wonderful variety of perennials, shrubs and vines.

A scalloped picket fence serves as a backdrop for peonies, lambs ear, clematis, phlox, lupine, delphiniums, Asiatic lilies and much more.

One garden tier is an edible bed, providing fresh vegetables. Another tier showcases mums, some 20 years old.

Linda Lorenz

2201 Irvine Place, Alexandria

A colorful perennial bed with dianthus, balloon flowers, day lilies, anemones and hanging baskets greets visitors as they walk up the driveway.

The garden in the ditch helped to solve a difficult mowing area for Linda. It contains creeping phlox, dianthus, hen and chicks, Basket of Gold alyssum, mums, coral bells and more.

The canopy of trees in the back yard provides a shady area for a variety of hosta. A clematis planted last year grows on the archway leading into the flower garden.

An assortment of phlox, sedum, coral bells, cranesbill geranium, Asiatic lilies and Linda's blue chair planter provide texture and color in the garden. On the west side of the garage, you'll find a variety of lilies — Blackberry Lily, Siberian Lily and Day Lilies in addition to a sweet potato vine, clematis, dianthus and Jacob's Ladder.

Wayne and Bonnie Johnson

108 N. Lake St. and Kenwood Drive, Alexandria

This unique property features over 300 daylily varieties, over 200 varieties of shrubs and vines, and over 100 kinds of trees, including some that one wouldn't think would grow in Minnesota, such as magnolias. The garden encompasses five city lots and has been on the tour three times previously.

The 30-plus garden beds, featuring many annuals and perennials, were built in various shapes and are scattered throughout the property. They provide a great variety of texture and color.

The shady beds are filled with coral bells, turtlehead, Joe Pye weed, ferns and many varieties of hosta, while the sunny beds contain geraniums, calla lilies, dahlias, verbena, marigolds and ornamental kale.

The property also includes three water features and 20 birdhouses.

Ruth & Julian Barsness

6050 State Highway 29 N, Alexandria

Starting from a blank slate on a wooded lot, Ruth has created a shaded wonderland of hostas, ferns, foxglove, Red Husker penstemon, coral bells, astilbe, red lady fern, and lady's mantle, as well as a sunny backyard with a great variety of plants.

The beds are sprinkled with ornaments and enchanting frogs. The blue bottle bush in the front yard catches your eye amid the flower beds and lush green lawn. Don't miss the Nishiki Willow shrub with its pink-tipped branches.

Ruth has a plant that starts with every letter of the alphabet except for U and X. Ruth said that she gardens on a shoestring budget.

L'Etoile du Nord Vineyard

16451 NW Irene Ct NE, Parkers Prairie

Polly Perkins and husband Dave Christianson ordered their first grape plants in 2010 and planted them the next spring. They named their vineyard "L'Etoile du Nord," French for "The Star of the North."

Their three acres of grapes now include Petite Pearl, Frontenac Blanc, Prairie Star, Marquette and St. Pepin. In 2014, they decided to open a winery and now produce 800 to 1,000 gallons of wine a year.

The property also has perennial flower beds, including peonies that are more than 100 years old from Polly's grandfather. Be sure to see the rain garden, the shade gardens and the unique Ghost Honeysuckle vine.

BREAKOUT: Details

Children may visit at no charge; tickets cost $5 for adults, to be paid at the first garden you visit. Garden tours will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, July 14. Feel free to come and go as you please.

Please wear sensible shoes as some areas are on a hillside. Master gardeners and hosts are not responsible for accidents. Some tour sites are off the beaten path, so drive carefully. Please, no pets.

For more information and for tour brochures, call the Douglas County Extension office at 320-762-3890. Hope to see you there.

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